Psychological Factors That Affect Performance


There are more than 20 tests out there than can asses one’s motivation. When you talk to an athlete and ask why they want to continue playing a sport and their answer is that they feel pressure to compete from their parents, I doubt that they own internal motives can affect their performance, rather, fear of failure.  It is important for SPPs to understand which test is appropriate to use in certain situations and need to be able to comprehend the results accordingly.

If you have a player who doesn’t want to play soccer anymore, and then you discuss with the coach what goals he has set for the season, and it turns out there are none, there is a lack of extrinsic motivation for the player to work for. In the scheme of things, it is not just the psychological well-being of any human that affects their performance, but it is how their well-being interacts with those around them.


This is one variable that can constantly change on a day to day basis. Depending on a recent competition or even after a grueling day at school, one’s confidence levels can shift according to other factors in athletes lives. Confidence has a lot to do with two very similar measures called self-efficacy and self-esteem. Having a good level of self-efficacy means that one believes they are capable of achieving something. A lot of the time, self-efficacy can go down when a player is injured or their coach practices inappropriate and ineffective communication skills (see more about this in Communication and Sport: Surveying the Field by Billings, Butterworth, & Turnman pgs. 198 &203).

There is some supported evidence that suggests recalling good events of success is easier than being able to remember bad events that consisted of failure. When we think of these positive events, the success is typically attributed to ones own efforts and talents. On the other side, when we recall those failures, athletes attribute it to bad luck (Compte & Postlewaite, 2001). I find these facts quite interesting because we focus so much as a society about building people up and making sure we are talking positively about one another on the field. While I think that is true, I believe that we rely too much on others to boost confidence of players when really they have a tremendous amount of control over their confidence.

On the other side of confidence we have self-esteem. Like above, ones own feelings about themselves is critical in performance. Rather than feelings of capability, self-esteem has to do with feelings of worth as well as ability. When someone has high self-esteem, their performance increases due to their ability to positively think about themselves. Although this sounds bad, when we think positively about ourselves, we are able to feel that same way about others, or in this case, our teammates. This ability to feel confident on one’s self translates to being confident in one’s team. This enhances performance as well as team cohesion when accompanied with positive self and team-talk


Intensity is the commitment, the will, and the enthusiasm to play with a purpose. Getting the most out of a practice is the first way to start developing this trait. If you practice how you want to play or compete in a game, the determination will make you a better player and thus more successful. When an athletes goes through the motions, and doesn’t have the positivity to think they can achieve a goal, their performance will suffer. Unfortunately, it is players like this that have a detrimental affect on the teams chemistry. You can be the most talented individual in your sport but if your lack of motivation, confidence and intensity overpower your athletic ability, you cannot reach your full potential.

Intensity can be different in every individual, which is fine, but it is important for SPPs to note that when working with the team and being able to communicate that. From personal experience, my lacrosse team has a very eclectic group of girls in the best way possible. Having a leadership role on this team was difficult though. Being able to cater to each teammates needs is merely impossible. Something I learned is that making a team aware that they all thrive differently is key. Once each individual understands how they show their enthusiasm and having them learn their teammates styles was when our season turned around.

Having a common goal and mutual understanding about how to reach that goal was something that intensity had a whole lot to do with. In order to achieve certain tasks, there must be a commonality regarding intensity level not necessarily how the intensity in shown/perceived.

Having sports available to play as well as watch is in integral part of society today. Teach our young athletes how to be happy, confident, and motivated towards success will not only help them as players but human beings. A lot of life lessons are taught through sport and with the field of sport psychology, we are able to meet the needs of those who need it the most. Whether you’re 5 years old playing little league or playing in the world cup, it’s never to late to work on mental health and strive towards becoming the best athlete you can be.


Applying Sport Psychology: Four Perspectives by Jim Taylor and Gregory Wilson

Compte, O., & Postlewaite, A. (2001). Confidence-enhanced performance. Penn Institute for Economic Research, 1-34.


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