What is sport psychology?
Sport psychology is the study and application of psychological principles and skills to address the optimal performance and well-being of athletes, help participants more thoroughly enjoy the sport performance process, as well as maximising social aspects of sports participation.
Increasingly sport psychologists are seen as a regular part of an athlete’s team, equipping them with a range of tools to perform at their best. Although they may not help them with physical training, they are an important part of helping athletes perform better by focusing on their minds. Sport psychology revolves around helping athletes face and overcome problems, achieve their goals and ultimately reach their full potential.
What is a sport psychologist?
A sport psychologist can have varied experience that includes research and working with clients in individual, group, or team settings. Although sport psychologists focus on mental wellbeing, they can function as consultants, therapists or work in conjunction with trainers. Additionally, it should be noted that the strategies used to help athletes are applicable to many other disciplines, including academic performance, business training, public speaking, and ‘life coaching’.
Why is sport psychology important?
The diversity, unpredictability, and intensity of sport presents challenges to the athlete both on a physical and psychological level. Sport psychology is invaluable in the following ways: improving focus and helping to deal with distractions, improving the confidence of athletes, developing coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors, helping athletes to create ‘the performance zone’, aiding teams develop communication skills and cohesion, improving or balancing motivation for optimal performance, developing post-injury confidence, cultivating game specific strategies, and assisting athletes cope with pressure.
Having an optimal mindset is just as important as adopting a physical training regimen.
What can sport psychologists help with?
Sports psychology (sometimes referred to as performance psychology) addresses a range of symptomatic issues including:
- Performance anxiety & stress: Over-preoccupation with thoughts and worries about sporting achievement, expectations or training and subsequent loss of life-balance can negatively impact performance and general mental health.
- Sadness or depression: Issues around achievement, career, sporting culture, and pressure to succeed can lead to feeling depressed, hopeless, trapped or uncertain of one’s athletic vocation.
- Generalised anxiety: You may notice physical manifestations including but not limited to muscle tension, insomnia, digestive issues, tension headaches and lethargy, and behavioural changes such as social withdrawal, irritability, and issues with drugs/alcohol.
- Conflicts with coaches, teammates, or loved ones: Sport psychologists can mediate interpersonal conflict in sporting/academic organisations as well as help resolve social/family tension.
- Recovery from injury: Commonly, an athlete can struggle with the pressures of returning to compete, fears about re-injury and possible de-selection, and disappointment around missed opportunities to perform. Additionally, they may have some retained trauma associated with the injury itself. A sport psychologist can offer services designed to assist the athlete to return to their previous performance standards.
- Systemic issues: Teams or individuals may seek out support in coping with issues affecting an entire team or community, including racism, sexism, hazing, and substance abuse.
Attending at Brisbane Counselling Centre are psychologists who are specifically trained in the area of sports coaching and exercise psychology and who can assist you with any of the following:
- performance enhancement
- motivation, leadership, endurance techniques
- goal setting
- regulating arousal, concentration: cues, triggers
- performance anxiety & slumps
- pre-performance routines, self-talk, mantras, meditation
- emotional well-being, mindfulness, stress management, relaxation
- exercise perseverance
- team or personal conflict
- time management
- self confidence
- guided/scripted motor imagery 1.
- coping with injury
- transitioning: breaks, guided recovery
- Re-imagining motor imagery: Building bridges between cognitive neuroscience and sport psychology. Moran, A et al. British Journal of Psychology 103, 224–247