ALBUFEIRA, Portugal — The power of confidence continually amazes me. The concept is simple, yet true confidence can be so illusive. Anson Dorrance (my former coach at North Carolina) often speaks about the three pillars that comprise every great athlete: discipline, competitive fire and self-belief. Initially, I took self-belief and confidence to be interchangeable. Recently, however, I’ve begun to distinguish between the two.
I have an overriding faith that I am on the path to becoming the player I dream of being. I feel good about the training I do. I have pride in my strengths as a player, and know that I am consistently improving every other aspect of my game. This is self-belief. It is the platform on which confidence can be built.
For most of us, finding true confidence is somewhat like a roller-coaster ride. It can build and build, until you forget that there’s any other way to feel or act. And then, in an instant, it can plummet. Sometimes it doesn’t even take a mistake or criticism from a coach — it can be as simple as second-guessing yourself, or reading into a situation that’s out of your control. The test of every athlete is to maintain a consistent level of confidence — never feeling invincible or complacent, but always maintaining a mind-set that allows for no doubt and no concern for the opinions of others.
When I am truly confident, I notice and applaud my teammates when they do something well. My mistakes are laughable and I am focused only on the joy I feel when I play. I make instinctive decisions, and even the little bounces seem to go my way. When I lack confidence, I am focused mostly on myself. I compare myself to others. Things that can possibly go wrong, do. It’s like I am not only combating an opponent, but myself as well.
As a professional player, I’ve identified this as an ongoing cycle.
I go through phases of being supremely confident, and at other times my confidence falters. I try my best to take advantage of those high moments, though, and to minimize the not-so-good ones.
At the beginning of this trip, my confidence wasn’t great. I started to worry about things that are not within my control, and I became focused on not making mistakes, rather than just playing. Through changing my thought process and bringing back my focus to being in the moment and enjoying it, I was able to regain some confidence in training these past few days leading up to the Algarve Cup.
At this level, confidence can literally make or break a player. Everyone who steps on the field for the national team has the ability and tools to succeed. It is confidence that allows those tools to be used in pressure situations, and which can be the deciding factor on who makes a roster or is in the starting lineup.
As we begin the Algarve Cup, every player here (without exception) will have her series of ups and downs. Even Coach Pia Sundhage admitted, in our tactical meeting last night: “Soccer is feelings. It’s not only thinking and decisions.” Nothing can beat confidence. And success cannot happen without it.