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Sports Psychology

Sports Psychology


Sports Psychology – A Mental Edge On and Off the Field



Sports psychology is generally thought of as being the practice of improving athletic performance by sharpening the psychological tools needed to succeed in competitive sports.  In fact, the spectrum of the discipline is broader than that.  It is the study, and definition of the mental factors that influence and are influenced by performance in sport, exercise and physical activity.  Further, it is the application of this knowledge to non-sport endeavors in everyday settings.

Sport psychologists are also involved in assisting coaches in working with athletes as well as helping improve athletes' motivation.   These professionals are also interested in how participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity may enhance personal development and well-being throughout the life span.

Some sports psychologists work directly with athletes.  There have been several golf and tennis pros in recent years that have sought to achieve an edge via mental conditioning.  Some professionals work with coaches or with entire teams at both the college and professional level.  And some psychologists take the principles developed in sports psychology and teach them in the corporate boardroom or auditorium, to company employees or sales teams. 

The Tools of the Sports Psychologist

Some of the basic areas of focus for the sports psychologist involve these issues:

·        Cohesion.  Winning teams get along. Team members that have mutual respect for each other and accept each other’s faults achieve that cohesion and work as a unit.

·        Imagery.   Imagery is the simple practice of imagining yourself in action.  Visualize the swing, the stroke, the catch in your mind. If you picture yourself performing correctly and with excellence, you are more likely to do so in reality.

·        Confidence.   Self confidence is a crucial asset to a top athletic performer.  Athletes that don’t have it are going to fall short of proficiency often, let alone excellence. 

·        Motivation.   Intrinsic motivation is the internal goals that drive achievers to the top.  Extrinsic motivation comes from outside; money, championships and World Series Rings are extrinsic. Both types of motivation are important to consider.

·        Attentional Focus   Lack of attentional focus is probably the most common problem of novice athletes. Being able to block out the crowd, the other team, or personal lives can be very challenging at times.  Successful athletes learn this skill early.

Areas of Practice for the Sports Psychologist

·        Teaching/research in sport sciences and working with athletes on performance enhancement.

·        Teaching/Research in psychology and also working with athletes.

·        Providing clinical/counseling services to various populations, including athletes.

·        Health promotion and working with athletes, but not necessarily directly in sport psychology.

Sport psychology and coaching of youths.  Youth sport organizations may employ a sport psychology professional to educate coaches about how to increase the satisfaction and enjoyment of participants and about coaches' roles in promoting development of self-esteem and the critical role of focus.
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