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Optimum Performance: The Saints need confidence going into this season |

The late Penn State coach football coach Joe Paterno was quoted as saying: “when a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.” Last season the 7-9 New Orleans Saints not only lacked confidence, but also the poise necessary to bring themselves out of their malaise. | Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan summed up the Saints’ 2014 situation:

“The entire organization seems to have suffered from a sort of collective malaise,” noted Duncan. “After winning for so many years, it’s human nature for complacency to set in. No area of the football operation — players, coaches, scouts, etc. — was immune.”

So what are the factors that that either build or destroy confidence for a team? And, how do you get it back once it’s lost?

Research, which appeared in the July 2015 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise – Perceived Sources of Team Confidence in Soccer and Basketball – states that there are two types of team confidence: collective efficacy and team outcome confidence.

Collective efficacy refers to “a group’s shared belief in its conjoint (combining all things involved) capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainment,” while team outcome confidence, “captures team members’ confidence in the team’s abilities to obtain a goal (like score in the red zone) or to win a game.”

Belgium investigators, who penned this research, said there are four sources of situation-specific team self-confidence: “mastery experiences or past performances (previous success boosts one’s self-efficacy, whereas previous failures undermines it), vicarious experience (seeing similar people succeed /fail after persistent efforts can strengthen / undermine one’s self –efficacy), social persuasion (verbal persuasion by others that one has the requested abilities to perform a task), and physiological and emotional states (stress or arousal could influence the confidence in their own abilities).”

It’s no secret that athletes who possess that confident attitude, backed up by success, tend to set higher attainable goals for themselves. But, what happens when things go wrong? | Times-Picayune Saints’ beat writer Evan Woodberry said: “I do believe that momentum — good and bad — can affect a season, and it’s easy to see where those good vibes ebbed and flowed in 2014.”

Noted Woodberry: “The Saints played two of their most complete games of the (2014) season in a four-day span in October, beating Green Bay at home and then Carolina on the road. They had a few extra off-days before opening a three-game home stand. Things were looking up. In retrospect, winning just one game in that the three-game stretch could have been enough to put the Saints over the top. Instead, they went 0-3 and dug a hole that was impossible to overcome in December.”

The researchers point out that, “team confidence thus seems to be a bug that spreads throughout the team in a positive way, but maybe even more pertinent in a negative way,” while, “unstable overconfidence may cause a sudden collapse of team confidence, which spreads throughout the team, thereby instigating a collective collapse in performance” – which occurred with the Saints at the end of last season.

Speaking of “bugs,” a true test of confidence will occur when the injury bug makes an appearance. Let’s hope for the physical health of the players and the mental health of the fans, it’s a short stay – because, it’s coming.

So where does all this confidence building lead us? Duncan said, “The good news for Saints fans is team officials are fully aware of the situation and shook things up in the offseason. We’ll see if their changes work in a few months.

I’m not sure we have a few months, if the trends of last season were to haunt the Saints early into this season. Where’s Marie Laveau when you need her.

Source: Optimum Performance: The Saints need confidence going into this season |