Do You Believe You Will Win A Championship Every Year?

Hello Coach Oliver. Do you come into every season, every year, whole-heartedly thinking you will in a championship? If so, do you ever have doubts throughout the season? If you would share your thoughts that would be great. I am only seeking insight and understanding. Regards, David

The easy answer is yes, I believe we will win a championship every year. And yes, I have doubts about that belief throughout the season. After all, I am a very good day-dreamer. And human.

I can honestly say I have never gone into a game not believing we can win. Even in the most mismatched games I found a way to convince myself a game plan, a belief in a certain player, or a one-time, out-of-this-world performance will make the difference.

Of course, all my beliefs are rooted in realism. I fully understand the realities of putting my players against another coaches’ players. Neither one of us controls much of the outcome in the moment. Most of our impact happens during the preparation before the game and in the quality of our rosters.

I believe coaches have an impact on outcomes. I think a winning formula gives a coach about 20-30% of an influence over a basketball game. The majority, as high as 60%, relates to my players’ talent and athletic abilities. Another small portion is luck, injuries and other potential variables (weather, environment, travel schedule, etc). This accounts for about 10-20% of the outcome, depending on injury or other variables.

Since I account for a significant part of that winning formula, my players need to feel my belief and confidence from practice to practice and game to game. If they do, then that positive self-efficacy will translate to have a positive impact on performance.

What is self-efficacy?

According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” It is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation.

I prepare all week to convince myself we can win so that the players sense that same belief that we can win. This is a season to season, day to day process. Self-efficacy, as it relates to my players, is whether they feel like they can accomplish their goals. Do they believe they have what it takes to meet the challenge? Coaching efficacy is the extent to which coaches believe that they have the ability to execute behaviors and fulfill tasks expected of coaches.

According to Feltz, D. L., & Lirgg, C. D. (2001), the following factors result in higher efficacy expectations:

  • Good past game and practice performances.
  • Favorable comparison with opponents.
  • Return of an injured player.
  • Hearing negative comments from players on the opposing team.
  • Perceived good performance preparation by coaching staff.
  • Past poor performance (Belief in ability to bounce back).

Low efficacy factors were similar to those of high efficacy factors:

  • Past poor game and practice performance.
  • Injured or tired players.
  • Comparisons to better opponents.
  • Coaches’ perceptions that the players themselves had low efficacy.
  • Inconsistent prior performances.

What does this all mean?

If coaches have low efficacy expectations for their teams they may inadvertently be contributing to low player self-efficacy. As you can imagine this can seriously impact a team’s preparation and performance.

Applying the Theory

All this theory is great, but how do I apply it? That has always been my pursuit when it comes to theory. Applying theory is a key to coaching success. In this case there are four ways you can apply self-efficacy theory to your players and teams.

1. Mastery Experiences

Give players progressively difficult tasks to accomplish in practice. Successfully accomplishing progressively difficult tasks should help players realize that they are competent and capable of superior performance. In the practices leading up to a game I would point out progress they have made in their preparation or improvements in their execution of systems or skills. I would also make sure my players understand how these improvements will help them against the specific opponent or player.

For example: our opponent is really effective in transition. We work in practice progressively refining our transition defensive system. I create drills or situations that challenge our players to defend challenging transition situations. I communicate during and post practice about how effective we are getting at stopping even more challenging situations than we are likely to see in the upcoming game.

2. Vicarious Experience

A vicarious experience is felt by watching, hearing about, or reading about someone else rather than by doing something yourself. We communicate about past successes vs. certain teams, players or situations so that our players know we have been successful in the past, so we can be in the present as well.

For example, if we have beat a difficult opponent before, we can shares lessons from that experience to our team. We discuss what of the key factors were and how the game plan helped us be successful. This will build a belief in not just the possibility of winning, but also a belief in the plan that will lead to that outcome.

3. Verbal Persuasion

As a coach I give plenty of encouragement overall but especially during the mastery experience process. After every success that is accomplished, my players will receive encouraging and supportive feedback in front of the entire group. This public acknowledgement in front of their peers will build and encourage their self-confidence in themselves. With this feeling of respect among their teammates, a player will not feel so timid or scared to step up. This step should aid in strengthening player’s confidence in meeting a challenge.

For example, if a specific player will have a particularly difficult match-up then we will build that player’s capabilities up during the practices leading up to the game. By supporting them and communicating my belief in their capabilities, their teammates will believe and support them as well.

4. Physiological Arousal

In order for my players to be able to associate certain levels of accomplishments with different emotions, I will create different moods, emotional states and stress levels. Players may perform differently based on the environment they are working in. By creating different pressure situations in practice it will cause certain feelings that players will always associate with accomplishing a task successfully even under pressure. Given the opportunity to practice in different conditions, players will have a self-knowledge of how to handle any situation as it arises, and thus increase a player’s self-efficacy.

For example, I can increase the difficulty of drills, challenge my team or individuals to do things better, simulate bad officiating, increase the competitive level or intensity or use another strategy to change the emotional state of a practice.

I guess I could have just stopped at answering yes, I do believe my team can win a championship every year. I know this is not necessarily the reality but the alternative of not believing we can win any game we play is not productive for myself, or my team.


Feltz, D. L., & Lirgg, C. D. (2001). Self-efficacy beliefs of athletes, teams, and coaches. In R. N. Singer, H. A. Hausenblas, & C. M. Janelle (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology, 2nd ed. (pp. 340-361). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

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