When athletes feel confident, they are more readily able to turn sporting potential into superior performance. Confidence is related to personality and those who exude self-confidence across a range of contexts, say at work, socially and in their sport, are said to be high in trait confidence. For example, a professional football player may give off vibes suggesting they are high in trait confidence; however, when they are faced with the prospect of saving their team in a penalty shoot-out at a major championship, their state confidence can plummet and this has the potential to wreak havoc on their performance.
Being involved with the success of others can also significantly bolster your confidence, especially if you believe that the performer you are involved with (eg a team-mate) closely matches your own qualities or abilities.
Physiological states can reduce feelings of confidence through phenomena such as muscular tension, palpitations and butterflies in the stomach.
To achieve a greater sense of stability in your confidence, it is necessary to know exactly what causes it to fluctuate.
In the first column, list all of the situations or circumstances in your sport in which you feel completely confident.
Now think back to a time in your sporting career when you were performing at the very peak of your ability – perhaps using he first column from Exercise 1 to guide you. Notice exactly what this feels like so that you can reproduce it at will whenever your confidence is waning. In team sports, identify players who are easily wound-up and find out what triggers them to see red.


Music has unique properties, among which is its ability to inspire, motivate and boost one’s confidence(14). Dr Costas Karageorghis is a reader in sport psychology at Brunel University, west London where he also manages the athletics club.
Owing to its prevalence in the sport psychology literature and the empirical support it has attracted, I am going to focus solely on the latter. When you perform any skill successfully, you will generate confidence and be willing to attempt something slightly more difficult. In the second column, list the situations or circumstances that sometimes cause your confidence to diminish. Through repeated use, they will become embedded in your subconscious and have a profound influence on your sporting performance. There are many tunes with inspirational lyrics or strong extra-musical associations that you can use to increase your confidence before competition.
Even when Lady Luck isn’t shining, you are the person responsible for determining how confident you feel in a sporting encounter. Costas Karageorghis explores the nature of self-confidence and presents a theory underlying the causes of self-confidence in sport. Bandura’s theory was amended by Deborah Feltz(3) to form a sport-specific version while I have adapted it even further to suit the applied nature of this article (see figure 1 below).


In one recent review, the average correlation reported between self-confidence and performance across 24 studies was 0.54, which indicates a moderately strong relationship(4).
Further, exposing athletes to mental training programmes from an early age is likely to have a very positive effect on their levels of self-confidence, which may carry into their adult sporting careers(9). Ideas for promoting confidence range from the simple principles of understanding what causes confidence to wane, to the techniques of visualisation and positive self-talk.
In such people, confidence is as resilient as a squash ball: the harder the blow, the quicker they bounce back. Even under strict laboratory conditions, it has been demonstrated many times over that when confidence is manipulated either up or down, there is a significant effect on sports performance(5,6,7).
I suggest that if you want to feel confident and keep your physiological arousal low, select tracks with a slow tempo (ie below 110bpm).




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