Last updated: 14-Mar-19
By Paul Anstiss
When taking part in sport, or indeed any aspect of life, most people will stress how important it is to have self-belief. What this belief refers to is a psychological construct known as ‘self-efficacy’, which is an individual’s belief in their own ability to do a certain task or perform a certain skill. At its most basic, it is a question of can – “Can I do this?” and the answer to this question and the degree of certainty in the response is a powerful predictor of behaviour. Individuals who possess greater levels of self-efficacy are more willing to expend effort in the pursuit of their goals, and also persevere when faced with difficulties. This willingness to put in effort and ability to push through setbacks and difficulties makes self-efficacy appear to be an important construct in endurance sport.
Despite its potential importance, there is currently no recognised way of measuring self-efficacy in endurance sports. Before we can begin to look at interventions to help improve self-efficacy, we first need an accurate and valid way of measuring it. The current study’s main aim was therefore to help validate and test a new questionnaire which is designed to measure endurance sport self-efficacy. In addition, we were also interested in finding out if self-efficacy beliefs were different for various endurance sports.
A total of 343 endurance athletes who took part in endurance sports completed the online survey. On average they were 38 years old, had 11 years of experience in their endurance sport and trained for 10 hours per week. They completed questions relating to their training and experience and also several different self-efficacy beliefs, including general self-efficacy (whether an individual believes they can achieve their goals in everyday life), coping self-efficacy (an individual’s belief in their ability to use different coping strategies such as distracting themselves from negative thoughts or seeking support from other people) training self-efficacy (an individual’s belief relating to their ability to overcome potential barriers to training) and endurance self-efficacy (our new questionnaire).
The results showed good initial evidence for the reliability of the questionnaire (all the items were measuring a similar construct) and validity (there was a positive relationship with other existing measures of self-efficacy).
We found no significant differences between endurance sports on their scores for the scale, suggesting that it was applicable across all such sports. In relation to other self-efficacy beliefs (such as those relating to committing to training or coping with difficulties), we again found no consistent differences between the sports.
These findings are important for several reasons. This initial evidence from our questionnaire allows us to move on to the next stage of development, where we begin to examine its predictive power in relation to performance. It also appears that athletes from different endurance sports have similar self-efficacy beliefs. This indicates that there are common psychological constructs across endurance sports, which could help us with the delivery of interventions. For example, even though an intervention may be specifically focused towards a target group (e.g. runners) it could also be easily adapted to other endurance athletes (e.g. marathon swimmers).
So what’s next? Currently we are undertaking a laboratory study looking at the effects of different types of self-efficacy on endurance performance. With the information collected from this study, alongside the research collected from the online survey, we are hoping to design and implement an intervention focused on self-efficacy in endurance athletes. The goal of this intervention will not necessarily just be to increase their self-efficacy, but also to help ensure these beliefs remain robust and consistent when athletes need them the most.
Who took part in the study?
343 endurance athletes took part in the study, the participant characteristics are presented in Table 1 below.
Table 1. Participant Characteristics. Number of participants are presented in brackets.
|Age (years)||Experience (years)||Training per week (hours)|
What did we measure in the study?
Alongside demographic and training related questions participants completed several psychological questionnaires as well. These were:
- General Endurance Self-Efficacy Scale (GESES). The GESES is our newly developed 18 item scale which is designed to measure an individual’s endurance sport self-efficacy. It identifies key behaviours (such as controlling your thoughts/emotions, preparing yourself physically, dealing with pain and exertion) and then asks participants to rate their confidence in doing this in their endurance sport. A higher score reflects a greater level of endurance self-efficacy.
- General self-efficacy scale (GSE). The GSE is a 10 item scale designed to measure an individual’s general beliefs about their ability to overcome difficulties and achieve their goals in their day to day life. A higher score reflects a greater level of general self-efficacy.
- Coping Self-Efficacy Scale (CSES). The CSES is a 26 item scale which is designed to measure an individual’s belief about their ability to make use of various types of coping strategy. Coping strategies are ways of dealing with stress and difficulties. The CSES looks at three type of coping: problem based (dealing with the issue directly), emotion based (dealing with the resultant emotions of an issue) and social support (seeking the support and help of friends/family). It was initially developed for use with chronic disease patients, but it also has been used in sport and exercise settings too. A higher score reflects a greater level of coping self-efficacy.
- Barriers to Training Self-Efficacy Scale (BSES). The BSES is an 18 item questionnaire designed to asses an individual’s belief in their abilities to overcome barriers to training. This questionnaire covered aspects such as training when tired, when facing personal difficulties or during bad weather. A higher score represents a greater level of self-efficacy in regards to sticking with training.
- Athlete coping strategy inventory (ACSI-28). The ACSI-28 is a 28 item questionnaire that is made up of seven different sub scales. Each sub-scale measures an athlete’s perceived psychological skills in a different area. The 7 sub scales are:
- Coping With Adversity: This subscale assesses if an athlete remains positive and enthusiastic even when things are going badly, remains calm and controlled, and can quickly bounce back from mistakes and setbacks.
- Peaking Under Pressure: Measures if an athlete is challenged rather than threatened by pressure situations and performs well under pressure.
- Goal Setting and Mental Preparation: Assesses whether an athlete sets and works toward specific performance goals, plans and mentally prepares for events, and clearly has a plan for performing well.
- Concentration: This subscale reflects whether an athlete becomes easily distracted, and is able to focus on the task at hand in both training and events, even when adverse or unexpected situations occur.
- Freedom From Worry: Assesses whether an athlete puts pressure on him- or herself by worrying about performing poorly or making mistakes; worries about what others will think if he or she performs poorly.
- Confidence and Achievement Motivation: Measures if an athlete is confident and positively motivated, consistently gives full effort during training and events, and works hard to improve his or her skills.
- Coachability: Assesses if an athlete is open to and learns from instruction, and accepts constructive criticism without taking it personally and becoming upset
Click here to download the tables.
Table 2. Self-Efficacy scores broken down by gender and endurance sport. The scale ranges (min and max score) are presented in brackets next to each scale.
Table 3. ACSI-28 sub scale scores broken down by gender and endurance sport (Each scale ranges from 0-12).