What is Sports Psychology? (A complete guide)

What is Sports Psychology?

In this blog we will answer the question, ‘What is Sports Psychology?’ and provide an insight into the importance of Sports Psychology as a discipline that can be elemental in creating champions.

What is Sports Psychology? (A complete guide)


What is Sports Psychology?

Sport psychology encompasses the scientific study of the psychological factors that are linked with participation and performance in sport, exercise and other types of physical activity. Sport psychology lures on knowledge from many associated fields such as biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology and psychology.

History of Sports Psychology

Sports psychology is a new initiative in Psychology that began in the 1920s when Carl Diem founded the world’s first sports psychology laboratory at the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Berlin, Germany. 

By the 1980s, sports psychology became a scientific discipline that laid emphasis on  improving athletic performance, along with improving mental well-being, plus how exercise and workout can reduce stress levels. Sports Psychology Today

Sport psychologists deal with the following 2 realms: 

  1. helping athletes use psychological principles to realize ideal mental health and to rally performance (performance enhancement) and 
  1.  understanding how participation in sport, exercise and physical activity affects an individual’s psychological development, health and well-being throughout the lifespan.

Sport psychology is an interdisciplinary science that draws on knowledge from many related fields including biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology and psychology. It involves the study of how psychological factors affect performance and how participation in sport and exercise affect psychological and physical factors.

Skills and Procedures Involved in Sports Psychology

Athletes and sports participants require procedural and strategic interventions to participate and excel. The domains where strategic interventions are required are as follows:-

  1. Cognitive Skills Training:

This encompasses the skills required for setting goals, planning on performance layout, developing and improving concentration, focal attention building, pre-game imagery and evolving  grace under pressure during the game. 

  1. Behavioral Skill Training:

It is imperative in Sports that the players and athletes should self-regulate and emanate a confidence that gets around to lift their team spirits. To consolidate these, management of emotions has to be interplayed. Teaching Sportsmanship is an integral part of Sports Psychology.

This is the work of a Sports Psychologist again, to teach and assist the players how to display the common emotions on the field.  For example, during a foul how to deal with the other players as well as the referee. 

Upon losing a match or a game, how to display their disappointment so that the others are not intimidated or hurt. On winning a game, the excitement is sky high, even then respecting societal norms and emotions of others, should excitement be displayed. 

Currently, there are numerous players who need anger management and emotional counseling after they lose a game or a match. The Sports Psychologist works on their EQ to build their emotional competency. 

Sports Psychology is also teaching leadership skills and cultivating the potential of the athletes. 

  1. Counseling

Players and athletes need counseling also. They too suffer from emotional burden that includes being away from home and family during tournaments and performance pressure. They can suffer from grief, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and weight management, overtraining and burnout, violence and aggression issues and substance abuse. 

This is the most important dilemma that the players face these days. Rising competitiveness and constant performance anxiety leads them to substance abuse. Athletes and players require constant motivation to give their best shot. Facing injuries and dealing with them so that no emotional turmoil impinges on their performance, is vital. 

Therefore, the importance of Sports Psychology becomes evident. They will counsel the players on numerous levels so that the team itself excels and can perform to the best of their potential. Each and every player is important and is a part of the counseling process, their needs and intensity of needs may vary, but each is counseled. 

According to the American Psychological Association, Sports Psychology provides Consultation and training for the purpose of 

  1.  Team building
  2. sports organization consultation
  3. systems interventions with parents and families involved in youth sports participation
  4. education of coaches regarding motivation, interpersonal and leadership skills and talent development
  5. education of coaches and administrators regarding early identification and prevention of psychological difficulties.
What is Sports Psychology? (A complete guide)

Major Topics of Sports Psychology

The major themes involved in Sports Psychology are:

Attentional focus

Means the attention of a person at a particular moment. This comprises screening out distractions, like the noise of fans in a stadium, a crowd during a match. This enables the player to develop his focus on the task at hand.

Imagery:

Here imagery means to rehearse your sports in mind by using all the senses..

Motivation

Motivation is of two types; extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are external rewards, like,  trophies,cash, medals, or social recognition. Intrinsic motivators are those that arise from within, such as a desire to win or the sense of pride.

Benefits of Sports Psychology

Sports Psychology cultivates the attitude and intellectual game skills to help athletes perform to the best of their potential. 

1. Expands focus and deals with distractions. It shifts the focus from ‘result oriented’ to    ‘current oriented’.

2. Nurture confidence in athletes.

3. Raising self-confidence.

4. Develop coping skills

5. Tackle setbacks

6. Emotional control

7. Realistic expectations 

8. Positively charged

9. Developing Team work 

10. Identify irrational thoughts. 

11. Removing negative self-labels

12. Balancing motivation

13. Post-injury confidence. Injuries cause trauma and the athletes suffering from an accident start doubting their abilities to perform. Healing to perform is what Sports psychologists do.

14. Develop game-specific strategies and plans. Coaches are trained to advance game plans; this helps athletes to mentally prepare for competition. 

What is Sports Psychology? (A complete guide)

It is imperative that the athlete wants to progress. Indulging in a competition and testing their limits is something that great sportsmen do. They appreciate the significance of a positive attitude and mental agility. These athletes desire the mental edge over the competition and the competitors.

Sports Psychology Careers

Sports psychology is a fast developing field and very lucrative as The American Psychological Association describes sports psychology as a “hot career,” suggesting that those working in university athletic departments earn around $60,000 to $80,000 per year. This is quite a handsome figure.

What is Sports Psychology? (A complete guide)

In this blog we have answered the question, ‘What is Sports Psychology?’ and provided an insight into the importance of Sports Psychology as a discipline that can be elemental in creating champions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1) What is the meaning of sports psychology?

Sport psychology encompasses the scientific study of the psychological factors that are linked with participation and performance in sport, exercise and other types of physical activity. 

Q2) What is the importance of sports psychology?

The importance of Sports psychology is enhancing the performance of sportsmen and athletes. It enhances concentration and confidence while regulating emotional control and commitment.

Q3) What is the difference between sport and exercise psychology?

An exercise psychologist imparts and executes strategies 
that have therapeutic benefits that enhance the holistic health of people who work out. A sport psychologist world on cognitions, behavior and overall mental health of the sportsmen..

Q4) What are the two types of sport psychologists?

The two types of sports psychologists are 1) educational psychologists and 2) clinical psychologists..

Q5) Who is the father of Sports Psychology?

Coleman Griffith is considered to be the father of Sports Psychology.

Titles to Read

Citations 

  • https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/sports#:~:text=Sport%20psychology%20is%20a%20proficiency,with%20sports%20settings%20and%20organizations.
  • https://www.topendsports.com/psychology/benefit-of-sports-psychology.htm
  • https://www.topendsports.com/psychology/benefit-of-sports-psychology.htm

What is Sports Psychology? (A complete guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.