Self Efficacy in Sport- Misty Hyman Example

This essay will describe the impact of self-efficacy on 200m butterfly swimmer Misty Hyman. It will show how Bandura’s theory explains Misty’s performance in the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. This theory will be described in details and linked with Misty Hyman performance. Misty Hyman is an American swimmer who won the gold medal in 200m butterfly in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Misty wasn’t expected to succeed because she had to beat Susie O’Neal –world record holder and Olympic medallist.

Moreover, Susie hasn’t been beaten in 6 years and the competition took place in her homeland – Australia, where the whole audience gathered to watch Susie winning the gold medal. Misty and her coach set a goal to beat the Australian swimmer and they were consequently working on improving Misty’s time and building her self-efficacy. Bandura created the term self-efficacy and explained it as an athlete’s belief that he or she has the necessary skill to produce a desired outcome. Self-efficacy is said to be a situation specific, which means an individual can be confident in one area, but not in another, even if they are related. Bandura, 1977) Bandura also claimed that self-efficacy determines an athlete’s choice of activities, the effort that a person makes to succeed at a task and level of his or her persistence in the activity after failure. He further added that the greater self-efficacy is, the more successful the athlete will be. (Taylor, 2005) Bandura proposed five major antecedents of self-efficacy – factors that influence self-efficacy. These are: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, physiological states and emotional arousal (Bandura, 1977).


This essay will describe each antecedent and compare it to Misty Hyman’s performance, attitude, thoughts, emotions and behaviour during the Olympics 2000. Performance accomplishments provide the most reliable foundations for self-efficacy judgments because they are based on athlete’s successes or failures. If the athlete’s experiences were successful, they will enhance the level of self-efficacy. However, many failures will result in a lower self-efficacy. (Weinberg, 2006) Misty, as a talented swimmer, has won many championships and is the holder of two American records (among youth and senior swimmers).

Her previous experience, titles and medals definitely build up her confidence. Bandura also claimed that success in more difficult task will raise the level of self-efficacy to a greater extent than success in an easy one. According to what Misty said in the interview for becomeheatlhynow. com (Misty, 2001), qualifying for the Olympic Games made her feel proud of herself because it was harder for her than for any other swimmer. During that time she had serious problems with asthma and had to adopt different lifestyle with dozens of medications, antibiotics and inhalers.

As she said in the interview it was a big accomplishment for her just to be at the Olympics (Misty, 2001) Before the final race in the Olympics 2000 she thought: “”When standing on the blocks, I just said to myself, OK, I’m going to do a 200 butterfly, and I’ve done a million 200 butterflies in my life. I have been training for this and I know exactly what I need to do” (Misty, 2002) Referring to her past performance she convinced herself that there was nothing new in that task and she knew exactly what to do, because had done it many times. Sometimes athletes must perform skills they have never performed before.

In such situation self-efficacy cannot be based on the individual’s previous experience. Observing other athletes performing the new skill successfully can strengthen self-efficacy for the task in hand (Morris, 2004). However, Weinberg (2006) mentioned that physical educators, exercise leaders, trainers and coaches use demonstration and modelling very often to help students learn a new skill. Misty was training for the Olympics in a very scientific way. Her coach prepared her race analysis where he showed her how many kicks and strokes was she doing and what her tempo was.

Then he showed her race analyses of other swimmers and how they compered to Misty’s performance. As she said in the interview: “So when we were looking at different records, we had figured out what exactly I have to do to break those records. Exactly how many kicks and strokes. And that is what I focused on my training. It was very specific”. (Misty, 2008)During her training she compared herself to the best swimmers and tried to perform as well as they did and even beat them. That is a very scientific type of modelling.

Verbal persuasion from coaches, sport psychologists, team members, family and an athlete itself is another aspect of Bandura’s theory. Williams (2001) said it can be in the form of feedback (the coach saying “Don’t look at your feet while running”), motivational statements (a friend shouting “Come on! You can do it! ) or self talk (athlete thinking “I know I can win this race”). This type of encouragement will help an athlete to feel more confident about performing a particular task. The year before the Olympics Misty was fairly disappointed and was concerned whether she would be able to compete for a medal.

She hadn’t improved her times in the last 3 years so she wasn’t sure what was going to happen in summer 2000. Then her coach told her:”I believe you are the only on this deck who has a chance to beat Susie O’Neil. I believe you have a chance to go 2:05 minutes on the Olympics. ” That is a very good example of verbal persuasion. It was motivational and increased Misty’s self-efficacy and belief that she was able to fight for a medal (Misty, 2008). Williams (2001, pp. 46) suggested that: ”If the person conveying the efficacy-enhancing information is considered credible and knowledgeable, the verbal persuasion is likely to be more influential”.

Misty’s coach was an expert and, what is more, Misty believed and trusted him. She said in the interview that she knew her coach well and he wouldn’t have said that just to cheer her up. After his statement she truly believed that she had the chance to win gold medal. (Misty, 2008). Apart from motivation coming from her coach, Misty also gained her confidence by positive self-talk. When recalling what she was thinking before the race she said: “For some reason at the Olympics I said, OK, I’m not going to try to control this. I’m going to allow it to happen.

So I walked in there and just relaxed, and said OK, I can do this. ” (Misty, 2002) In almost every interview she said that before she dove into the water she told herself “I can do it” and then she was focused only on counting her kicks and strokes. (Eisenberg, 2000). This self talk helped her to be more motivated. It made her focused on her race strategy, made her less anxious about her main opponent and more confident about this particular task- Olympic Games final race. To formulate efficacy judgments athletes must also consider their physiological state in deciding if they can successfully perform. Williams, 2001) When individuals are aware of unpleasant physical arousal (racing heartbeat, sweating, shaky hands) they tend to doubt their competence. However, when experiencing pleasant physiological states (smooth breathing, relaxed muscles) athlete is more calm and confident. (Weinberg, 2006). Misty was so happy and excited about her race that she didn’t allow her body to show any signs of physical arousal. Misty (2008) described the race as the ultimate zone experience. Everything was in slow motion and the water felt ‘like never before’.

She felt very well in every centimetre of her new skin-shark costume. Her senses were very sharp but focused only on performance. She was so motivated, confident and excited that she didn’t notice her heart beat, breathing or any other signal from her body. She even said that she felt great and relaxed and this feeling enabled her to be faster and more powerful. She described it as “being fast and relaxed”. Finally, to decide on their level of confidence, athletes need to consider their emotional state.

Maddux and Meier (1995) showed that positive emotional states such as happiness, exhilaration and tranquillity are more likely to increase self-efficacy, than negative states such as sadness, anxiety, depression. As it was mentioned before, Misty was very calm, relaxed and focused and, on the other hand, very excited and happy. Her father told her after the race :” I knew you were going to swim well, you were smiling on the block”. She was in such a good mood than she was laughing under the water when she noticed that she was in camera line. During the race she felt even better because she had a sense that she was swimming incredibly well. Misty,2008) All those positive feelings enhanced her self-efficacy and lead her to winning the gold medal. Many studies and researches have shown the relationship between self-efficacy and performance in competitive sport. These studies claimed that higher levels of self-efficacy are connected with greater performance. (Morris, 2004)This essay has shown that Misty Hyman is another example of an athlete whose high level of self-efficacy leads to superior performance. Her attitude, her thoughts, motivation from coach, her previous experience and modelling herself on the best swimmers helped her to win a gold medal on the Olympic Games in 2000.

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