Within my master studies, I had an internship with an ice-hockey team. After working with the junior players for 3 months, I faced real issues that often played a critical role in the success of a team. Sport self-confidence is a principle mental skill in athletics, especially in elite sport. It plays a crucial role for junior elite athletes who are in a transitional period from “sport for fun” towards a possible professional career. They do not live on money from sport yet, but they prepare themselves to make sport the source of financial support for living. Therefore, young athletes are looking for different sources to enhance and maintain their beliefs in their sporting abilities and success.
Having these ideas in my mind, I conducted a very curious investigation within my master thesis. The aim was to describe the sources of sport self-confidence of junior elite ice-hockey players and compare the two perspectives: players’ and coaches’ views of self-confidence.
Two elite junior ice-hockey teams from southern Sweden were studied regarding their feelings of self-confidence. They were asked questions about the situations of low or high self-confidence experience on the ice, and the influence of parents, coaches and friends as well as thoughts concerning a future career. In addition, the participants’ coaches were interviewed for their vision of a junior’s self-confidence.
The results of the research provide very interesting and useful information. The perspectives of the players and the coaches are similar about some things and different about others. The leaders and their young athletes similarly defined a self-confident ice-hockey player as a player who dares to take a risk and win and achieves his goals.
They stated that good results (“..I feel confident when I score, when I play good, when I make nice movements on the ice..”), a lot of ice-time (“..when I get a lot of time on the ice..”, “when my coaches let me play a lot..”), and social support (from parents, teammates and coaches) increase sport self-confidence.
In addition, all teams’ members underlined the big role of the positive feedback from coaches for junior players. A really interesting finding is that the current level of sport self-confidence of the participants was positively associated only with one source of self-confidence – coaches’ leadership. In other words, the way of getting sport self-confidence from trusting coaches’ decisions and coaches’ leadership is interrelated with current level of self-confidence.
According to the results of the study, leadership style, positive feedback, ice-time given by coaches greatly affect junior players’ sport confidence. Thus, the coaches’ role is obvious
Since all players and coaches are interested in a self-confident team on the ice, they should all understand the sources and factors influencing this confidence similarly. Nevertheless, some differences in the perspectives of the two sides were found in the research. In contrast to the players, the coaches stressed the importance of good regime (food, sleep etc), while the players mentioned nothing about it, emphasizing the importance of belief in oneself for staying self-confident.
The research was conducted only in two teams and therefore does not allow us to say that the findings are true for everybody in elite junior hockey. Nevertheless, it is one of the steps towards the understanding of important factors of successful sport career and peak performance.
Maria Kirdeeva graduated from the European Master in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Lund (Sweden). She has a Bachelor in General Psychology (Herzen State Pedagodical University of Russia) and Master in Public Health (Linköping University, Sweden). Maria is a former professional gymnast, and now she works as a coach in Rhythmic Gymnastics and is preparing to apply for a PhD in France. Maria is interested in such topics as self-efficacy, team dynamics and motivation.