For swimming, an athletes mental fitness is just as prominent as physical fitness for them to perform at peak performance. British Swimming has asked for a break down of a particular psychological theory and how it may or may not affect its swimmers when applied. This is to see if the effect is positive on the swimmers performance and should be repeated by other coaches to ensure improvements of their athletes.
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What is Self Confidence?
The preminis of self confidence in athletes is often confused as arrogance by the spectator, the way those within the sporting industry ''boast' about their performance and or winnings to fellow peers and people alike; however, this is not always a case of arrogance (Rosenthal, 2005). As discussed Bandura (1997) they theorised that an athlete's belief in themselves and the ability to express self confidence could improve their performance when both competing and in training. This was demonstrated when Hanton et al (2004) looked at the correlation between self confidence and competitive anxiety, they proved that possessing the quality of self confidence increased the athlete's levels of concentration and positive mental state to 60% of the athletes studied; this in turn improved performance. One method used by Hanton was the self efficiency theory as a way of producing the confidence within the athlete and the belief that would be able to achieve whilst performing.
Self Efficacy Theory
The self efficacy theory was created by Bandura (1997) they believed that one's outlook on their abilities, how they feel and think about previous or upcoming situations, will affect the outcome of future performances. To elicit self efficiency within an athlete they require one of the following; enactive mastery, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal. These sources are ordered in way of importance in producing self efficiency which in turn forms self confidence.
This is the ability to overcome setbacks and learn from them. An understanding that no matter the athlete's level of ability mistakes and setbacks will occur and that they should not be disheartened. It's an interpretation that in order to succeed a certain degree of metal or physical effort is required as the only way to improve is to assess the set back, learn from it, and move forward. An investigation carried out by Gordon (2008) found that the performance of optimistic swimmers sayed frequent and level when swimming even if they didn't achieve, where as pessimistic swimmers performances were noted to have decreased in performance level. This suggests that the optimistic swimmers were better at moving forward and learning from their mistakes than pessimistic swimmers.
A demonstration of enactive mastery could be shown in an athlete who has achieved success fairly easily up to that point. An example being a swimmer that has just moved up an age group, they possibly have gone from being one of the fastest in their age group to both the youngest and not the fastest. This source comes into play now as the psychologist now needs to remind the athlete how they got to the top of their previous age group, and that they need to repeat the process achieve in this one.
In essence vicarious experiences is the athlete having a role model, someone to look towards and strive for. By having a role model the psychologist could use imagery, asking the athlete to mimic specific movements or actions as a way of improving. In swimming this may be replicated by having the athlete marginally change the position of their limbs similar to their role model, this could change the way the swimmer breaks the water's surface tension. Improving performance by allowing them to cover a set distance quicker in competition, or push for a further distance whilst in training as the energy used to break the surface tension produced by the water has decreased.
The third is social persuasion this is an athlete receiving verbal instilment that they have the abilities needed to achieve peak performance. This verbal communication can come from anyone; psychologists, coaches, peers, and family. The chances of similar encouragement or praise coming from different people can help increase the athletes confidence. As it can be concluded that the athlete does actually possess the abilities and they are not just being encouraged falsely as that is the perception of the peers. This source can be viewed across all sports in essentially the same way, encouragement from peers and family, as well as self talk can help an athlete reach self confidence.
The athlete's emotional state can also have an effect on whether or not they achieve self efficiency, however the way an athlete interprets those emotions is what will give a positive or negative outlook. An athlete who is encouraged to view their emotional arousal positively is more likely to succeed, as well as viewing their success as a personal achievement because they worked for it and not because they succeed over their peers. An example is sore muscles and fatigue after training, someone who views this response negatively such as they are not fit enough because they feel fatigue is less likely they will improve as they will not push themselves due to associating fatigue with bad performance. However, someone who views that responds positively will improve because they view muscle fatigue as a sign that they have worked on their fitness which will increase performance in the long run.
An example of this source in swimming is an athlete trying to achieve fastest time during gala heats but not making it, someone whose views are negative will be disheartened by their perceived failure and that will be their sole focus. However, an athlete whose views are positive may be disheartened about not making the heat time but proud as they did achieve a personal best. A similar study to the example given was taken by Seligman et al (1990), they had their athletes swim at their best and once completed told them a slower time. They found that swimmers, with a pessimistic outlook, quality of swimming decreased throughout the races, but optimistics performance was better than theorized.
Real world Application
A study done by Theodorakis (1995) looked at self efficiency, self satisfaction, and goal setting to see if they make an impact on they swimmers performance. They used 42 athletes and discovered correlations between the three that had an impact on performance. It was found that self efficiency had a positive impact on the athletes goal setting and on performance independently. This suggests that within this study self efficiency is a key factor to improving performance and should be viewed as a key contributor to increased confidence and performance long term in an athlete's career.
Similarly in Sheard and Golby's (2004) investigation they used self efficiency independently to record any changes in younger athlete's performances. It was found that that each of the swimmers responded positively to different parts of the self efficiency model. They found it helped improve their ability to focus on races, and in training, as well as imagery to improve their general confidence and view of their abilities. This study was done over a short period of time so no physical effects on their performance have been recorded to show improvement. However, as stated the study did help improve the swimmers mental performance which in turn can affect their physical performance.
The studies given demonstrate similar results suggesting the use of the model does have an effect. Both studies grouped together both sexes and used them for data collection, so for future studies both sexes should be studied individually. This is to see how much of a difference there may be in response to the psychology model.
The self efficiency model also focuses on imagery and helping the athlete focus, so another study could be taken in a high adrenaline sports such as horse riding. This to see if there are any changes in performance rider and if that horse has also changed in response.
To create self confidence within an athlete mental based psychological models such as self efficiency are used to help improve an athlete's mental strength and focus in relation to their chosen sporting career. The effects of using psychological models to improve the performance of athletes have been demonstrated, by encouraging an athlete to have belief in their own abilities and improving the mental view of their performance can lead to an increase of good performances in the long run. As well as allows them to view any bad performance in a good light and grow from it.
Gordon, R.A., 2008. Attributional style and athletic performance: Strategic optimism and defensive pessimism. Psychology of sport and exercise, 9(3), pp.336-350.
Hanton, S., Mellalieu, S.D. and Hall, R., 2004. Self-confidence and anxiety interpretation: A qualitative investigation. Psychology of sport and exercise, 5(4), pp.477-495.
Moritz, S.E., Feltz, D.L., Fahrbach, K.R. and Mack, D.E., 2000. The relation of self-efficacy measures to sport performance: A meta-analytic review. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 71(3), pp.280-294. Rosenthal, S.A., 2005. The fine line between confidence and arrogance: Investigating the relationship of self-esteem to narcissism (Doctoral dissertation, ProQuest Information & Learning).
Seligman, M.E., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Thornton, N. and Thornton, K.M., 1990. Explanatory style as a mechanism of disappointing athletic performance. Psychological Science, 1(2), pp.143-146.
Sheard, M. and Golby, J., 2006. Effect of a psychological skills training program on swimming performance and positive psychological development. International journal of sport and exercise psychology, 4(2), pp.149-169.
Theodorakis, Y., 1995. Effects of self-efficacy, satisfaction, and personal goals on swimming performance. The Sport Psychologist, 9 (3), pp.245-253.
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