Sport-confidence has been defined as “the belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful in sport” (Vealey, 1986).  This addresses the degree to which an athlete is sure of his/her ability.  Research on self-confidence in sport has shown that athletes and coaches identify self-confidence as critical to performance and there is evidence that self-confidence has positively influenced athletes’ performance in both experimental lab settings and also in the natural competitive settings (Horn, 2008).  So how do we help our athletes become more confident?  It is important to explore the sources of sport-confidence and work to build up these experiences and perceptions within our athletes.  Nine sources of sport-confidence have been identified (Vealey, Hayashi, Garner-Holan, & Giacobbi, 1998):

  • Mastery

Athletes gain confidence from mastering or improving their personal skills.  Set up mastery experiences for athletes in practice to show them that they are skilled and successful in a particular area of their sport.  For areas that need more work, acknowledging and measuring growth is crucial for an athlete to see that they are improving.

  • Demonstration of ability

Athletes gain confidence from showing off their skills to others or demonstrating that they have more ability than an opponent.  Athletes can view the warm up before a competition as a time to show off their ability and superiority to their opponents.

  • Physical and mental preparation

Athletes gain confidence from feeling physically and mentally prepared with an optimal focus for performance.  If athletes can recall how they felt physically and mentally in a prior successful performance, they can attempt to match that similar experience in a future performance.

  • Physical self-presentation

Athletes gain confidence if they believe that others’ perceive them in a positive way.  For example, if an opponent is watching an athlete, how that athlete perceives that behavior is crucial to their confidence.  If they believe the opponent perceives them positively, it will help boost confidence.  On the other hand, if they believe the opponent perceives them negatively, self-doubt may creep in.

  • Social support

Athletes gain confidence from perceiving support and encouragement from others that are significant to them in or out of sport.  Athletes should feel supported by a strong social network made up by their coaches, teammates, family, friends, etc.

  • Vicarious experience

Athletes gain confidence from watching others perform successfully.  Athletes can watch teammates in practice or competition.  Athletes can also utilize technology to watch higher level athletes perform skills successfully (i.e., YouTube).

  • Coach’s leadership

Athletes gain confidence from believing their coach is skilled in decision-making and leadership.

  • Environmental comfort

Athletes gain confidence from feeling comfortable in a competitive environment.  This is why the home team generally has an advantage.  If athletes are traveling, they should become familiar with the setting prior to the competition.

  • Situational favorableness

Athletes gain confidence from feeling that the breaks of the situation are in their favor.  This is more difficult to control than the other sources.  However, if athletes are able to reframe unfavorable circumstances into opportunities or challenges instead of barriers, it can help build their confidence.