Bonnie Dumbreck riding "William"Scarlett Thomas riding "Misty"IMG_7478.JPGTayla Heath riding "Shamar"
Rally Saturday 9th March 2013
Lecture Report - Confidence and Self-Efficacy in Dressage
Dr Kathy Archer
Bachelor of Arts- Behavioural Science
Bachelor of Psychology
Doctor of Psyhcology
Assoc MAPs
Registered APHRIA

A straight forward definition of confidence, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English is: "A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one's own abilities". Confidence may also be described as a positive state of mind and a belief that one can meet the challenge ahead - a feeling of being in control.

Self-Efficacy is a theory proposed by A Bandura (1977 and 1982) specifically targeting situation specific self-confidence. This theory forms the basis of the majority of performance-related research in the area of self-confidence in sport. The premise is that self-efficacy will predict the actual performance if the necessary skills and appropriate incentives are present.

Self-Efficacy comprises four main areas:

1) Performance Accomplishments: (very important): this relates to the personal mastery of skills or techniques, for example goal setting, which will assist in achieving repeated success.

2) Vicarious Experience: information gathered from watching others; assessing the opinions of others; being exposed to well modelled behaviour e.g.: the coach modelling calmness and confidence; using visualisation and imagery to see oneself demonstrating mastery of a skill.

3) Verbal Persuasion: encouragement, positive self-talk, positive feedback, and rewarding statements.

4) Emotional Arousal: emotional states associated with success include: being happy, calm and focussed. Having a good energy level is important - not too stressed and anxious. How one perceives anxiety: are you "in the zone and pumped"? Or are you stressed and going to be sick?

Items 1-4 provide the theoretical underpinning for Psychological techniques and strategies to enhance confidence, e.g. : goal setting, relaxation, imagery, self-talk.

Some Interesting Points:
As a competition approaches the degree of self-confidence participants experience tends to reduce in subjectively scored sports and increase in objectively scored sports.

Pre-Competition patterns: men's level of self-confidence tends to remain constant whilst women's tends to drop.

Many studies show a statistically significant difference between the self-confidence levels of elite and non-elite athletes: They also show a positive relationship between self-confidence and performance.

Self-Efficacy has two main mechanisms influencing outcomes:
1) Behaviour Patterns - choice, effort, persistence, dedication.
2) Thought Patterns - goals, anxiety, worry, attributions.

Elite athletes use strategies and techniques to improve their skill level (behavioural patterns) and to develop positive mental thought processes (thought patterns).

What Can We Do To Optimise Performance?
Studies show the following factors are positive predictors of enhanced self-confidence:
Perceived ability
Perceived mental and physical readiness
The external environment
Whether the person focusses on process goals, performance goals or outcome goals.

In order to optimise performance one needs to focus on improving any or all of the above.

Techniques and Strategies to Optimise Performance:
Goal Setting: This is the most widely used technique to help improve skill level and therefore competence. It is an extremely useful technique to use - if used properly. When used incorrectly goals can be counter-productive, dysfunctional and a major source of stress. There are three types of goals: outcome, performance and process goals. Focus on performance and process goals.

Stress and Anxiety Management: Physical techniques include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, arousal management, diet, sleep, organisation and scheduling. Cognitive techniques include positive thinking, mindset and mental attitude, positive self-talk, imagery, motivation, examination of "thinking errors", use of keywords to trigger a specific behaviour or mental state.

It is always useful to plan for contingencies. This will help to reduce anxiety as you will feel prepared and more competent if you have a plan B.