“Confidence is the most important single factor in this game.”
—Jack Nicklaus, Legendary Golfer
In sports and life, if you don’t have a positive attitude, you might as well pack it in and call it a career. Being confident in your abilities will help push your mind and body through difficult situations and help you accomplish your goals.
A positive attitude and optimism about outcomes allow athletes to stay focused and never lose sight of the task at hand, despite difficulties. As Dr. Robert Bell explains in “Positive Self-Talk Improves Performance,” reinforcement is a key to athletic success, and it all starts with an individual who wants to excel.
Although no athlete should cross the fine line between confidence and cockiness, being positive and self-assured, but still humble, is a good combination for success.
No one ever accused legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus of cockiness, although he dominated the game for nearly 30 years. Following each of his 73 PGA Tour victories, Nicklaus was always humble.
“The Golden Bear” strongly believes that one reason he was so successful and confident on the course was because he loves the game. He once told the media, “I’m a firm believer in the theory that people only do their best at things they truly enjoy. It is difficult to excel at something you don’t enjoy.”
From the start of his professional career, the Hall-of-Famer never lost his confidence, nor did he ever worry about the competition. In 1962, in his 17th start as a professional, the 22-year-old Nicklaus went head-to-head with Arnold Palmer, then the number one golfer in the world, for the U.S. Open championship. Refusing to be overwhelmed by the pressure of a Monday playoff round, Nicklaus kept his cool to beat Palmer, becoming the second youngest player ever to win our championship.
The confidence Nicklaus showed at a young age stayed with him for the next 34 years as he won more than 100 golf tournaments, including 18 major championships—six Masters, four U.S. Opens, three Open Championships and five PGA Championships.