Anything is possible! The famous scream from Kevin Garnett, who won a NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. A statement so simple and full of emotion that even the most cynical person would be hard pressed not to give a nod of approval. So how do athletes find success when the odds are stacked against them? They have one key component: belief!
Belief in one’s ability or in the ability of one’s team can lead to success in even the harshest environments. True belief takes time to develop and the most efficacious athletes need to have a short memory when it comes to mistakes. The importance of building and maintaining belief was initially discussed by Albert Bandura, coining the term self-efficacy. An often researched construct in the sport psychology field, self-efficacy is a vital performance enhancer for athletes of all levels. The process of developing consistent and powerful belief comes from a give and take relationship with success.
The relationship between self-efficacy and success has many examples in the sporting world. Research completed by Bandura and Deborah Feltz has continuously pointed towards more success when athletes from varying sports have had high levels of self-efficacy compared to those who have not. Just look at the examples in sports history. Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, not only had self-efficacy and success, but he would let you know how much he believed in his ability to perform. When an athlete believes in their ability there is a higher chance of having a successful performance. What is great about this fact is that the more success that comes, the more an athlete will believe in their ability to perform. The two feed off each other! This is how powerful self-efficacy and belief can be for athletes.
Various athletes have been quoted speaking about how important belief is for their performance:
“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does- that makes you’re a winner right there” –Venus Williams
“I believe strongly in my capabilities. There’s a lot of confidence as well, with my record over the past few years. I’ve built up this feeling on big points that I can do it over and over again.” –Roger Federer
“I am the greatest! I said that before I even knew I was.” –Muhammad Ali
How can you build and maintain self-efficacy and belief in your ability? Here are two techniques to help you believe to succeed!
One area important to self-efficacy is past performance. When athletes are presented with similar situations from prior successful performances, their self-efficacy tends to be higher. Using video analysis tools like Dartfish, iMovie, and Windows Movie Maker, can help athletes visualize prior successful performances on a continuous basis. The more they see themselves be successful, the more they will believe in their ability to be successful again in the future. Using these video tools to create highlight videos with some motivational music can make all the difference!
Another area importance to self-efficacy is verbal persuasion. Athletes can find improved self-efficacy when coaches or close peers provide feedback or motivational speeches for them. Although this can be beneficial, the best way to build self-efficacy is to use cue words or self-talk. When athletes create short, specific, and powerful statements that help them focus on their ability to perform successfully, they set themselves up to be successful! Examples phrases include: “I believe in my ability to convert this pass successfully”; “I believe in my ability to successful kick this penalty”; “Believe in my ability to perform”; or even just “I BELIEVE!”
When you believe in your ability, you are setting yourself up to be successful!
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control.
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About Greg Margolis
Greg Margolis, a current Springfield College Doctoral student, working towards a Ph.D in Sport and Exercise Psychology. I have been working as an Graduate Assistant with the Men’s Soccer team at Springfield College for three years and also consult with various athletes and teams in the area. Specializations include: self-efficacy, mental toughness, and mental imagery with video enhancements.