Self-confidence in sports has been a gateway for athletes like Kobe Bryant and Serena Williams to perform their best. Maintaining it is not easy but doing so helps achieve the best results.
Importance of self-confidence
Rodrigo Gonzalez, senior swimmer, said self-confidence is “important for your performance, especially for my sport. If you’re not confident, you might not do as well as you might if you are confident and might mess up.”
Not being confident can lead to simple mistakes that wouldn’t be made given an athlete’s preparation.
“Confidence comes from practice. If you’re not confident, it’s because you haven’t practiced enough to feel like you can perform,” Gonzalez said.
At the end of the day, for any sport, building confidence starts in practice where athletes work on enhancing their game.
“Trusting yourself that whatever you’ve been practicing or doing is going to pay off in the moment,” Gonzalez said. “Practicing good mental health, making sure you’re doing well, sleeping well, staying on top of things in your life to make sure that when you’re in the pool, on the field, that’s all you’re thinking about. There are no outside factors affecting your performance.”
Keeping a narrow focus during a game helps athletes reach their full potential and excel to new heights.
Dr. Melissa Terlecki, chair and professor of the psychology dept., said, “Self-confidence tends to correlate with performance. That’s not to always say that people who think they’re the bomb always perform well.”
Players who think they’re the best will not always perform the best.
“It does relate to self-efficacy, which is another term that’s used similarly. Self-efficacy means you feel confident in your abilities on a particular task. You feel like you’re going to perform well. The more self-efficacy you have going in, the more self-confident you feel. The more self-awareness you have of your abilities, the more self-efficacy you tend to have. All of that kind of relates to self-confidence,” Terlecki said.
Self-confidence is multifaceted. A player will show it on the field based on factors that either increase or decrease it.
“Studies show if you feel like you’re going to suck, you often suck and some of it is like a mind game. You have to get out of your own head to perform well. Also, I would say part of it is physiological, your body and brain respond differently when you feel comfortable but confident versus nervous and anxious about your performance,” Terlecki said.
How an athlete feels going into a game will determine if it’ll be a good or bad performance. Being confident gives athletes their best chance at success as opposed to doubting their confidence.
Terlecki said, “If you start with some low-level plays or exercises that you think you can probably succeed at, and your chances of succeeding at them are pretty high, you succeed. You feel more confident, you scaffold another activity or something that’s a little bit more challenging but not out of reach, and you succeed at that. Then you tack on something a tiny bit more challenging, [and you] succeed at that.”
“They don’t take risks, don’t try new things often, they kind of stick with their comfort zone so they don’t grow very much. Often, it affects their performance,” Terlecki said.
Athletes won’t play up to their standards hypothetically if they don’t feel confident. It’s a detriment to their overall performance.
Jake Green, freshman undeclared major, said, “In basketball if someone doesn’t have confidence you’re going to see them looking like a deer in headlights, and not confidently shooting or playing their game.”
Confidence helps athletes perform at the highest level.
“Even people who do practice, if they aren’t confident you can kind of tell. They’re not playing the same way they would in practice, or being passive, or not giving it their all,” Green said.
During a game, athletes will shy away from the big moments due to their lack of confidence.
Teammates help build self-confidence
Green said, “When a teammate kind of shows confidence by making a layup or a shot, telling them, ‘Good job,’ and reinforcing their good habits, you see they’re working and putting in the work. Telling them that’s the right thing to do and if you see them start to lose confidence in themselves, or they’re not showing up to practice, then addressing that.”
Self-confidence is not easily attainable. It takes time to generate and max out in any sport. Having it on game day is not just ideal for an athlete, but also for their team.