A Story About Finding Confidence During Tough Times
As the NFL season rolls on, I watch kickers miss kicks they should be able to make with their eyes closed. They proceed to walk off the field with their head down, come back on the field, and miss more kicks. What’s going on? They have the physical ability and skill-set to make a kick from 35 yards out, but for some reason it’s just not going through the uprights. They are having a difficult time finding confidence.
It’s the mental side of the game that people often forget.
The mental side of sports reminds me of when I played baseball as a teenager, and how one particular experience still impacts my life today.
I loved playing travel baseball, and I loved the guys I played with. We had a lot of fun on the field and were full of smiles regardless of the score.
I was the leadoff hitter, so my goal was to get on base any way possible. My strength was bunting for base hits. However, I went through a mental struggle where the very thing I was talented at doing seemed impossible.
This one day, I step up to the plate, and Coach gives me the often-used bunt sign. Without thinking, I put the bat out and whiff at the first pitch. No worries, you’re going to miss a few bunts here and there, right? With confidence, coach gives me the signal again. I whiff again. What’s going on? I’m getting nervous. Coach gives it to me again with a two-strike count. Really Coach? Two strikes and I’m bunting?
When I think about it now, I understand it. He was trying to build my confidence and prove that he believed in me. However, the repeated failure ended up killing my confidence.
I make contact on the next bunt attempt only to see the ball roll foul down the third base line. It’s okay though, one bad at-bat won’t kill me.
So, the next time I step up to the plate, Coach gives me the bunt sign again. Surely the defense knows what is coming, but Coach still wants to build my confidence back up. Long story short, I don’t make contact with any pitch, and I start doubting every athletic skill I ever had. The next two at-bats come, and I have zero confidence in myself to lay a bunt down, but coach keeps making me do it. I have now struck out bunting on four straight at-bats. Talk about a rough patch.
I’ll never forget what happened next. Walking to the plate and completely miserable with myself, I see Coach give me the bunt sign. Out loud I say, “Coach, I can’t.” He gives me a nod, a smile, and a quick “you’ve got this.” Still completely lacking confidence, I stick the bat out and lay down a beautiful bunt down the third base line, beat the throw to first base and let out a massive sigh of relief while standing on first base.
There were many highlights and low-lights during my playing days, but this was definitely both one of the highest and lowest. The feeling of confidence, accomplishment, and joy all came from a simple bunt single. But this wasn’t just a bunt single, it was a life lesson.
You may be going through a cold streak in sales and thinking to yourself, “I am never going to make a sale,” or even doubting the abilities that you know you have. The mental game doesn’t just affect athletes, it also affects business professionals.
The struggles will come, and you are going to lack confidence every now and then. Sometimes it takes a mentor like my baseball coach to lift your confidence. But often, it comes from within.
To this day, I think about this experience when I have the feeling of defeat. Sure, there will be struggles and self-doubt, but as Coach Keith would say, “You’ve got this.”