Vealey (1986) proposed a sport specific theory of confidence, she defined sport confidence as `the belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful in sport’. Sport Confidence theory measures two factors: trait sports confidence (SC trait) and state sports confidence (SC State).

Trait sports confidence (SC trait) is innate and described as a natural disposition. Like all personality traits it is relatively stable. Trait confidence is different from specific confidence as it relates to a generalised belief of an individual about the extent to which their ability will bring success across a wide range of sports. For this reason trait confidence is also global.

State sports confidence (SC state) can be developed through learning and tends to be unstable and changeable. State confidence relates to an individual’s belief about the extent to which their ability will bring success at one particular moment. For this reason, state confidence is also specific to a situation.

State sports confidence directly determines the quality of the skill that is to be performed, for example a putt in golf. The degree of state sports confidence is determined by the interaction of three factors:

1)     Trait sports confidence (Innate and described as a natural disposition)

2)     The objective sports situation (The type of skill that is to be performed. This could include the situation in which the skill could be performed)

3)     The performers competitive orientation (The extent to which an individual is prepared to compete. Also , whether an individual strives to achieve a performance goal or product goal.

The interaction is shown in Fig 1 below.

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The extent to which the athlete perceives the performance has been successful is termed the subjective outcome. The subjective outcomes produce the following effects, firstly an outcome which is perceived to be good will increase trait sports confidence and competitiveness. State confidence will also increase. Secondly an outcome which is perceived as poor will decrease trait sports confidence and competitiveness. State confidence will also decrease.

Most importantly, the variations in the levels of trait sports confidence and competitiveness orientations produce the following effects. Table 1 showing the effect variation in levels of trait sport confidence (SC Trait) and competitive orientation.

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Vealey (1986) identified a number of strategies to improve state sport confidence (SC State) which are described below.

  1. Mastery of skill. This occurs when a skill has been acquired and the performer perceives that progress has been made.
  2. Styling. Confidence will increase if the athlete can demonstrate a highly skilled performance in significant others.
  3. Physical and mental preparation will increase the likelihood of successful performance.
  4. Social reinforcement. Praise and approval by significant others, particularly in the context of strong team cohesion, will raise confidence.
  5. Effective leadership promotes confidence in team members.
  6. Environmental comfort. People who lack self-confidence will be helped if the working conditions are suitable, for example the novice should not be observed when learning a new skill.

By way of conclusion, Vealey’s sport confidence model is very useful for explaining the relationship between general sport confidence and situation-specific sport confidence. An athlete who is very successful at one sport transfers much of the confidence derived from his success to other sport situations.