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Self-Confidence vs Self-Efficacy


March Madness is a time when we see young men, phenomenal athletes, walk to the foul line in pressure situations nearly every night. At times, they produce with what an announcer will inevitably call “ice in their veins” or miss a shot in a big moment and be labelled a “choke artist.” At the root of this performance (or lack thereof) is confidence.

Many authors have written about this topic and more coaches have researched it. It’s one topic that I’ve spent many hours working on to figure out how to instill in my young athletes. I dedicated half of a podcast interview to methods I use to instill confidence in youth athletes. For athletes, having a high level of confidence is as important as the physical skill set needed to perform in their sport. We, as coaches, understand the importance of having our players perform with confidence, but how do we get them to do that?

Social Cognitive Theory

Some steps outlined by the leading sport psychologists include the importance of calling on past successes, performing positive self-talk, remaining positive, and modeling behaviors of higher performing athletes.

Many of these concepts are spoken about in various forms on podcasts such as Brian Cain’s Peak Performance podcast, the Sport Psychology Mind Coach – Chris Thomas’ podcast and mental training coaches such as James Leath and Will Drumright on the numerous podcasts in which they are featured. The one I have used more than any other is reminding my athletes of their past successes.

Throughout a softball season, I spend a lot of time talking with the players about the work they’ve put in and the successes they’ve had. I ask them to tell me about their successes in school, at home and on the field. This is in an effort to remind them often that they truly have had successes as we, by nature, remember the failures much more vividly. This is especially effective when one of my players made a big hit or a great defensive play in a big situation.

While self-confidence and self-efficacy are commonly thought to be interchangeable, the main difference is that self-confidence is an overarching view of one’s own aptitude while self-efficacy is situationally dependent. Many sport psychologists consider self-confidence to be a personality trait; one that can, and does, adjust over time. And we all know what that trait looks like.

The major benefit of an increased state of self-confidence is its ability to overtake negative emotion and increased levels of anxiety. This can be applied in all facets of life. Self-efficacy differs in that it is a concept that can be measured on many different levels. While self-confidence is the broad stroke of the paint brush, self-efficacy is the fine tipped pen. As self-confidence is a deeper part of one’s personality, it remains more constant over time, and shows a slower, more gradual change. Self-efficacy changes much more quickly and can do so from one simple task to another as it’s assigned based on the confidence the athlete has in the immediate skill he is performing at the time.

Do you have any tips as to how you grow the self-confidence in your players?

What about situations in which you see self-efficacy with a general lack of self-confidence?

Let me know. Send me an email at:


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