The Importance of Self-Confidence

  • April 11, 2018


Some thoughts from The Importance of Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy from Morgan Sullivan

When athletes succeed in high-pressure situations, you’ll inevitably hear people say they have “ice in their veins.” Conversely, athletes who fail in these same situations might be labelled “choke artists.” The difference between the former and the latter is self-confidence.

For athletes, having a high level of self-confidence is as important as the physical skill set needed to perform their sport. We as coaches understand the importance of having our players perform with confidence. The question is, how do we get them to do it?

Some steps outlined by leading sports psychologists include the importance of calling on past success, employing positive self-talk, remaining positive and modelling behaviours of higher-performing athletes. Of all these different strategies, the one I have found most effective is reminding my athletes of their past successes.

Throughout a softball season, I spend a lot of time talking with players about the work they’ve put in and the successes they’ve had. I ask them to tell me about their successes in school, at home and on the field. This reminds them that they have had successes, both on and off the field. This is important because we humans, by nature, remember our failures more vividly than our successes. Recalling a specific big hit or a great defensive play in a big situation is especially effective.

This brings me back to the title of this post: “The Importance of Self-Confidence and Self-Efficacy.” While these terms are commonly thought to be interchangeable, they’re quite different. Self-confidence is an overarching view of one’s own aptitude, while self-efficacy is situationally dependent. Many sports psychologists consider self-confidence to be a personality trait; one that can—and often does—adjust over time.

The major benefit of an increased state of self-confidence is the ability to overtake negative emotions and anxiety. This can be applied in all facets of life. Self-efficacy differs in that it is a concept that can be measured on many different levels. While self-confidence is the broad stroke of the paintbrush, self-efficacy is the fine-tipped pen. Self-confidence is a deeper part of one’s personality; it remains constant over time and shows a slower, more gradual change. Self-efficacy changes much more quickly and can do so from one simple task to another. It’s assigned based on the confidence an athlete has in the immediate skill he or she performs.

Coaches and parents, make sure you understand the difference and support them both. It can be a big deal for your young athletes!

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Coach Responses

What techniques do you use to help boost your athletes’ self-confidence?

How do you help them perform with confidence?

Share your tips and best practices!

Richard Samuels – Basketball – Durham – 15 years

“…I think the first thing you want to be able to do with most young athletes is to have them identify both their greatest strengths and weaknesses so that their personal path to being their vision of an ideal player can be defined. Once defined it is really a matter of being there and assisting them in their personal pursuits, making sure that it isn’t a matter of telling them “they can’t do ….because,….” but more of “they can do this if they work on …” by creating a personal action plan for that athlete, and then placing snippets of development to assist that athlete, in your practice plan as a coach, you will be surprised at how empowering that can be for your athletes. I have found It usually results in a more attentive, encouraged and cooperative athlete, as opposed to building a “chip on the athlete’s shoulder”, which only further frustrates the athlete and his teammates.”

Ashok Kumar – Wrestling – Mississauga – 20+ years

“…Believe in yourself

Take a little risk to try

Keep on trying correct move

Test with the best”

Joe Benedetti – Fast-Pitch Softball – Hamilton – 20+ years

“…Ask any coach if he wants a confident athlete and we all know what the quick reply will be – but ask that same coach if they want to develop and train VERY confident athletes and there might be some hesitation. The danger zone is when our athletes and teams become over-confident and in extreme cases – arrogant. That could stem from a lack of respect for their opponents. Surely we only enter athletes in competitions when we are confident that they can compete with confidence – that they have faith and belief in all their training and preparation. All humility stems from confidence. The key message that must be delivered – sometimes with words, but mostly with actions is simply this; ” I believe in you, believe in yourself, get out there and show them what you got !!!”

Meaghan Spykerman – Ringette – Corbeil – 3 years

“…Personally, I found that giving players a say in how they are practising has always helped with their confidence. Usually one or two drills a practice I try and cycle through the players and let them choose one, that way they feel more independent and confident. I also find that boosting them after every shift with compliments (even the smallest ones) can do a lot for their self-esteem too. After a shift instead of bogging them down with everything, they have done wrong I tell them a mixture of good and bad things. However, I try not to give too much criticism that way they are not getting stressed during a game.”

Stephen Catania – Soccer – Toronto – 10 years

“…I would have to agree with the introductory comments made to self-confidence. Those being having your players/athletes remember past successes gained through practice and repetition, using a timeline of sorts that tracks where they were to where they are now. Also using emotion as a detonator that takes frustration, anger and low performance results can positively feed through a determined mindset, goal setting, and plain and simply hard work, can lead to building tangible self-confidence and self-esteem. These are not only valuable on the playing field, but become cornerstones that build a complete athlete/person.”

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