Self-Confidence in Sports Performance
Self-confidence is a state performers exhibit before, during and after performance. Performers can either suffer from low confidence levels or exhibit high levels of self-confidence. In principle, positive self-confidence should lead to higher self-motivation, greater confidence and enhanced focus. In contrast, negative self-confidence will lead to increased anxiety, negative emotions and limited direction
Self-confidence and self-efficacy are two key principles that can correlate. Theory dictates that higher self-efficacy leads to enhanced self-confidence levels. Therefore, performers with high levels of self-efficacy are likely to develop strategies that can help control their emotions when participating in sport. Higher levels of self-confidence are associated to success.
Application to Practice
Practitioners should ask performers to identify best and worse performance when attempting to increase levels of self-confidence. Practitioners should also ask performers to identify and list their emotions when going through aspects of their best and worse performances. Once practitioners have profiled with their performers self-confidence levels then both areas of strength and improvement should be considered. There should be a concerted effort placed into providing performers with ways to control emotions that should help increase and maintain self-confidence levels. Simple and short strategies can be useful in supporting participants and one such example relates to setting process goals.
Applying Psychological Skills in Sports Performance
Psychological skills are a form of mental practice that arguably can enhance performance levels. Practitioners can employ a range of psychological skills to help enhance performance levels (e.g. goal setting, positive self-talk, imagery). To become proficient at psychological skills it is proposed that performers continuously practise their use.
The key to psychological skills is that mental practice can train the mind to enhance it during both training and in competition. Practitioners could support performers by getting them to practise with a range of mental skills rather than one in isolation (e.g. use goal setting with imagery and self-talk). It is also important that performers should be allowed to reflect on the benefits of psychological skills.
Some key principles exist when applying psychological skills to performers. Practitioners must profile their performers in the first instance. Therefore, practitioners should consider the performers use/knowledge/application of mental skills. Based on this profile, it is also suggested that practitioners should educate users how mental skills work and highlight effectiveness of mental skills.
Practitioners should encourage participants to utilise mental skills that are practised in training and then put these into competition settings. A review should follow to examine how these mental skills work in both training and competition settings. It is more useful if an action plan is set out that highlights how improvements can occur.
Stress Management in Sports Performance
Performers within sport will invariably suffer from stress. The role of a practitioner would be to manage these stress levels to prevent both chronic stress and an increase of negative thoughts. The key to avoiding stress and managing its causes relate to specific planning and preparation that leads to appropriate intervention. One common and popular strategy is of goal setting. Another strategy relates to using self-talk that is useful because it directs thinking in line with positive emotions. Successful athletes normally think to channel their levels of stress in a positive and meaningful way to combat negative stress.
Practitioners have a duty to promote to performers the process of managing stress levels. By developing an awareness and knowledge base of different stress management techniques and strategies performers will be better suited to combatting stress levels.
There are common characteristics that practitioners should be aware of and one important aspect relates to understanding individual differences. Developing a systematic approach would support performers, as they will appreciate a consistent pattern. Key principles would relate to developing an action plan that can be reviewed from which an analysis is formed. Practitioners are also encouraged to direct goals that have a specific and process orientation.
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About Gobinder Gill
Gobinder is a lecturer in Sport Psychology and Research Methods at Birmingham Metropolitan College in the West Midlands.