When it comes to sports performance, what separates the ordinary from the elite may have less to do with physical ability and more to do with psychological differences. Self-assurance during sporting events or in the training setting has been shown to yield greater results in competition. Research has indicated that confidence is the most important psychological factor which differentiates between “star” and average athletes. Athletes with higher levels of self confidence have demonstrated greater tolerance to fatigue and adversity during competition when compared to that of competitors with less conviction.
Confidence- Ones belief in themselves and their abilities. (In team sports success can also be determined by ones belief in teammates or coaching philosophies.)
In his book The Perfection Point, sports scientist and author John Brenkus retells the story of Roger Bannister’s quest for a sub-four-minute mile. Up until 1954 it was believed by many that the sub-four-minute mile was simply impossible for the human body to achieve. This mark stood since the beginning of racing and showed no evidence of being broken. After Bannister broke four minutes by six tenths of second it only took forty-six more days until the mark was pasted again, in fact within the next three years a sub-four-minute would be surpassed by 336 different people.
This story helps illustrate the power of the human brain and the importance of self confidence. When a physical activity is believed to be impossible, it becomes impossible. Once individuals begin to trust in their abilities many barriers (within reason) can be broken. Saying it is important to build ones confidence is one thing. Learning how to do it is another.
Sports psychologists suggest mental imagery as one way to improve self confidence. The athlete can visualize prior successful performances which help reinforce positive experiences. They can also imagine various scenarios that may arise throughout their event and how they will cope with these situations. A second tool is goal setting. The goals should be challenging yet realistic. Athletes can set both long and short term goals. Each success builds self-belief along with self awareness in the athlete.