Tuesday, September 06, 2005


I've got a few players who are currently having confidence problems. They've either had a run of bad luck, or made a few bad plays in a row and suddenly it gets in their heads. I'm trying to decide the best way to handle the situation. It's likely different for every player, but the way I see it you've got two basic ways to handle the situation. You can keep putting them in tough situations, situations they are currently having problems with, to show them that you have faith in them. Or, you can put them in situations they are more comfortable with and allow their confidence to return before putting them back in a situation they are having problems with.

I remember several years ago in summer league, I had back to back games where I had a key turnover late in the game. It got in my head so much that I didn't even want to be on the field. My captain at the time took me aside and told very nicely to get over it, that the team was going to need me playing to succeed, etc. It encouraged me to get back on the 'horse', and eventually I regained my confidence. I think an important part of it was that someone I respected showed they had confidence in me.

Does anyone else have any experiences with players (or yourself) having confidence issues?


Anonymous said...

When I would have a basketball player lose confidence in their shot, I would tell them they have to take the shot for the team, just don't force the shot, do it naturally. If they did not take the shot the other team would realize how timid they were to shoot and then it becomes a 4 on 5 game or 6 against 7 in Ultimate. This diminished the team's ability to score with less options. I also would tell them things will turn around, no one misses everyshot forever and to make up with it by playing a part of their game stronger, Rebounding, blocking out, defense, double teams, etc. because a player is usually good at several things.

I tell them to play within their game, concentrate on parts that the team needs, handling, defense, being a decoy, even cheerleading because they are good at those as well. Every teammate must contribute and be a part of the flow of the game or the entire team is weakened. If a person won't handle the disc due to turnovers, then it puts an additional 12% of the team play on the remaining 6 players and that becomes a burden not everyone can handle for a weekend. Play your weaknesses to an 80-90% level with easy handles and the confidence comes back naturally.

I talked to one of your players this weekend in Chattanooga and they said they were gun-shy about getting run over (physical play) and hurt as its happened a couple of times this season. Thus they did not make good strong cuts to get open. I asked them if the pain has gone away? they said yes, I said to concentrate on the flow of the game and to not initiate the contact by giving another couple of feet on the breaks and cuts from other opposing players. They are fast enough to beat the person guarding them then play good defense and force turnovers as that is something most people don't like to do and the team needs it.

After they play a game or two it will usually come back to them what they have naturally been doing for years now.

I hope my advice was good advice, it eventually helps and I did not overstep my bounds here.

John White

aj said...

My college roommate was a pitcher on the baseball team, and I asked him one time if pitchers get mad at their fielders when they make an error. He said that if a fielder ever made an error he always hoped that the very next ball would go right back to them. He found that if the player got another ball hit at them right away they didn’t have time to think about their previous error. Whereas if a fielder sits out there doing nothing for two innings he has time to wonder if the error was a fluke or if he’s suddenly developed Chuck Knoblauch disease.

In this spirit, I almost always try to put a player in the exact same situation the error occurred in on the previous play. If he dropped the pull, I make him catch the next one. If she throws away the first pass, I make her throw the first pass again. In general I think the “get back on the horse immediately” plan is the best.

I think there are other scenarios though that it makes sense to change things up a bit. For instance, you want your main deep to work on his throws, so you’ve had him handling and he’s made a couple of errors and is starting to lose confidence. In that scenario, I suggest bombing it to that guy on the next play to remind him what you think his main job is.

I have also had a few players who would press big time after making a throwing error. One girl after turning it over was almost guaranteed to have another turnover soon because she would start rushing her throws and she would attempt more difficult throws – I guess subconsciously trying to make up for the last mistake with a sweet throw. It was strange to because she was very solid – she would go three games in a row without a turnover and then have 4 in one point. I pointed this out to her and she said she had noticed it as well. We finally came up with the plan that if she turned it over she would always take a deep breath before trying to throw the next one and that she would focus on hitting the easiest pass following a turnover. I think this helped – she was still more likely to have a turnover very soon after her first turnover – but the 4 turnover points stopped happening.

deepdiscthoughts said...

I think that you got to the core of the discussion with two things from your original post:

"It's likely different for every player" and "An important part of it was that someone I srespecte showed they had confidence in me."

These are the most salient points because it is most often that the player does not doubt his own abilities, but rather that he doubts that the team believes in his abilities. (This is different at lower levels of play where many players have not worked on their games as extensively as high-level players.)

The key things that need to be expressed are that the leaders of the team (either nominal or de-facto) still trust the player to succeed and that belief needs to be reinforced by an event on the field.

I feel that immediately going back to the player's strength is ideal. Not necessarily the same things that the player made an error on, but something that the player will definitely succeed at. Catching the pull? Very unlikely that someone will drop 2 in a row. Make them catch it again. Getting trapped hard into the wind against a zone? more difficult, so get them in a different situation, unlewss of course their forte is getting out of the trap zone.

Edelman said...

Is it me, Wood? I try hard, man, honest. Those girls are just big and scary.

My thought (coming from a verdant ultimate mind, but crusty tennis mind) is let them deal with it themselves, to some extent. They have to learn. Once someone learns to cope with confidence issues on their own, they become a better player instantly. Help them a bit with some encouragement, but don't overdo it. I remember last year playing for Emory, we played Davidson at a tournament and we had a handler with usually trustworthy hands start dropping the disc on routine swing passes. We left him in, taking the "tough love" approach and kept throwing it to him. And he kept dropping it. We were up by three at one point that game before he ended up having 14 turnovers on offense that were all drops (many were multiple drops in the same point). My point is this: toss them back in the fire, but don't let them melt (cute, right?).

However, there is a worst thing you can do called the Ricky McClelland model. I love being on the field with Ricky on my team, but for godsake do NOT mess up because you will get your face chewed off. Yelling at a player achieves nothing but weakening a player's already withering confidence. Although you may be tempted to yell, DO NOT, under ANY circumstance.

I remember playing against Operation AJ this summer (summer league, come on) at the MST and throwing a pass to a wide-open, but not-so-talented girl during a clutch point. She missed it (granted it was a bit overthrown, but still catchable) and after the point I was wrung out like sweaty undies. Needless to say, I was so scared to throw after that railing that I proceeded to throw a few more away that I would normally make.

It may seem moot not to yell at someone screwing up, but think back at all those times someone screwed up on your team and you wanted to pluck their eyeballs out with crabmeat forks. Then imagine people reacting the same way with less self-control than you. It happens.

Keith R said...

I think it is definitely very player specific. Most players take the yelling and criticism poorly, but I do know some guys who thrive off the spark of a temporary chip on their shoulder. My best friend is a crazy athlete (I tried to get him to play, 6'3, long arms, solid speed, good jumper), and whenever we play basketball, he just gets better as he gets more pissed off. He is completely unstoppable going to the lane because he has something to prove, and when he swats a shot on the other end, its going into the stands.

I know when I had confidence problems, AJ, who Ive played Summer League with for two years running, seemed to, like he said, show he had confidence in me by keeping me in, and involving me. I know when Tom Street was throwing poorly, I tried to give him the advice Id been told as a three-point shooter in basketball: "Shooters keep shooting." And its true. Reggie Miller could go 0-9 from beyond the line in the first 3 quarters, but he'd keep puttin em up, and in the 4th, he'd go 4-4.

What I think that means is that if its the persons strength, and they arent getting it down, they are off rhythm, get them to just keep doing it, cause it should come together. If its something they aren't particularly good at, maybe its better to back them off, and give them a non-pressure situation to succeed in, akin to if you can't make a jumper, get a few lay-ups in, and watch your J start sinking.

God, I'm such a basketball loser.

aj said...

On a somewhat related note….I think most of what we’ve been talking about has been when a player has confidence issues early in the season – in that case the consensus seems to be to stay positive and help them work their way through it. What about in a big game? Imagine you’ve just lost the finals of regionals primarily because Bob had three big turnovers down the stretch. Bob is a strong player for you and when he’s playing well he gives other teams fits, but now his confidence is shaken and you’ve got to play the backdoor game to Nationals. The first point of the game you receive and Bob turf a swing pass and your opponent converts the easy break. Bob’s looking at his shoes as the other team storms the field. What do you do?

Edelman said...

I'm definitely not what you would consider a "coach" in AJ terms, but I've had considerable experience dealing with this type of situation as a teammate.

So Bob is looking at his shoes after turfing an easy pass (is his nickname Buffalo, by any chance?) I think the only thing you can do is pull him for the next point and talk to him. Tell him how much the team needs him and that he has to suck it up and power through whatever he's dealing with. If he's a top player on a team that's got a shot at nationals, this probably isn't the first time he's had to deal with funk, so he probably knows how to deal with it. Let him cool off a bit on the sidelines while the next point goes on and then put him back in.

deepdiscthoughts said...

With a well-structured team environment, there will be at least one player (possibly more) with whom Bob talks about his game. They develop a bond, maybe because they ride to practice together and train together. Maybe because their personalities just mesh that way. Maybe because they played together in college. Whatever. This player is the one who needs to speak up. Not necessarily the captin, not necessarily a team leader, (though it can be them as well) the guy who just seems to be coming apart needs support and constructive criticism from a player whome he trusts and feels entirely comfortable with.

Often, a captain or other leader can play this role to many of the players on the team but not everyone. And, more often than not, most players have teammates that are much closer to them than others. These friendships need to be used to the benefit of the team. There can be no doubt in Bob's mind that what is being said to him is in his and the team's best interests, if there is, it will make a bad situation worse.

I, personally, would not take him off of the field. I would trust Bob to make that decision. Most strong offensive players seem to have a good grasp of when they need to sit and recover mentally and when they need to get back on the hoss.

Hans Jakob Christoph von Grimmelshausen said...

I think a rather clever thing to say to Bob would go like so...

You tell him that he has that throw and that the throw he just turfed is a 95% throw for him (make up whatever number you want, just make it somewhat high so that Bob feels good). Remind him that even with a 950% success rate, 5% gets left behind. The first throw was turfed, but the next 19 are golden.

If he does it again, work the odds and let him know that he has even more good throws to look forward to.

If all that fails and he turfs the throw a third, forth, or even fifth time, crunch some serious stats and plot the data against a normal distribution curve. Assuming a high enough percentage of throw completion, it will not be hard to prove that it is almost impossible that he turfed five in a row. Once you have proven this mathematically, it should not be hard to convince Bob that the past events simply did not occur. Problem solved.

Humor also works.


Gambler said...

In my experience, a loss of confidence is more damanging when it is caused by something besides a recent error. For instance, a college superstar finds herself struggling her first season in club because things aren't as easy and she begins to doubt how bomb she really is. Then even if she isn't making errors she is just not confident enough to make the plays that the team would like to see her make. Or a player begins to doubt whether his team can win the game he's playing because the team is down and its never beaten this particular opponent before. That doubt translates into a general loss of confidence which continues to reinforce itself.

What I've found works well in these cases is to talk to a player and come up with a phrase of confidence that they can simply repeat to themselves on the line when facing across their opponent. Things like, "I am faster than her," "I can break his mark," "I'm a much smarter player than her," etc. depending on that person's strength. All of a sudden the other team is not a factor mentally and the player in question can go out there and play to her ability.

Hugger said...

Hey All,

First I would like to thank you all for blogging. I'm new to the game and can't get enough of it. I play in a coed league. Beginner's Rec they call it. You would never know it though. Closet Competitors is all I see. :) The issue of confidence is something these people right like a rollercoaster.
I'm a deal with it head on type. So I suggested this to the team.
Treat treat the sense of Lack of Confidence like a situational drill.
Set it up like any other drill.
We know it is going to happen. So let's creat the situation. First off we speak to the situation. Tell the team members to remember a time when you lost confidence in your game. Get it clear in their heads. Write it down. Speak it out. Whatever feels right. Next, put each player in that situation. Say it is the same game, the same situation.
Now have them list off their strengths, choose a play that singles it out. They call out that play and the drill begins.
There is a second benefit, one that is spoken of earlier in this blog. Respect and support for the team. Speak to the fact that the team is there and is willing to run the play for you. To support you in getting back into your flow.
This does have such an analytical spin but the emotion value is wrapped up in the drill not so much in the talk about it.

gingerlyn said...

Hello .. I'm a 1-yr-old Ultimate player and this is a topic that I hold very close to heart, simply because I'm feeling it right now.

I've gone for tourneys (yes, within 1 yr of playing. Call me crazy) and I've learnt that I can do things I never thought possible. Boosted my confidence? Yes.

But there's also been times when I just screw up. Drop easy passes. Lose the confidence to throw a flick. Go wobbly on the backhand cos I don't have the confidence to even spin the bloody disc.

And I am still trying to find my coping mechanism, trying to find the mental pill that can help me oversome such feelings when I'm in a game.

One thing that you've said which I completely agree is "knowing that your captain and your teammates believe in you despite your mistakes". I know I am better than the me you'd just seen. I know I can throw a good flick and a good backhand. I know I can sky, jump, and cut fast. I know I man-D well. And it helps me to know that my teammates continue to believe in me despite my mistakes. It helps to know that noone judges me and thinks my mental is so weak that I can't perform in high-level tourneys.

Thus, confidence of your teammates and captains and coach in you matters most.

Right now, I'm still trying to work back this confidence, and I hate that it oscillates but I guess, it's part and parcel of being human.

- J