Sport psychology is a specialization within psychology that seeks to understand psychological/mental factors that affect performance in sports, physical activity and exercise and apply these to enhance individual and team performance. It deals with increasing performance by managing emotions and minimizing the psychological effects of injury and poor performance. Some of the most important skills taught are goal setting, relaxation, visualization, self-talk, awareness and control, concentration, using rituals, attribution training, and periodization.
The principles and theories may be applied to any human movement or performance tasks (e.g., playing a musical instrument, acting in a play, public speaking, motor skills).
There are over 100 graduate programs in sport psychology available world-wide. Usually, experts recommend that students be trained in both kinesiology (i.e., sport & exercise sciences, physical education) and counseling.
The History Of Sports Psychology
Sports psychology is the scientific study of people and their behaviours in sport. The main job of a sports psychologist is to recognize how participation in sport exercise and physical activity enhances a person’s development.
The first sports psychologist has said to be Norman Triplett, a North American man from Indiana, born in 1898. Triplett’s first finding as a sport psychologist was that cyclists cycle faster in pairs or a group, rather than riding solo.
Carl Diem, a German who lived in Berlin, founded the world’s first sports psychology laboratory in 1920. Five years later, A.Z. Puni opened a lab at the Institute of Physical Culture in Leningrad. Also in 1925, Cloman Griffith opened the first sports psychology lab in North America. He began his research in factors that affect sport performance in 1918, and in 1923, offered the first ever sports psychology course.
The International Society of Sports Psychology (ISSP), which was formed by European sports scientists. In 1966, a group of sport psychologists met in Chicago to form the North American Society of Sport Psychology and Physical Activity (NASPSPA).
Today, sport and exercise psychologists have begun to research and provide information in the ways that psychological well-being and vigorous physical activity are related. Also, sport psychologists are beginning to consider exercise to be a therapeutic addition to healthy mental adjustment.
Just recently have sport psychologists begun to be recognized for the valuable contributions they make in assisting athletes and their coaches in improving performance during competitive situations, as well as understanding how physical exercise may contribute to the psychological well-being of non-athletes.
Sport Psychology Terminology
A few terms used in sports psychology:
- Cohesion – What Factors contributed to an individual or team success.
- Imagery – Using your imagination to enhance your performance.
- Attention Focus – Being able to block everything out, e.g., a crowd.
- Motivation – There are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation, meaning inner motivation, e.g., self accomplishment, and extrinsic motivation, meaning outer motivation, e.g., money or awards.
- Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology
- Sport Psychologists at the Australian Psychological Society (APS) website
- McGaughey, William (2001). Rhythm and Self-Consciousness: New Ideals for an Electronic Civilization. Minneapolis: Thistlerose Publications. ISBN 0-9605630-4-0.
- More information on sport psychology
- St. Louis Psychologists page on sport psychology