Mindset in Sport: How to Become a More Confident, Less Anxious Athlete

Mindset in Sport: How to Become a More Confident, Less Anxious Athlete

Kristin Kennedy-Brown - December 14, 2023

Lewis Hatchett is a mindset coach, former professional cricketer and motivational speaker. Having achieved one of "the most gloriously defiant careers in the history of county cricket" (ESPN Cricinfo) he now works to help athletes, and high performers turn their mindset into their greatest strength. Read on to read his post on mindset in sport. 

Mindset in Sport: How to Become a More Confident, Less Anxious Athlete

If there’s two things that I’ve learnt from working with world class athletes, it’s that they want three things: 

  • To feel strong and successful
  • Have more confidence
  • Feel less anxious

The confidence athletes seek is not only in their ability to perform but also in themselves and who they are at their core. This sounds simple, but we complicate it hugely.

We often allow comparison of others, or fear of other people’s opinions to get in our own way.

Anxiety can show up in many different forms, whether it’s as the physical response such as sweaty palms, high heart rate, turning stomach, jelly legs or maybe the more psychological in overthinking, stress, pressure, worry, self-doubt, and so on.

As many athletes will find out, learning to get positives out of these aspects of their mindset takes work - and the great thing about the mind is that it is like a muscle. The more you work at flexing it, the stronger it gets. 

So, with that, I want to give you some value to take away with you. Read on to learn more about how to implement a growth mindset in sport. 

Exercises for Finding Your Confidence

Your Best Performance 

One of our best predictors for being confident in a task or situation is knowledge or experience of having done it before.

And so with this exercise, take yourself back to a moment or a performance where you felt confident. Chances are you’ve forgotten it or it’s been hidden within you. Draw from the energy in that moment, write it down.Consider what it looked like, sounded like, question what were you telling yourself? What was your body language like? Had you prepared hard? Write these answers down and use it as a reminder that you do have confidence within you.

Your Super-Strengths 

In this exercise we’re going to identify your super strengths, whether it’s the athletic skills or human characteristics you have.

It's important to back it up with examples of when you’ve done this to further cement it into your mind that it is a super strength.

I recommend drawing from a memory like previously in one of your best performances. If not, think about characteristics you have in general as a human being and what those closest to or trusted to you would characterise you as (the good).

My Super-Strengths are:

I am good at _______

I know this because _________

3 Methods for Reducing Anxiety

  1. Just Breathe!

Using breathing exercises, we can learn to use our breath as our superpower for influencing the physical reaction to anxiety (high heart rate, shortness of breath, sweaty palms) that can only heighten the thoughts and emotions that we experience.

As soon as you feel anxious, try taking a deep breath in through the nose and a long slow breath out the mouth. This triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to bring us into a more calm, logical state.

You can practice this through breathwork or meditation, something we teach on MindStrong Sport

  1. Control what you can control.

Anxiety at its core is trying to take authority over something we can’t control.

Sometimes this can stem from something that has happened in the past, or the anxiety of what might happen in the future, what people might think or say, or how it could all turn out. 

Note down, either on paper or in your mind, what your controllables are on one side and what your uncontrollables are on the other.

Simply bringing awareness to these is half the battle done! 

  1. Getting comfortable with the discomfort

While this may sound like a Hollywood billboard quote, the premise is to put yourself in incrementally challenging situations.

One of the best ways for athletes to get used to anxiety and learn how to build a better relationship with it is by experiencing it, over and over again.

The best way to do that is to place yourself into situations that scare you, not terrify you, enough to trigger some anxiety, which you can then overcome. 

This doesn't mean you have to go skydiving.

It's about implementing something into your training that will increase the pressure. Use some element of either consequence, peer pressure, or judgement. This will get your anxiety ramped up a little and then you can go to work using strategies to manage anxiety in the moment, such as breathing, self-talk, imagery, and muscle relaxation.

Hopefully this is something that you can take with you now, helping you transfer yourself into a more confident and capable human being and athlete.


Check out Lewis Hatchett’s social for further advice on mindset in sport.