How to develop self confidence in dancers-Part 2

Jul 29, 2021

Today’s post is by Team Member Dr. Chelsea Pierotti. Dr. Chelsea is a Sport Psychologist for Dancers and founder of the Podcast: Passion for Dance. Be sure to check out part 1 of Dr. Chelsea’s post!

So where does confidence come from?

Are some people just born more confident? Yes and no. Research tells us that personality is about 50% inherited (I’m simplifying the science, but that’s the gist). That means confidence is somewhat determined by genetics and some athletes will just have more than others. However, that also means 50% is shaped by your environment. That’s where you come in as the dance teacher. You are a big part of your athletes’ environment. The people around them, the situations they experience, their social world. That’s where you can make a difference. So yes, some people are born with a more confident personality. But that doesn’t mean those individuals can’t experience times of low confidence, and it doesn’t mean those who are naturally less confident can’t learn to grow their self-confidence.

What can I do to improve my confidence?

I know how hard it can be to deal with a group of dancers that doesn’t believe in themselves. Or a dancer who has a mental block about one specific skill. Confidence fluctuates. You can have an athlete who has high dispositional confidence, then experiences one big mistake at a significant event and suddenly her self-confidence has tanked! So here are some ideas and suggestions that you can do:

1) Ensure performance accomplishments. Allow your athletes to experience success within the context of being optimally challenging. Achieving success only helps build confidence if it is done in a situation that is challenging but achievable. This is where proper goal setting comes in. You want all of your team goals to be optimally challenging. High and inspiring… but achievable. This doesn’t just mean you end-all performance goal, but the little training goals along the way. The more small-step goals you set along the way, the more opportunities you give your athletes to experience success.

2) Act confidently. Think confidently. There is amazing research that just standing in a confident pose for 5 minutes, can actually change how you feel and improve your confidence. I mean it, just standing in the ‘superman pose’ for 2 minutes and thinking confident thoughts can significantly improve you state of mind. The neurological connection from your brain to your muscles is obviously very strong, but it also goes both ways. It’s not just that your brain tells your muscles what to do. Your muscles can actually tell your brain what to think too!

This is what I mean about taking the floor at competition too. Train your athletes to walk out confidently, thinking confident thoughts. They can’t fake it. They have to actually have a confidence mantra and know how to look when they take the floor. Their body language can actually influence their performance, not to mention the judge’s perceptions!

3) Use imagery. Visualization is a common tool in our world as dancers. Many teams visualize the routine before taking the warm-up floor, or after long practices. Visualizing success can also help a dancer see themselves as successful and improve their confidence.

4) Goal mapping. Again, proper goal setting techniques are essential for instilling confidence. Every practice should have a goal. Check in at the end, did you achieve that goal? Talk about next time, what’s our goal for next time? Why didn’t we get there today, what needs to change, was our goal to easy today so we achieved it in 30 minutes… Setting optimal goals that are attainable. Remember they have to be challenging, but doable, but short-term daily goals and the long-term big picture goals.

5) Prepare. When it comes to situational confidence (think of that one event where walking in the building makes your stomach turn) mental preparation for that specific event is key. Make sure they know exactly what to expect: what time do you arrive, what you will eat, what time does warm-up start, when you will start your pre-competition rituals, how much time in between prelims and finals… anything you can think of to prepare them for exactly how that event will go can help them feel more confident when they get there.

6) Social climate. I’m a little like a broken record now, but a positive encouraging climate and supportive leadership style are essential for building confidence.

7) Training and physical conditioning. There is no replacement for physical work. If you know you are stronger, if you know you can outlast the other team’s cardio abilities, it improves confidence. Ultimately, and increased sense of ability increases confidence. So keep training and celebrate success and improvement along the way!

Confidence is not just about ensuring a better performance. When an athlete has confidence, she has more positive emotions, better concentration, sets higher and more challenging individual goals, increases her effort, and allows her to compete to win rather than compete not to lose (a subtle but powerfully different mental state). So choose a few of the strategies above to implement in your teaching and intentionally boost your dancers’ confidence next time you’re in class!

~Dr. Chelsea

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