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Two Types of Confidence That Basketball Players Can Have

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One of the most fascinating concepts in all of basketball, especially during playoff time, is confidence.

As coaches prepare for their upcoming opponents they study dozens of video tapes, scouting reports, and detailed analytics as they organize their game plans.

However, the one thing they just can't prepare for no matter how much they study or practice is an opponent's individual and collective confidence.

This is one of the reasons why teams like this year's Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast and LaSalle can seemingly rise out of nowhere to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

However, one of the pitfalls in discussing confidence is that many people don't realize that there are actually two different types - skill confidence, and competitive confidence.

Skill confidence is that confidence that comes from learning a particular skill and then practicing it thousands of times until improvement is obvious.

For example, I went to watch my eighth grade daughter play and was impressed by how many points she scored by getting to the rim and either finishing or drawing the foul (or both). But in the mean time I also noticed that she passed up several wide open jump shots. When I asked her about it later, she simply replied, "I didn't think I could make them."

Beginning the very next day we started going to the gym every night after dinner and shooting 200 perimeter jump shots. At first she wanted the doors locked so we could work out in complete privacy but after about three weeks her attitude totally changed. She started inviting her friends, her teammates and even members of my team to compete against her in shooting drills and games. Her skill confidence had skyrocketed!

Competitive confidence is that confidence that comes from successfully executing a learned skill during the heat of game competition.

The more intense the competition the greater amount of competitive confidence is required. To understand this, think of the NBA for a moment. There are literally hundreds of NBA players that can leisurely walk out on to the court and drain jump shot after jump shot.

Now once the game starts and the pressure of competition increases, that number of "shooters" is reduced dramatically. Then with the game on the line and in a "must score" situation, that original number of shooters shrinks even more. Finally, when a team is down two points in the final seconds of game 7 of the playoffs, there are only a handful of players with enough confidence to make that final shot.

Unfortunately, there are many players who want to display competitive confidence without first properly building their skill confidence. They like to think of themselves as "gamers," those mythical players who consistently kick butt game after game without ever working very hard in practice. It would be nice if that were possible but it's just not very realistic.

In his books "The Talent Code," and "The Little Book of Talent," author Daniel Coyle talks about a famous tennis academy in Russia who insists their pupils practice for years before ever competing against someone else. Compare this approach to the one we take in the United States where young athletes play hundreds of games each summer and practice only a handful of times. Is it any wonder why many of their skills erode under the heat of intense competition?

The next time you hear someone talk about confidence, know that they are probably talking about competitive confidence. But rest assured, those with the highest levels of competitive confidence have first spent thousands of hours in the gym building their skill confidence while improving their fundamental skills.

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