Psyched Online


By Paul Schienberg PhD.

Definition: When you have trust, faith, assuredness and belief you have confidence. Now confidence in yourself reflects the belief and certainty you have in your ability to be successful in a particular athletic situation that requires a particular task. A synonym for confidence is a self-belief.

Theoretical Models of Confidence

The initial theories of self-confidence were based on theories of motivation developed by McClelland and Atkinson. They believed the motive to achieve success and the motive to avoid failure are primary considerations of whether a person will approach or avoid an achievement situation. These ideas are very much related to the construct of self-confidence. The confident athlete will have high motivation to succeed and high expectation of success.

The theory of Self-Efficacy offers another perspective to an athlete’s belief of competence and likelihood of success at a presented athletic event. High levels of self- efficacy at a competitive situation will create enthusiasm and self-confidence. The level of self-efficacy will determine whether the athlete will approach or avoid an achievement situation. In competitive athletic events, the higher the level of self-efficacy the higher the performance achieved and the lower the emotional arousal.

Self-Efficacy is enhanced by successful performance, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion and emotional arousal. If an athlete focuses on performance accomplishments it enhances both efficiency and subsequent performances. Preparatory modeling of athletic tasks tends to increase athletic performance as well. Verbal persuasion is a very low contributor to improving performance levels. Lastly, the control of emotional arousal, like physiological symptoms of anxiety, does not by itself increase self-efficacy.

Techniques in Developing Confidence with an Athlete:

  1. Make positive statements that emphasize the qualities and attributes.
  2. Act in a confident manner by imitating a confident performance.
  3. Create reward comments and deliver them with emphasis, directed at and immediately following a successful accomplishment or attempt at an athletic task.
  4. Offer immediate feedback which relays information about a performance – of an objective nature like time it took to do an event or subjective like improvement of skill.
  5. Set goals that are accomplishable. This involves working on skills that are already strengths, fine tuning aspects of a sport that you are already good at and setting new tasks to add to your repertoire.
  6. Focus on thoughts that reflect physical preparedness and readiness. Examples include facts about training and support ideas that arousal is a sign of an athlete’s competitive edge.
  7. Frame instructions in a positive style (i.e., do it this way). Do not deliver information in a negative manner (i.e., don’t do this or that).
  8. Visualizations can be used to picture the re-living of a successful athletic action or seeing a forthcoming event.
  9. In analyzing a particular performance, it is best to think of it as a result of ability rather than effort. Ability is a more stable factor than effort.
  10. Focus on the abilities that are superior to your competitor’s skills.
  11. Emphasize the athletic skills that have resulted in success rather than the success itself.
  12. Get into the mind-set that expects success (previous successes and preparation for the athletic event).

Techniques to build self-confidence maybe helpful to one athlete, but not to another. In fact, a technique could be so wrong that it becomes disastrous to the self-esteem of the athlete. Should one of those techniques continue to be employed by a couch, bad feelings may create interpersonal conflicts between them. There is no technique that is more important than knowing the personality of the athlete. In order to teach a particular self-confidence building technique, the couch needs to believe in its effectiveness. Therefore, self-evaluation as well as evaluation by another couch could be helpful in applying the correct techniques to the right athlete. In other words, the couch needs a couch. Putting together a couching staff that will be honest with each other can eliminate the “getting stuck” phenomenon.

One of the best sources of information regarding what techniques will work with which athlete is the athlete him/herself. The athlete knows himself better than the couch because the athlete has lived with himself longer. The couch should be open to feedback from the athlete. Ask the athlete what has worked or not worked in the past. A closed off couch will likely create an impasse. The couch/athlete relationship needs to open and mutually helpful. An athlete can help a coach become successful. As an athlete matures, techniques that work may go through changes.


  1. Know your athlete. Know yourself. The more specific you knowledge, the more likely helpful confidence building techniques will be chosen and employed.
  2. Performance profiling helps athletes generate their own skills inventory and characteristics that are useful in enhancing their own performances.
  3. Coaches and athletes should have similar viewpoints so that mutual goals and objectives are set.
  4. Monitoring performance successes and failures early in training can highlight problems before a disaster strikes.
  5. Despite bad performances there is always something positive to highlight.
  6. Athletes should employ only those techniques that make them feel good.