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Structuring a training session to address lack of confidence

Studies indicate a strong relationship between confidence and performance success (Williams, Zinsser, & Bunker, 2015; Weinberg & Gould, 2014). Harwood (2015) lists confidence as one of the “5Cs” which also include “commitment, communication, concentration, control” (p. 319). Bandura (1994) defines self-efficacy as “people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives” (p. 71). Bandura (1994) suggests that the application of mastery experiences is the most effective method to develop self-efficacy, noting that the creation of a challenging environment is desirable: “[a] resilient sense of efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through perseverant effort” (p. 72). Bandura (1994) identifies three additional sources of influence on self-efficacy: vicarious experiences (observing the success of peers through sustained effort), social persuasion, and optimal arousal (reduction of stress reactions and creation of positive mood). The creation and nurturing of a motivational climate increase the likelihood of positive outcomes (Strean & Holt, 2000). The behavior and presentation of the coach have a significant influence on the confidence of a team (Weinberg & Gould, 2014). For a team lacking in confidence, the structure of training sessions, methods, and approach of the coach, and challenges presented to players should align to the sources of influence identified by Bandura (1994).

The creation of a task-mastery environment within training sessions can have a positive influence on motivation with a corresponding benefit to confidence. A task-mastery environment emphasizes the importance of effort, individual improvement, cooperation within the team, and the importance of each individual’s role within the team (Smith et al., 2016). Duda and Treasure (2015) note that “[w]hen task involvement is manifested, it is assumed that the athlete will think, act, and feel in a motivated manner regardless of her or his level of perceived ability” (p. 59). With a team that is low on confidence, a structuring of tasks that present achievable challenges is important in improving self-efficacy. Task-involved individuals achieve success through an expenditure of effort resulting in recognition of self-improvement (Adie, Duda, & Ntoumanis, 2010). A structuring of tasks that are relatable to the game, developed within the training environment, with challenging but achievable goals, can result in improved levels of confidence within the team.

The attitude, behavior, and responses of the coach can have a significant influence on the confidence of the team and self-efficacy of the individual players. Studies have indicated a relationship between the expectations of coaches for individuals in teams and the resulting performance outcomes (Weinberg & Gould, 2014). Inaccurate or inflexible expectations can result in lowered standards and less persistence in working with lower-performing athletes. A task-oriented or learning-oriented training environment creates a positive experience for high- and low-performers. Emphasis by the coach on skill improvement as a method for evaluating athletes rather than absolute performance improves individual self-efficacy, reduces stress, and develops a positive atmosphere within the team. The confidence expressed by the coach to the team, application of player-centered activities and methods to develop autonomous behavior (e.g., guided discovery), and knowledge imparted by the coach to the team (enhancing the team’s confidence in the coach) may heighten team confidence.

Harwood (2015) identifies a set of coaching behavior guidelines intended to promote the 5C’s, including confidence: intentionally promote psychological skills with the same importance as physical or technical skills, increase awareness of skills/attributes by identifying good and bad examples, emphasize the positive value of possessing a skill/attribute, create an environment that helps teach the skill and in which players are responsible for practicing the skill, publicly reinforce positive demonstrations of the skill, review the skill throughout the session. Within a training environment, the observance of these guidelines has been shown to improve confidence in many athletes (Harwood, 2015).

The use of modeling, when applied in a non-competitive manner in training sessions, can provide visual stimulation and cues to low-performers. Weinberg and Gould (2014) suggest that coaches identify a small number of specific elements and provide several opportunities for demonstration and identification of key points. Nurturing a culture of respect for inclusion, in particular when modeling activities, is important for personal growth by both the modeler and his/her teammates. Working with younger age groups, I have the opportunity to watch players experiment with new skills on the ball. A good example is a combination of drag roll, lunge, and outside touch to change direction. It is often the case when one player “invents” a new move, other players will attempt to mimic the move in response, or develop their own version of the move. The observation is that this is an example of visual modeling – when a peer demonstrates a new, previously unrecognized or seemingly difficult ability, teammates will set aside self-imposed limitations and attempt to acquire the new skill. Encouragement by the coach creates more confident players and a more confident team.


Adie, J. W., Duda, J. L., & Ntoumanis, N. (2010). Achievement goals, competition appraisals, and the well-and ill-being of elite youth soccer players over two competitive seasons. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 32(4), 555-579.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).

Duda, J., & Treasure, D. (2015). The Motivational Climate, Athlete Motivation, and Implications for the Quality of Sport Engagement. In J. Williams & V. Crane (Eds.), Applied Sport Psychology: Personal Growth to Peak Performance, 7th Edition. (pp. 274-303). New York, USA: McGraw-Hill.

Harwood, C. G., Barker, J. B., & Anderson, R. (2015). Psychosocial development in youth soccer players: assessing the effectiveness of the 5Cs intervention program. The Sport Psychologist, 29(4), 319-334.

Smith, R. E., & Smoll, F. L. (1990). Self-esteem and children’s reactions to youth sport coaching behaviors: A field study of self-enhancement processes. Developmental psychology, 26(6), 987.

Smith, N., Tessier, D., Tzioumakis, Y., Fabra, P., Quested, E., Appleton, P., … & Duda, J. L. (2016). The relationship between observed and perceived assessments of the coach-created motivational environment and links to athlete motivation. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 23, 51-63.

Strean, W. B., & Holt, N. L. (2000). Coaches’, athletes’ and parents’ perceptions of fun in youth sports: Assumptions about learning and implications for practice.

Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2014). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6th Edition. Human Kinetics.

Williams, J., Zinsser, N., & Bunker, L. (2015). Cognitive Techniques for Building Confidence. In J. Williams & V. Crane (Eds.), Applied Sport Psychology: Personal Growth to Peak Performance, 7th Edition. (pp. 274-303). New York, USA: McGraw-Hill.