Confidence or Competence?

TAGS: empowerment, empowered, By the Coach for the Coach: Become Empowered, by the coach for the coach, todd hamer, training athletes, strength and conditioning, strength coach, Mark Watts

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

Last week my grandfather died after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease. I was told that we're born knowing that we will see our grandparents die. While this is true, it doesn't make it any easier to see your last grandparent leave this Earth.

One of the best things about funerals is that you get to see so many people you rarely spend time with (and probably should spend more time with). It also gives you a moment to reflect on your own life and think about how you'll be remembered. Without my grandfather, I doubt that I would be who I am today. I know that I wouldn't be a strength coach.

I saw my bus driver from my childhood. He told me how proud he was of the man that I have become. It is always surprising how someone's small comment can really help you during hard times in your life. I also reflected on how my grandfather used to travel with us to our pee wee football games so that we could beat Mark Watts's team on the other side of the tracks. Go Crafton Little Cougars!

After spending a week with family and friends and reflecting on my grandfather's life, one word wouldn't leave my head—empowerment. I'm not sure if it's because Dave Tate uses this word or because I can always hear Jamey Jasta screaming "become empowered" during each of my Hatebreed-powered lifts. Whatever the reason, I kept thinking, how can I lead an empowered life while empowering others? While driving back from the wake, I was listening to the radio and thinking that anyone who knows me knows that if you get in my car, you'll hear NPR or me singing Leonard Cohen (you can pick, but NPR is better). The topic of the day was confidence and competence and how they empower each other. I realized that this was exactly what I needed, and I needed to read more about this topic and share this information with everyone.

First, what is confidence? According to, confidence is "a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something." In our profession, this is something that we must work with every day. If you don't have confidence in your ability, your athletes won't listen to you and they won't want to work hard each and every day for you. But we can't have confidence without also having competence. So what is competence? My friend defines it as, " the ability to do something well : the quality or state of being competent." So if you're a competent strength coach, you can do your job well. Not great but well. Having some level of competence is just the beginning, and this is where I see confidence and competence really playing off each other.

todd hamer empower strength coach 043014

Think about what you're currently capable of as a strength coach. Can you draw out a semester-long program for a volleyball team based on different periodization models? That isn't too hard, but can you also coach that team? Can you also deal with the head coach, the athletic trainer, and the athletic director? Do you have the confidence in your ability to do all these things? Most people are reading this and saying, "Yes, I can do all that easily." OK, if that's the case, let's see your results. I say this because if you answered yes, then clearly your confidence is high enough. But until the job is done, we don't know if your competence is high enough.

So what is the relationship between the two? There has been some research in this area but no exact consensus from the scientific community. I'll take what I've learned, combine it with my experience, and take a stab at this. As strength coaches, we should have more confidence than competence. Before I upset everyone and get hate emails telling me that I'm condoning people running off to take weekend certifications and then calling themselves strength coaches, I'm not. What I'm saying is keep your confidence just outside of your competency. This will force you to grow and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I have a friend who was once offered a job that he knew little about. All he knew was that it was a great opportunity. He called a friend who was an expert in the field in which he was offered the job and told this friend, "I'll pay you any amount to spend the weekend with me and teach me all you can in a weekend." As he told me, "Many cans of dip later and lots of coffee and I was ready to go to work on Monday." He was far from an expert, but he had an idea of what he had to do. He had a low level of competence, but his confidence was probably slightly higher than it should have been. He continued to work hard and study and has now been at his job for over fifteen years. He has been promoted many times, and I think he has even told his bosses about how he "learned" his job.

No one will empower you to be great at your job. That's up to you. Empowering yourself to be great is your responsibility. To be great will involve hours of reading, hours of training, and hours of experimenting as well as many failures. Trust me—I fail almost every day (OK, every day). I often go home frustrated that I didn't do a great job on any given day. But I know that I'm good at what I do, and I know that I can make a difference. So no matter how frustrated I get, I keep my confidence high and study every day so that my competence remains high as well. If you can find a way to marry these two qualities, you'll empower yourself and you'll begin to empower your athletes to be great. If you can't do these two things, maybe it's time for you to become a banker!

Oh, and if none of this works, listen to more Hatebreed! You'll either be empowered or...not.

"When I was at my weakest
And I had given in
Some had counted me out
Some rejoiced in my failures
The few that believed
Gave me power and life
Gave me strength with their trust
Surrounding me with light

No limit to what can be achieved
Power that has yet to be seen
End the instability
Stare now into glory

It's within and it's growing
Their mark is not worn
It's purest devotion
It's the war of knowing
They are there for me
They are part of who I am
It's within me in spirit
And beside me in battle

No limit to what can be achieved
Power that has yet to be seen
End the instability
Stare now into glory

— Jamey Jasta

Loading Comments... Loading Comments...