As much as any other attribute, your level of confidence upon starting a route may predetermine your likelihood of success. Think back to the last time you did a route you had wired. As you prepared for the climb, chances are you felt no doubt about the results—the route was in the bag. You then, of course, proceeded to send the route in a relaxed, carefree, yet focused state. This experience reflects the dramatic effect that confidence has on performance. But what exactly is confidence, and how is it developed?
Confidence is positive energy, enthusiasm, and high expectancy of success. You climb free, loose, quick, and fluid, and even in the face of pressure remain mentally calm and focused. Such bulletproof confidence does not just appear on the spot by thinking positive thoughts or hoping for the best, however. Confidence is developed beforehand via extensive preparation and experience.
Nothing elicits confidence like having been there before. Thus one of your training goals should be to mimic as best as you can the atmosphere, situations, and terrain of the project or competition for which you’re preparing. For example, if it’s your goal to send a route out the huge Pipe Dream roof at Maple Canyon (Utah), you’d want to log a lot of time climbing roof routes at your local climbing gym. Although the actual moves and handholds of the indoor roof climbs are likely very different from those at the Pipe Dream, the time spent moving in the horizontal will develop familiarity with the position and thus build comfort and confidence in this novel type of climbing.
Physical and mental training also build confidence. The strong, dialed-in feeling you get upon completing a ten-week training cycle makes you more confident on the rock. You can also bolster confidence on the spot by visualizing yourself sending the route or by envisioning past successful climbs of similar type and difficulty. If you sense there’s a chink in your armor, adjust or beef up your training program accordingly, as it will serve to crank up your confidence.
Summary: Confidence is essential to peak performance. Always acclimate yourself to the conditions under which you will perform. Use mock events, trial runs, and simulator routes to help build confidence. Transfer emotional resources from the past to the present by vividly visualizing and feeling the emotions of past successes.