Introduction to Sports Psychology

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Introduction to Sports Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and experience, it studies how humans and animals sense, think, learn and know. A healthy mind in a healthy body philosophy dates back as far as the ancient Chinese and Greek civilizations. Sport psychology has developed and grown significantly in the past two decades. Media interest continues to increase and the scientific body of knowledge relating to the area has become so large that a number of different branches of the subject have emerged. Modern psychology is devoted to collecting facts into psychological theories. These theories aid in understanding and explaining people’s behaviour and sometimes in predicting and influencing their future behaviour.

History Development of Sport Psychology

In 1895 George Fitz carried out an experiment on reaction time which is recognized as one of the earliest investigations examining psychological processes and sport performance. About the same time Norman Triplett studied the relationship between the presence of other competitors and performance in cycle racing. He discovered that cycling times were faster against competitors than when cycling alone. Consequently he launched an area of research which is still been investigated today – the influence of rival athletes in sport. Why do some athletes rise to the occasion when performing in front of a crowd, under pressure whereas others seem to fall apart?

To try and answer such questions, Coleman Griffith established the very first sport psychology research laboratory in 1925. It was situated at the University of Illinois in America. Soon afterwards, laboratories of similar nature were set up in Berlin and Leningrad. In 1965 the first convention of International Congress of sport psychologists took place in Rome. Similar conventions have continued to occur at regular intervals.

In 1966, the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) was formed by European sport scientists and 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 in universities. 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. In the 2008 Olympics according to a recent article in the New York Times, Chinese sports officials have hired sports psychologists to help athletes cope with the enormous amount of pressure and high expectations at this year's Olympics in Beijing. Special websites have been developed specifically for the athletes, offering online therapy, a host of tips for coping with anxiety and computer-aided visualization techniques.

The Role of the Sport Psychologist

In the Olympic games of 1976 for the first time a psychologist was assigned to the American team. It was not until 1984 however, that the systematic services in sport psychology were provided to the American winter and summer Olympic teams. In preparation for the 1988 winter and summer Olympics no less than 25 different sports in the American squad used a sport psychologist as part of their preparation program. In Britain there are now at least 30 sport psychologists working in various sports including hockey, netball, rugby, croquet, cricket, gymnastics and tennis.

In the past the popular image of a sports psychologist was someone who basically attempts to heighten an athlete’s aggression and competitiveness prior to a big match. The psychologist was viewed as teaching athletes how to develop that winning mental edge, and how to use the killer instinct to it’s best...
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