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Sports Psychology

Sport psychology (or sports psychology) is the study of the psychological and mental factors that affect and are affected by participation and performance in sport, exercise, and physical activity. It is also a specialization within the brain psychology and kinesiology 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, confidence, using rituals, attribution training, and periodization.

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. This idea of psychophysiology, monitoring brain activity during exercise has aided in this research. 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. Many can benefit from sport psychologists: athletes who are trying to improve their performance, injured athletes who are looking for motivation, individuals looking to overcome the pressure of competition, and young children involved in youth sports as well as their parents. Special focus is geared towards psychological assessment of athletes. Assessment can be both, focused on selection of athletes and the team set up of rosters as well as on professional guidance and counseling of single athletes.

A few terms used in sport psychology:

  • Cohesion — Group cohesion refers to the extent to which a team or group shares a sense of shared task or social bond.
  • Imagery — Refers to 'imagined' sensations, for example visual imagery is known as 'visualization'.
  • Attention Focus — Being able to block everything out, e.g., a crowd.
  • Motivation — Recent research implies that sports-related achievement motivation is composed of several traits that together form a general orientation of a person towards achievement in sports. This research refers to The Achievement Motivation Inventory (AMI) (Schuler, Thornton, Frintrup & Mueller-Hanson, 2003) which is a broad-spectrum assessment of achievement-motivation in business, and has been used to develop the Sports Performance Indicator.
  • Internal Monologue — Maintaining positive thoughts during competition by keeping a running conversation going in one's mind.
  • Criticism — A tenet of motivational theory that is necessary to improve performance. The proper delivery of that criticism is imperative, as criticism can either better performance or drastically worsen it. There are three types of criticism: Destructive, Self, and Constructive. The best method of delivering constructive criticism is the "sandwich" approach; here, one first offers a compliment, then offers and critical feedback and useful directions to improve in that particular area, and then end with another compliment.

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