Coaching Confidence – Share from Coach Matt Woodcock

Posted on Oct 30 2021

Matthew Woodcock is an Australian coach currently plying his trade in the United States as an assistant coach at Baker University. An avid sharer and creative thinker, Matt recently penned an article on what confidence means to both players and coaches.

In his article, Coach Woodcock unpacks what confidence is in the minds of players and confidence and how to nurture it in both the players you lead and in yourself and your coaching staff.

Thanks to Coach for sharing his thoughts with Australian coaches.

Coaching Confidence

How did you just read that?

Coaching confidence – the confidence in your ability to coach OR Coaching confidence – how to coach confidence in players

Confidence can be a bit of an elusive trait at times. I don’t always know how to describe it, but I know it when I see it.

I know when I have it. I know when I don’t. And when I don’t, I can feel like an imposter – so if I can increase my confidence level, I’d like to do it.

Even though I am aware of when I do and don’t feel confident – I am trying to get away from the idea that you can lose your confidence, as if it is this thing that you either have or don’t have. That once you have it, confidence can be misplaced or stolen.

So leaning into the idea that confidence is a skill is where I’m beginning to settle, because if it’s a skill it can be trained, built upon, and improved over time (and it can be coached!).

Confidence itself and my understanding of the mechanics of confidence aren’t necessarily my strengths – and yeah – I get the irony in not having a great deal of confidence about writing a post on confidence.

But; I believe that synthesizing my thoughts will ultimately impact my ability to be confident while fostering confidence in those I have the opportunity to coach.

This post will serve as a forcing function to define confidence and to investigate both versions of the title of this post:

  • Developing self-confidence as a coach
  • Increasing confidence in players


Dr. Michael Gervais defines confidence as the “temporary state where you believe you can be successful at a very specific activity” and posits that credible self-talk is at the core of confidence in his book Compete to Create.

These fundamental properties of confidence are the building blocks for my current understanding of how to promote it in myself as well as the players I coach.

“Confidence comes from one place and one place only, which is credible self-talk” – Michael Gervais

The credibility piece of the self-talk is not to be overlooked but is not the only ingredient to confidence.

Often, when seeking credible evidence for confidence, previous results may be used as a proxy for how the future will work out. When confidence levels are at the mercy of fluctuating results, inconsistent performance usually follows – a major issue with this framework.

It also does not account for novel situations in which coaches or players have no experiential markers on which to tie their confidence.

“Confidence is the cornerstone of consistent performance” – Michael Gervais

To speak to the fleeting nature of confidence based on prior results, I have found myself at the Steph Curry turnaround-3pt-shot end of the confidence continuum, only for the game to leave me utterly doubt-ridden a few minutes later.

So narrowing down confidence to any one thing can be a mistake. The interplay between preparation, past success, self-talk, and a whole host of other factors is part of why I find writing this post so challenging.

It’s not just about performing the acts or putting in the physical work that builds confidence, it’s pairing those acts with an appropriate narrative so ‘you believe you can be successful’.

Confidence (for Coaches)

Those tasked with leading groups must have a baseline level of confidence and optimism in their ability to connect people and help them achieve their collective goals. In my experience, the confidence of a leader can bleed into the fabric of the rest of the group.

The work required to achieve even small coaching wins can pave the way toward coaching confidence. Reinforcing that effort with an effective narrative allows coaches to develop this mental skill and walk the path of confidence before their players. With this experiential knowledge, coaches can feel confident in themselves as well as in their ability to help players develop this mental skill.

“You can’t give what you don’t have as a coach” – Bret Burchard

Here’s my best shot at a framework for cultivating coaching confidence:

Successful acts set the stage for credibility. How we think about those acts ultimately determines what we say to ourselves. What we say to ourselves unlocks the experience of confidence. And confidence feeds back to more successful performances.

Do it/Go thru it -> Notice it -> Say it -> Feel it

Like the chicken or the egg, I’m not sure where this framework begins and ends:

Am I confident in the things I do well, or do I do those things well because I was confident?

Maybe it’s a blend of both.

Coaches that can nurture confidence within themselves are armed with a meaningful skill set that allows chameleon-esque adaptation. They can demonstrate extreme belief in their messaging and lead with conviction while maintaining the flexibility to step back and follow with humility when required.

Thanks to Bret Burchard’s book Catching Confetti for that one!

Confidence (for Players)

Understanding that confidence is transient and not always transferrable can provide clues on how coaches can nurture confidence in players.

Practice can be the perfect place to front-load confidence training and to restore a confident mindset in players who lapse during the season.

Structuring practice activities that present desirable difficulties to players and ensuring that coaches notice any success adds to a player’s confidence level.

As players overcome different and more difficult challenges, it generates the belief – and allows players to have a library of thoughts to illustrate – that they have what it takes to meet the demands of any moment.

“The most confident players are the most skilled” – Chris Oliver

Alongside physical skills that bolster confidence, coaches can also outline effective self-talk strategies to help coach confidence. Players may need mindset tools to escape negative thought-loops and to re-establish their confident mindset.

While boosting the confidence level of players is important to maximising individuals and teams, too much of a good thing might be a bad thing. There is a grouping of players that may be over-confident. Bill Simmons refers to them as ‘irrational confidence guys’.

This might be another post for another day, but as Gervais might say “You earn the right to say ‘I can do difficult things’”. Coaches can facilitate an environment where a players earn their confidence.

“If you haven’t really tested yourself – earned the right to say those things – that’s arrogance, not confidence” – Michael Gervais

As a Coach, feeling the belief of the playing group in me is a great confidence builder. Knowing that if we fail, we were all in it together provides a strong foundation for trust and confidence in each other. I imagine that the inverse is true for coaches breeding confidence in players.

Defining confidence as a mental skill has important implications for coaches and players. Learning how to cultivate confidence in myself and then overflow that to the players I coach can be hugely valuable.

Thanks for taking the time to read, I’d love to hear how you address confidence at the individual and team level – whatever your team might be. Feel free to reach out and let me know.




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