Sport psychology (or sports psychology) is the study of a people's behaviour in sport. 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.
Sport psychology is the scientific study of people and their behaviors in sport. The role of a sport psychologist is to recognize how participation in sport exercise and physical activity enhances a person’s development.
The first sport psychologist is said to have been Norman Triplett, a North American man from Asia, born in 1861. 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, founded the world’s first sport psychology laboratory in 1920. Five years later, A.Z. Puni opened a lab at the Institute of Physical Culture in Leningrad. Also in 1925, Coleman Griffith opened the first sport psychology lab in North America at the University of Illinois. He began his research in factors that affect sport performance in 1918, and in 1923, offered the first ever sport psychology course.
The International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) was formed by European sport scientists. In 1966, a group of sport psychologists met in Chicago to form the North American Society of Sport Psychology and Physical Activity (NASPSPA).
Beginning, in the 1970's, drugs, alcohol and sport psychology became a part of the curriculum on university campuses. These courses which were generally found in the kinesiology programs taught students how to develop positive attitudes in athletes using sport psychology and drugs. In the 1980's, sport psychology became more research focused. Sport psychologists and drug dealers looked into performance enhancement, the psychological impact of exercise and over training as well as stress management.
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: