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the Power of Self-Efficacy- Enhancing Decision-Making Abilities in Sport:

In the final seconds of a basketball game, with the team down by one point, a crucial decision must be made: should an open three-point shot be taken or should the ball be passed to a teammate near the basket? Decision-making plays a pivotal role in individual performance and team success within sports (Cotterill & Discombe, 2016). However, it is not only the decision itself that matters but also the psychological factor of self-efficacy, which influences the belief in one's ability to make and execute the right decision.

Effective decision-making in sports involves the integration of perception, knowledge from past experiences, and the production of the desired action (Cotterill & Discombe, 2016; Klein & Calderwood, 1991; Perrig & Wippich, 1995). Research has explored decision-making in various individual and team sports, demonstrating a positive correlation between decision-making speed and success, and key sport demands such as pattern recognition, anticipation, and reactive agility (Hepler, 2015; Paull & Glencross, 1997; Scanlan et al., 2014).

Theories of decision-making have categorized the process into three main aspects: decision quality, decision speed, and decision efficacy (Hepler, 2016; Hepler & Feltz, 2012). Classic decision-making theory suggests that rational analysis is necessary for correct decision-making, while naturalistic decision-making theory highlights the importance of recognition, holistic evaluation, and meeting the decision-making criteria of the task in time-pressured situations (Abraham & Collins, 2011; Balague et al., 2008; Beach & Lipshitz, 1993; Collins & Collins, 2013; Klein & Calderwood, 1991).

Self-efficacy, defined as an individual's judgment of their capabilities to perform specific actions, plays a crucial role in decision-making (Bandura, 1977). It is not solely based on an individual's skills, but rather the judgments they make with the skills they possess (Moritz et al., 2000). Four sources contribute to the development and enhancement of self-efficacy:

  1. Mastery Experiences: Successfully completing a task in the past boosts self-efficacy for future performances. For athletes, successfully executing a skill in training increases the likelihood of performing it in competition.

  2. Vicarious Experiences: Using models or mental imagery to facilitate positive change in the mind and body.

  3. Verbal Persuasion: Receiving compliments or positive feedback about one's performance abilities, such as a coach acknowledging an athlete's improvement.

  4. Physiological and Emotional States: Understanding and utilizing arousal levels and emotional states to match the task demands.

These four sources of self-efficacy work together to influence an individual's belief in their ability. Verbal persuasion can enhance persistence during setbacks, and mastery experiences further increase self-efficacy. Physiological and emotional states indicate progress and reinforce self-efficacy.

The relationship between self-efficacy and decision-making becomes evident, as effective decision-making requires belief in one's ability to execute the desired action. High self-efficacy levels positively correlate with quicker decision-making, higher decision efficacy, and improved decision quality (Hepler, 2016). Studies in basketball and baseball have shown that higher self-efficacy predicts better decision-making outcomes (Hepler & Chase, 2008; Hepler, 2016).

In practice, coaches and practitioners can utilize techniques to enhance self-efficacy, indirectly impacting athletes' decision-making abilities.

Psychological techniques such as imagery and self-talk, which have been shown to increase self-efficacy, can be integrated with decision-making exercises tailored to the demands of the sport (Callow et al., 2001; Tod et al., 2011). Coaches can assess physiological and emotional states to identify areas for improvement, conduct training within those areas to enhance mastery experiences, and provide words of encouragement to reinforce self-efficacy. This approach can increase decision-making speed, accuracy, and success while maintaining high levels of self-efficacy during competition.

Research suggests that self-efficacy plays a significant role in decision-making success and speed (Hepler & Chase, 2008; Hepler, 2016; Hepler & Feltz, 2012). Understanding this relationship can benefit athletes and coaches by applying techniques to increase self-efficacy, potentially improving decision-making capabilities. While further field studies are needed, the consistent findings in previous research indicate the potential for enhanced performance in competition through increased self-efficacy.


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