"I didn't have any doubts, but I wasn't sure I was going to win."
--Gabriella Sabatini, a former professional Aregentine tennis player, who was one of the top players on the women's circuit in the late-1980s and early-1990s. She won a women's singles title at the U. S. Open in 1990, the women's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1988, two WTA Tour Championships in 1988 and 1994, and a silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games.
Despite considerable athletic talent, strong popularity and the beauty of a screen star, Sabatini seemed to consistently conflicted about her ability to win. Many critics and experts had expected much more from Sabatini and felt that her overall career performance had left something to be desired.
"Confidence isn't optimism or pessimism and it's not a character attribute. It's the expectation of a positive outcome. It is essential" - Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of the book, Confidence.
Framing and optimism are everything, as Andre Agassi demonstrates in this great quote from a panel (with Lance Armstrong) at the Milken conference in April 2006:
After wrist surgery, Agassi was ranked number 141 in the world in 1998. As Agassi said, he tried to look on the bright side, "only 140 people in the world could beat me."
A lack of confidence effects capability and reduces all-round ability. When confidence is high, real breakthroughs are possible.
It's possible to affect and, thus, manufacture confidence. Indeed it is a vital process to avoid the kind of expectation trap described below.
According to psychologist Albert Bandura, performers' situational-specific confidence, or 'self-efficacy', is based on four primary sources of information.
The first and most important factor is past performance accomplishments. What we have achieved in training and competition forms the basis of future expectations of success or failure. Repeated success naturally leads to positive expectations of further success, higher motivation and enhanced self-belief.
Unfortunately, the drawback of this principle is that failure can give rise to a downward performance spiral and a 'snowball effect' whereby a performer starts to believe that success is unattainable.
Of course, such an athlete does not mysteriously lose his or her physical skills and talents, but without confidence in these abilities high-level performance is rarely achieved. This is the 'expectation trap', which has put many a gifted athlete into permanent decline.
In research, confidence has been shown to consistently distinguish between highly successful and less successful athletes. Although many people mistakenly assume that confidence reflects performance - i.e. we become confident once we have performed consistently well - it is becoming increasingly evident that confidence can be established, or 'manufactured' beforehand.
Several assumptions that can interfere with self-confidence and positive ways of thinking are:
HERE ARE SOME STRATEGIES FOR DEVELOPING CONFIDENCE
Excerpts from Inside Tennis (April 2011) and the Peak Performance eCoach.