Sports Psychology: What Is It And How Can It Help You?
Sports (or sports) has been around as long as humans have been participating in physical activity. It has always been a competitive activity between competing teams or individuals, often with the goal of scoring more points or winning a prize. Sports (and fitness) has developed vastly over the years with the development of certain sport specific equipment, rules and regulations, training programs and an increased interest in participation and competition among the general public. In some ways, the increased interest has led to a decline in the quality of the modern sporting events that take place; in other ways, the increased competitiveness and interest in the game has led to increased participation in the sport itself.
Modern day sports (and fitness) can cover a wide range of activities including ice climbing, ski jumping, beach volleyball, luge training, canoeing and kayaking, horse riding and track running. The degree to which these sports can be used as part of an athlete’s training depends largely on the activity: some sports will focus on the development of certain physical dexterity and motor control while others will require the athlete to develop and hone other skill sets. In addition to developing physical dexterity and motor control, some sports may also require the athlete to develop mental agility and determination as they strive to finish a race or beat their opponent.
Sports (and fitness) research has been an ongoing endeavour from the ancient times up to the present day. Today, there is a large and growing body of work that focuses primarily on the psychological aspects of sports and athletic performance and motivation. Sports Psychology is now a major topic of research and much of this research is geared at helping athletes and team leaders to understand and overcome their own and other team members’ psychological challenges during competition. Sports psychology is the field of study that deals primarily with understanding and managing motivation, stress, trust, confidence, power, communication and physical and mental aspects of sports. For example, research in sports psychology has identified distinct differences in how male and female athletes, depending on their physiological and psychological makeup, respond to pressure, conflict and adversity (such as injury, competition, losing a race or relationship issues) and how they manage those pressures and challenges.
In recent years, sports psychology research has focused more on using psychological approaches in sport and athletic performances and training. One major breakthrough was the discovery in 2021 by scientists in South Africa of a unique neurological disorder that affects only men but causes them to lose muscle coordination, speed and strength. This disorder is known as Optimum Performance Syndrome and is affecting male and female athletes equally. Since its discovery, more sports psychologists have begun to look at sports and athletic performance from a psychological perspective and have developed new ways of thinking about training, competition and rehabilitation. New studies show that sports psychology research has helped to identify and treat physiological and psychological deficits in athletes.
Some sports psychologists have argued that athletes have too many goals and are not focused on one main objective during competition. Other sports psychologists have focused on specific sports and determined that certain styles or strategies work better than others. Still others have worked with athletes to develop new ways of tracking performance and improving training methods for optimal results. By identifying and addressing these psychological issues, sports psychology professionals have helped athletes to perform at their peak, improve their confidence and increase their competitive edge.
Sports are more than just a pastime for some people, they are a lifestyle. For these individuals, sports may be their profession, their passion or even a way of life. Whether you are an athlete looking to improve your game or simply enjoy spending time with friends and family while participating in a sport pastime, sports psychology is important to help you maintain your balance between your pastime and your mental health. If you think you may need help with your athletic ability or your general health and well-being, speak to a sports psychologist for further information and recommendations.