Laura Ann Giraldi Sports in Society Sports Psychology: Self — Confidence in
Sport Activity November 21, 1996
Sports Psychology is one of the most up and coming sciences of the
present time. This practice focuses on training athletes to use their mental
capacities along with their physical talent to reach what is known as peak
performance. Sports Psychologists analyze the performance of athletes and use
motivational, cognitive, and behavioral principles to teach them peak
performance levels. Sixty to ninety percent of success in sports is due to
mental factors and psychological mastery. Sensing the importance of mental
training in recent years, scientists have developed mental training programs.
These programs all vary in technique, however, they all include skills focused
on mastering the art of self-confidence. There are considerable amounts of
evidence in sports literature that there is a direct correlation between self-
confidence and peak performance.
Self-confidence exists in all walks of life. It is defined as: the
strong relationships between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior which
if motivated correctly can help an individual excel with confidence in anything
they try to do. Most of the time self-confidence is viewed in accordance with
how well an athlete performs at a certain sport activity.To examine this
further one must look at how an athlete prepares themselves before the task in
order to understand how their self-confidence reigns so high when it comes time
for them to actually compete.An athlete must trust what enables them to
build their self-confidence.
(2) To start, an athlete needs to know themselves and what their limitations are.
Through personal experience an athlete will know what they are capable of
doing, and also what challenges them. From such personal experiences an athlete
can recall past success as well as past failures. Therefore, an athlete must
strive off that knowledge of past success to reassure themselves that they have
done it once, and that they can do it again.
All is easier said then done. Building self-confidence can be one of the
hardest things an athlete has to do. This involves a great deal of mental
awareness and self-discipline. For it could take only one negative experience to
destroy an athlete’s ego. This is when the process of filtering comes into play.
Filtering involves using negative experience in a positive way. More
specifically an athlete must look at such experiences carefully and learn from
them. They must not focus on the bad, but how it can help them in the future.
For example, a basketball player who missed a foul shot that could have won the
game must not view the experience as I am a loser; he must say My foul shooting
needs a little help. In turn, this athlete should take a little time before and
after practice to drill this technique. By doing this he is not focusing on the
negative he is building towards a positive. This technique is very important to
the athlete who is looking to strive for peak performance. For an athlete who
dwells on the negative aspects
(3) of their performance will never appreciate or accentuate their positive
aspects. This in the long run will not allow them to develop to their full
A second technique in gaining self-confidence is a skill called self-
talk. This is indeed a skill. This should be done when the athlete is spending
quiet time with themselves. This is the time when an athlete must throw out all
modest tendencies and falsehoods. This is a time when the athlete must be
completely honest with themselves and their performance. This is also the time
when the athlete must allow themselves to be their own best friend. These self-
talks should be very detailed and taken seriously. They should include
statements about past success, hard work, team cohesion, uniqueness, talent,
endurance, persistence, and determination. This list may vary greatly, however
it is these positive reinforcements that make all the difference. Self-talk is
also a time when an athlete may reflect on compliments he has received and
success up to this point. This technique is as important as any in the road
toward peak performance.
A third technique in gaining self-confidence is imagery. Imagery if done
properly does build confidence. Imagery or mental rehearsal is the process of
creating mental images of yourself performing at optimal levels. Confidence
increases because you avoid dwelling on the past, where you could find
experiences of failure. Confidence is further enhanced when you maintain focus
(4) the present time rather than letting your imagination drift into the future,
where the possibilities for failure or injury can exist. Simply, an athlete’s
confidence is enhanced because they see themselves achieving the goal the learn
what it looks like, feels like, sounds like, or even smells like. Therefore, the
situation becomes familiar to them and they feel it belongs to them resulting in
a feeling of success. An extra bit of confidence like that can carry an athlete
through almost anything, and they can feel as if they can do things that may
have seemed impossible. This technique is considered by many sports
psychologists to be one of the greatest tools aiding athletes with self-
The above techniques are basically internal and must be done on an
individual basis. There are however some external techniques that build self-
confidence. Coaches can practice many self-confidence skills with their team.
First, team cohesion sessions are a necessity. This is the time when the team
can learn to act as one. Not only physically, but mentally as well. If they have
faith in one another it is inevitable that they will gain faith in themselves.
Second, using constructive criticism can make the players feel much better about
themselves. Coaches should make suggestions like Why don’t you try this,
instead of yelling at the players and saying, you are doing it all wrong!
Little things as these make all the difference. Third, a coach should make pre-
game, mid-game, and post-game
(5) Pep talks. This is a crucial and emotional time for the players any negative
statements could be detrimental. This is the coach’s opportunity to make the
team feel as if they are on top of the world regardless of the opponent or the
A technique that is most often forgotten, and can be utilizes both
internally and externally is to have fun. If you play as if the score does not
matter chances are you will feel better about yourself than you ever have. For
it is only a game, and life is more than the game itself.
In conclusion, confidence as presented here can either make or break an
athlete. Without confidence in oneself the physical talent means nothing at all.
Believing in yourself goes a long way and it is necessary to survive in not only
sport activity, but in all walks of life. A little confidence goes a long way.
Cox, Richard H., Sport Psychology: Concepts and Appllications. Madison:
Brown and Benchmark, 1994.
Ferguson, Howard E., The Edge. Clevland: Getting the Edge, 1990.
Ryan, Frank. Sports and Psychology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall,