Believing in yourself

Athlete’s self-confidence is seen by some as one of the most important factors in performance (Woodman & Hardy, 2003). The confident athlete has a high motivation to succeed and a high expectation for success. Ask yourself these simple questions; What is confidence? What is it you have lost confidence in? Can you define what you mean? The point being if you know what you have lost confidence in you can then start to focus on getting it back. True confidence is knowing that you are going to do what you say you’re going to do. Training often defines confidence competition refines confidence. Bandura (1977) proposed that individuals possess a self-system that enables them to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings and actions. The self-system acts as a self-regulatory function by providing individuals with the capability to alter their environments and influence their own actions. Such self-evaluations include perceptions of self-efficacy. This refers to personal action, control or agency. Research has demonstrated that cognitive appraisal of performance has a greater influence on self-efficacy than objective measures of performance (Lane, 2002).

A person who believes in being able to cause an event can conduct a more active and self-determined life course. Therefore, self-efficacy is the degree of confidence people have in their capability to attain a specific performance, which determines what tasks people attempt, how much effort is expended on those tasks, and how long they persevere when they encounter difficulties. According to Bandura (1986), self-efficacy makes a difference in how people feel, think and act. Self-efficacy levels enhance or impede motivation. In competitive situations, the higher the level of self-efficacy, the higher the performance accomplishments and the lower the emotional arousal. An individual who enjoys a high level of self-efficacy enters into a competitive situation with enthusiasm and self-confidence. Bandura’s (1986, 1997) self-efficacy theory clearly indicates that past mastery experience is the most influential source of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy beliefs are constructed from four sources, enactive mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and physiological states. Previous performance achievements are the most powerful source of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1982). Self-efficacy is not directly influenced by information from these sources; however, efficacy is influenced by how information is cognitively appraised. Cognitive appraisal of information will be influenced by self-esteem – how a person values themselves – and attributions relating to past performance. This can have motivational implications for the future (Weiner, 1986).

Capturing these moments on video or film for the athlete provides a constant reminder and memory of mastery experiences which can be invaluable. Vicarious experience corresponds to the appraisal of one’s capabilities to perform, based on the observation of the performance of others. Verbal persuasion that can be conveyed through evaluative feedback provided by knowledgeable persons also influences self-efficacy beliefs.

Wells et al. (1993) demonstrated through the manipulation of self-efficacy, that participants became more efficacious and subsequently were able to lift a significantly heavier weight when performing a one-repetition maximum strength test. Therefore, the manipulation of one’s self-efficacy through modelling procedures or through feedback about a competitor’s competence can produce meaningful changes in performance. Wise and Trunell (2001) suggested that the sequence in which the efficacy information is received can affect the degree of the strength of self-efficacy. This implies the importance of knowing how to sequence sources of efficacy information to maximise the strength of self-efficacy and subsequent lead to a better performance. Bond et al. (2001), investigated efficacy change in female golfers. They found that efficacy change was positively related to subjective performance scores, indicating that athletes whose efficacy increased judged themselves to be more successful, and, in turn, made more stable internal attributions for their performance than those for whom efficacy decreased from pre- to post- competition.

Self-efficacy beliefs help to determine how much effort people will expend on an activity, how long they will persevere when confronting obstacles, and how resilient they are in the face of adverse situations. A higher perception of self-efficacy would appear to produce greater effort, persistence and resilience from the athlete. Lane et al. (2005) indicated that higher positive moods and lower negative moods were associated with higher self-efficacy and goal difficulty and led to higher performance levels indicated the concerns associated with negative moods and the negative effect this can have on a task, which can lead to low levels of self-efficacy and relatively unchallenging goals being set prior to an examination (Comunian, 1989; Lane, 2001).

  1. Bandura, A.(1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behaviour change. Psychology Review,  84,191-215.
  2. Bandura, (1986). In Hayes, N. (1994). Foundation of Psychology an Introductory Text. Routledge. London.
  3. Bond, K.A., Biddle, S., Ntoumanis, N.(2001). Self-efficacy and Causal Attribution in Female Golfers. International Journal Sport Psychology, 31, 243-325.
  4. Lane, A. M., Whyte, G. P., Terry, P. C., & Nevill, A. M (2005). Mood and examination performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 143-153.
  5. Weisse, Weisse and Klint,(1989). In Cox, R.(1994). Sport Psychology Concepts and Application. Brown and Benchmark. United States of America.
  6. Wells, C.M., Collins, D., Hale, B.D. (1993). The self-efficacy performance link in maximum strength performance. Journal of Sport Science, 11, 167-175.
  7. Woodman, T. & Hardy, L. (2003). The relative impact of cognitive anxiety and self-confidence upon sports performance: a meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, 21, 443-457.
  8. Wise, J.B., & Trunnell, E.P. (2001). The influence of sources of self-efficacy upon efficacy strength. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 23, 268-280.