Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Head and Shoulders Sport Confidence Project: An Examination of the Confidence of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced Skill Level Amateur Athletes

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Head and Shoulders Sport Confidence Project: An Examination of the Confidence of Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced Skill Level Amateur Athletes

Article excerpt

Confidence is vital to athletic success and a key component of mental toughness. Indeed, numerous investigations have documented the positive relationship between confidence and athletic performance (Beattie, Hardy, & Woodman, 2004; George, 1994; Weinberg, Gould, Yukelson, & Jackson, 1981). Furthermore, programs for improving mental skills often include activities designed to improve confidence (Bull, Albinson, & Shambrook, 1996; Wann, 1997). The current project investigated confidence among a sample of amateur athletes from three countries (United States, Russia, and China). Four topics were investigated: the development of trait confidence (an athlete's enduring or typical level of confidence), factors impacting state confidence (an athlete's "in-the-moment" feelings of confidence while performing), the role of confidence in athletic success, and the impact of sport participation on confidence in other life domains.

With respect to the development of confidence, a number of factors have been identified, including perceptions of past successes and failures, encouragement from others, and observation of the performances of others (Bandura, 1986; Cox, 2007). In their work on the construction of the Sources of Sport-Confidence Questionnaire, Vealey, Hayashi, Garner-Holman, and Giacobbi (1998) reported several additional factors influencing the development of confidence, including social support, coaches' leadership, and physical self-presentation (i.e., "looking good"). Their research indicated that one of the most common sources was "mastery" or a sense that one is improving his or her skill level. The current work was designed to replicate and expand on these previous efforts by assessing the development of confidence in a large, multinational sample. Specifically, the research here targeted the confidence of amateur athletes with respect to when and from whom they developed their confidence in sport.

As for factors impacting state confidence, many variables have been found to facilitate an individual's confidence while participating in an athletic event. For example, positive self-talk and affirmations, goal setting, and performance rituals are all used to boost confidence (Bull et al., 1996; Wann, 1997; Williams & Leffingwell, 1996). Another key factor was recently identified in the Head and Shoulders Psychology of Success Project (Wann, 2012). This work found that a majority of Olympic athletes derived confidence from their physical appearance (substantiating the work by Vealey et al., 1998, which found this to be a factor in sport confidence). They were more confident in their ability to succeed in athletics if they were satisfied with their appearance. The current project was designed to further our understanding of factors impacting the confidence of non-elite amateur athletes, including the role of physical appearance.

The third focus examined the role of sport confidence in athletic success. In the Head and Shoulders Project (Wann, 2012) the data revealed that Olympic athletes believed that "there is more to athletic success than mere physical skill" (p. 134). In fact, confidence was almost twice as likely as natural talent to be cited as a key attribute for success. The current study attempted to expand on these results by investigating perceptions of the relative importance of confidence in the success among non-elite amateur athletes.

Finally, this project investigated the degree to which athletes believed that participation in sport increased their confidence in other areas of life. Sport scientists have often suggested that the lessons learned through sport translate to other areas, such as education and work (Engh, 1999; Miracle & Rees, 1994; Wann, 1997). The argument is that the sport field, arena, court, or pitch serves as an "outdoor classroom" through which life skills can be taught and learned. That is, the importance and value of skills such as perseverance and teamwork can (theoretically) be learned through sport participation and these skills can then be used in other areas of life (Wann, 2010). …

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