Sports psychology is the science that deals with the mental and emotional aspects of physical performance. This means that athletic performance isn’t only about muscle strength or endurance but has also, something to do with the power of the mind over the body.
Elite runners have taken advantage of this aspect of their sport for years. They often use the technique of visualization to see themselves running the entire race, from start to finish. They practice the race not only on the track or the road, but also in their mind. And on race day their mind remembers what their body has not yet experienced and they can achieve greater success by essentially ‘tricking’ their body in thinking that it has already done the deed – it is only left to complete the task.
The art of sports psychology also address the confidence level of athletes, their ability to overcome obstacles and create success in their lives. When a sports psychologist works with an athlete they address the criteria of setting goals. They work with the athlete to set appropriate goals for the individual’s abilities as well as working towards the ability to set higher goals as the athlete’s performance improves.
Setting goals is an important aspect of working with athletes. Without goals or an end to the tunnel, there is no reason to travel down the road. But when the goals are inappropriate they can throw the entire workouts completely off track. Goals can sabotage the success of an athlete if they aren’t composed correctly but without goals the athlete won’t achieve anything.
Teaching an athlete how to gain focus and concentration in their workouts will also help to improve the athlete’s success. Athletes learn how to improve their moods and how not to let those determine the outcome of an individual workout, how to manage the stress of competition, how to control distractions and how to learn concentration in their practice and performance.
Sports psychologists have several tools at their disposal. These tools include evaluations with the athlete to determine what they want out of the sport, tools to help the athlete gain self confidence, achieve excellence and develop a pre-competition routine that will aid in confidence and concentration. The professional will help the athlete bring it all together and then refocus the plan to include new information.
The profession of sports psychology didn’t make an appearance until 1920 when the first lab was founded by Carl Diem in Berlin Germany. Five years later another was open in Leningrad and a third at the University of Illinois in the US by Griffith. He published several books following the opening of the laboratory at the University but because of the financial constraints of the Great Depression the lab closed in 1932.
It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the science of sport psychology re-emerged with the addition of several educational programs. Several scholarly journals were published and in 1965 the International Society of Sports Psychology was formed with scientists throughout Europe.
The importance of sports psychologists to the success of today’s elite athletes can’t be overlooked. Even those athletes who choose not to use a psychologist find that their coaches use some of the same techniques that have been perfected over the years. The achievement of physical success is due, in large part, to the ability of the mind to conceive of the action. If the mind of the athlete can’t conceive the action to be true then success isn’t likely.