Increasing Self-Confidence in Athletes

Increasing Self-Confidence in Athletes

Self-confidence in athletes plays a major role in performance. Within all athletics, or anything in life for that matter, success is tied to self-confidence. Physical performance attributes are directly related to confidence within a sport or drill/skill. The wording for this relation is called neural control.

Self-Confidence Can Have a Huge Factor In Neural Control

Neural control directly affects the maximal force that can created by a muscle. This is caused from the brain being able to send signals to muscle fibers and to allow them to fire together. Self-confidence can have a huge factor in neural control. This confidence creates a strong neural signal, so the muscle will have a stronger connection and more signals to target more muscle fibers. Thus the reason when adults first start working out they see rapid growth in the first 2-3 weeks. It is not from the muscles adapting quickly, it is from the neural control improving to specific muscles.

Triangle Visual Approach

A model was recently created for athletes’ self-confidence. It is the triangle-visual approach for determining self-confidence from Andy Gillham. This approach is used to determine an athlete’s self-confidence on different individual skills that involve the same motor movements. A number is set for each skill and an athlete places the number within the triangle, the more central a number is the stronger the confidence in that skill. Below is an example of what a triangle model would consist of.

  • Barbell Back Squat (1)
  • Barbell Front Squat (2) 
  • Barbell Squat Jumps (3) 


The athlete is most confident in the back squat over front squat and squat jumps. (Gillham, 2016)

This can be applied to any skill set in any sport whether it is gymnastics classes for kids, track and field, or softball. This model creates a visual, take-away reminder for growth, improvement, and progress. Creating a triangle model on a regular basis will allow for athletes to visually see their personal views of their progressions.

Athletics are a strong building component to instill confidence no matter the age of the person

There are 4 different components that allow for increased self- confidence and performance.

1. Mastery Experiences

Having a mastery experience means accomplishing a task that provides direct evidence of completion.  This model can help show an athlete progress from working on skills during specific days or weeks of practices. Increase of performance in skills from the completion of specific drills improves self-confidence. This cycles back to improve performance further and continues to go back and forth.

2. Vicarious Experiences

Vicarious experiences include observational learning and social modeling. Imagery is the strongest correlation for vicarious improvement. This is usually done through video analysis and comparison. An example of this would be to compare snapshots of a video compared from an athlete to the proper execution of a drill. The athlete can visually see the different of themselves to the proper form and how to make corrections.

3. Verbal Persuasion

Verbal persuasion includes input from self or others.  While this component isn’t quite as impactful directly on performance it can have a strong impact on the mental confidence from those around them, especially if they have not competed recently. Competition can allow immediate mental awareness of performance, so when competition is not a regular occurrence verbal persuasion can help fill this mental awareness.

4. Physiological and Affective States

The general sense of how and athlete feels mentally and physically are called the physiological and affective states. This is the most general component however, it can help state exactly what the athlete is feeling and the reasons why. Self-confidence will help give an exact answer because they will be more honest with their answer. Care from the staff will increase the athlete’s confidence and will help them be more open to their coaches. Training plans will vary immensely based off how the athlete is feeling. There are many factors that go into improving performance. If an athlete is not mentally and physically ready to train, then training will be doing more harm than good. (Gillham, 2016)
Foster an environment where athletes can put in work while being rewarded with improvements in performance and self-confidence

In Conclusion

This model with the four different components is not meant to flatter athletes from personal and social inputs. Instead, it is used to foster an environment where athletes can put in work while being rewarded with improvements in performance and self-confidence. The improvement in confidence will create a stronger desire to want to put in the work during workouts or practices. Self-confidence is a major component of being successful in life itself. Athletics are a strong building component to instill confidence no matter the age of the person.

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Happy Training! 

Greg Henning

Youth Fitness Manager

Pinnacle Gymnastics

Tags: coaching, education, Character Education
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