The Relationship Between Self-Confidence and Performance

boltSelf-confidence plays a significant role in how athletes perform, whether it is good or bad. For some athletes having self-confidence comes natural to them, but for others it can be something they struggle with over the course of their athletic career. It is because of this that some athletes perform better than others. Self-confidence is defined as, the belief that you can successfully perform a desired behavior (Weinberg & Gould, 2014). Athletes that allow the smallest amount of self-doubt into their thinking will most likely see a decrease in their performance. Self-confidence can make or break an athlete's performance because it facilitates concentration, affects goals, increases effort, and more. All of these are key aspects in performing well, and it is all due to increased self-confidence. This paper explores the scientific literature of how self-confidence affects athletes' performance overtime, in short and long duration sports, and with individual tasks. Suggestions of how to increase one's self-confidence are also included in this paper.

Review of the Literature

 Self-confidence is a very subjective topic to research. It may be hard to believe but self-confidence can go a long way as one study found out. This group of researchers looked at two different soccer teams to determine if self-confidence and cognitive anxiety had any effect on the athletes before their soccer game. LaFratta et al. (2021) found winners showed higher score than losers the day before a match. This research shows that a higher self-confidence score that a team has the better they are going to perform. The losers were not confident in their ability to go out against a team and win. This could be due to the fact that because they did not have self-confidence which would cause them to have more anxiety. This anxiety caused them to have doubts about their game before they even played the game, leading to suggest that having high self-confidence and improve performance.

Self-Confidence in Overtime

Does self-confidence change during a sporting event? The research indicates that it depends. According to Lochbaum et al. (2022), there is a stronger relationship between confidence and performance in short duration sports compared to longer duration sports and individual sports compared to team sports. An example of a short duration would be shotput, high jump, powerlifting and individual sports. Athletes who go into their event very confident that you are going to throw the ball so far or jump that high or far you have a higher chance of performing (Lochbaum et al., 2022). This could be due to the fact that these short duration sports are all individual sports. The individual knows their capabilities. The opposite is true for long duration sporting events. Longer duration events are normally team based. In these sports, even if an individual player has high confidence, if the team is not playing well they still might not perform as well.

Self-Confidence in a Long Duration Sport in an Individual Task

Using soccer as an example, there is a specific moment in where the self-confidence of a player can affect performance, a penalty kick. Navia et al. (2014) examined whether self-controller or externally controlled penalty kicks were better and if self-confidence was a factor that played in that experiment. Navia et al. (2014) found that performances of the pressured group were worse compared to the no-pressure group, yet, the participants’ ratings of self-confidence remained high across the entire experiment and equally so in both groups. Therefore, the amount of self-confidence that a player has does not statistically change the athlete’s performance on scoring a penalty kick in soccer. This also shows that when studied the self-confidence in players has no effect on athletes during long duration sports. This is however overruled when all players of the same time are more self-confident than the other team.  

Implications for the Practitioner

 One strategy to increase self-confidence is the use of self-talk. According to Hatzigeorgiadis et al. (2008), the use of motivational self-talk will enhance performance and self-confidence while reducing cognitive anxiety. As a coach, instilling positive affirmations in your team with a foundational training regimen can promote psychological changes in the brain that will ultimately bring the team closer. Uplifting the confidence of your team with motivational talk/self-talk techniques will help boost their self-esteem and help them feel prepared to face adversity in objective to win the game. 

Utilization of an Imagery Training Program (ITP) can boost the self confidence in players and coaches. This theoretic imaginary technique innervates the motor complex to practically calibrate our movement patterns for efficient performance as physical practice does with movement. Munroe-Chandler et al. (2022) used ITP with a group of young, female soccer athletes and found that ITP enhanced confidence and efficacy in training and competition. In essence, imagery instills confidence by preparing the mind for situations through visualization and exercising our brains through a mental simulation. There is a strong emphasis on the main characteristics of imagery. These include modality (feel, smell, hearing etc.), perspective, angle, agency (one's self or another), and deliberation (degree of deliberate or spontaneous). The better we can implement these characteristics, the more vivid visualizations can be engrained into athletes for preparation.

Additionally, goal setting and goal mapping are incredibly beneficial to keep the athlete fueled with high confidence and efficacy. This means that having your athletes focus on performance and process goals becomes more useful than focusing on outcome goals. Research and interviews with both coaches and athletes indicate that the focus should be more on performance and process goals, as opposed to outcome goals, because the former provide more of a sense of control and enhanced attention to the task (Weinberg & Gould 2019). Small realistic goals must be constructed for athletes to "build momentum" in reach for their overarching goal. Additionally, it is important to note that goal setting based on performance is key to keeping the athlete focused and in control of game like situations and their abilities. Durable confidence is based on the tracking and accomplishment of goals in personalized goal maps.

Lastly, physical preparation is vital for the enhancement of confidence in performance. Physical preparation is merely the best source of confidence that athletes utilize (Weinberg & Gould 2019). It cannot be substituted by mental intervention but should be implemented in a combined fashion. Strength and conditioning are the best way to propel athletes mentally as they can develop a competitive edge through their physical preparation. Muscular strength, endurance, speed, agility, power, balance, coordination, and flexibility are all components of physical preparation and should be training throughout the entire year. Periodization looks a lot different in certain phases of the season, training should be administered in such a way where the athletes can progress to stay strong and healthy.


 While past research has concluded that the relationship between self-confidence and performance goes hand in hand. The claim that athletes are supposed to build self-confidence as a kid is inaccurate. Determining that athletes need to build or already have self-confidence in sports requires looking at the goal mapping, Imagery, and self-talk are psychologist tools to advocate enhanced confidence. Once the athlete can determine if they have self-confidence can have a better performance in their sport.


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