Friday, May 30, 2014

Reasons for Success

Everyone wants to know the reasons for success in judo. But few conduct serious research to try to find out. This guest blog is from the Judospace Psychological Advisor, Rebeka Tandaric MS. The picture shows Rebeka with the young players she coaches at Samobor Judo Klub, in Croatia.

Attributions are the explanations we use to explain the outcome of some event.

Attribution theory attempts to explain the purpose and consequences of different interpretations used for success and failure. Attributions can affect our future expectations, emotions, performance and effort. They also include beliefs about control we have over the events. They don’t have to be actual causes because they represent the perception of the one who makes them.

We make attributions because we want to explain, understand and predict our own as well as others' behavior or we are trying to justify, feel better or make a better impression. 

Understanding previous successes and failures allows us to better prepare for new challenges and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes in the future. That's why attributions are extremely important in the sporting context.  In order to develop and enhance the individual's ability as an athlete it is necessary to understand and explain their successes and failures in the past. The perception of athletes in this process is particularly important because it determines the way they will behave in future situations.

Recent research made on the Croatian athletes from three martial arts (judo, karate and taekwondo) explores the reasons which they think have led to their most successful and least successful performances in the competition. The study included 154 competitors who were between 16 and 33 years old. 

For the most successful performance in competition, 32 % of the reasons were related to good physical preparation. In addition, 10% of the reasons were related to happiness, having a good day, good rest or some other similar reason.

The rest of the reasons that have led to success ( 58 %) were related to the different components of mental preparation: 

  • 12 %  was related to motivation and desire to win
  • 20 % was self-confidence
  • 8 % relaxation
  • 6% concentration. 

In addition, 12 % of the reasons were simply  "psychological preparation ".

"58% attributed  their most successful performance in competition to components of mental preparation."

In case of the least successful performance, 18% of the reasons were related to poor physical preparation. Illness, having a bad day, injuries and underestimation of the opponents represented 13% of the reasons. Only one participant stated that the referee was responsible for his bad result. Fatigue was present in 6 % of the reasons.

All the rest ( 63 %) attributed reasons that can be considered as mental preparation:

  • 14 % lack of concentration
  • 13 % fear, nervousness and self-doubt
  • 11% lack of motivation
  • 6 % lack of self-confidence
  • 4 % negative mood and negative attitude
  • 4 % too high expectations.

In addition, 11 % of the reasons were “bad psychological preparation".

The reasons mentioned above gives us an insight into the attributions made by athletes which can be very useful in their preparation for competitions.  Specifically, when coaches have an insight into how athletes think and to what reasons they attribute their good or bad performances, it allows them to respond with proper feedback. 

Since attributions were associated with various psychological constructs that are known to be necessary for success in the sport (anxiety , emotion , expectation of success in the future , self-esteem , self-efficacy , emotion , effort ... ) it is very important to recognise them in time so they can be properly directed.

From these results we can conclude only one thing: 

"Athletes believe that psychological preparation is extremely important and greatly affects their performance."

This is especially true in the least successful performance situation. The question is: how much the athletes and their coaches work on this kind of preparation? Many coaches in their planning devote little or no time to psychological preparation. This might be due to ignorance, lack of time or consideration that this kind of preparation should be athlete’s responsibility. 

Physical preparation is certainly crucial on a daily basis because without fitness, technical and tactical preparation there can be no good results. However, on the day of the competition without adequate psychological preparation all this is not enough.  If an athlete who is physically in great shape  goes to the contest under pressure and concentrates on the wrong things it is unlikely that he will achieve a good result.

Athletes in our study indicated that the lack of concentration, anxiety, lack of self-confidence and motivation greatly contributed to their failure in the competition. These same constructs were important in the most of successful competition as well. 

Considering that we can conclude that it is very important to work on those aspects of psychological preparation. The only question is whether the athletes and coaches will continue to leave this part of the preparation to chance or will they actively start to work on it. Do athletes really know how to properly concentrate, reduce anxiety, increase motivation and self-confidence? All this falls under psychological preparation that can be easily trained. So really, there is no excuse and you should start to work on this immediately. 

"Will coaches continue to leave mental preparation to chance?"

So, is Rebeka right? As a coach, will you leave the mental preparation of your judoka to chance, and keep working hard on their physical and technical preparation?

Why not arrange for your judoka to have an Initial Needs Assessment with Rebeka and find out which areas she would be able to help. Read about the services offered on our Psychology page..

Finally, good luck to you, your club, and your team in forthcoming, training and competition.

Request our regular newsletter here.
Read our news stories at
Follow us on facebook via
Follow us on twitter via


  1. Of the 154 athletes, how many were regional, national, or international level players? Did this study show differences between the various levels of ability?

    1. All the participants were international level and active competitors. The study was originally abouth attributions for success and failure and their connection with perfectionism. We also explored the differences in age and gender. Mentioned above are reasons participants wrote. After that they filled CDS II questionnaire abouth attributions (locus, stability and controlability). These were results we used for further examination. I hope this answers your question :) Results will be published soon...

    2. Hal Sharp, June 7, 2014 at 4:45 PM
      I really appreciate reading Rebecka's article and agree with it wholeheartedly. Now I am an over the hill 87-year-old Kudan who can barely tie his belt. Psychological preparation is extremely important and is closely related to your ability to effectively use your techniques in competition. It is a Catch-22 situation because you cannot have success without confidence and you cannot have confidence without success. Throughout our training we often are given good advice, however, we do not know how to implement the advice or it does not click in our head as to what we should do. Then sometimes we are given advice which we take very seriously and try hard to make it work. In 1954 when I was training in Japan I was fortunate to work with Ishikawa a two-time all Japan champion. He strongly emphasized the power of the mind and the positive attitude one must take which could even override any of our physical weaknesses. Ishikawa showed me how to read my opponent and to only be on the offense. For some reason I took his advice seriously to the point where it virtually doubled my power and made my judo much more effective. At this point I am only trying to support Rebecka's article and not give a judo lesson. My article'My life with Ishikawa 'addresses some of the specifics that he told me. Also, my new book titled' Boys and Girls Judo and Self-defense", subtitled "Road to Blackbelt" is a poor attempt on my part to give advice as to how to make your judo work in competition.


  2. This blog is really informative i really had fun reading it.It is really very helpful for me.Hoping the same finest operate in the up coming days also. thank you!
    Karate, Illinois