Scenario one: bottom of the ninth, full count, bases loaded, tied game. Scenario two: eighteenth hole, ten foot put to win the match. Scenario three: championship game, game tied, penalty kick awarded ninety minutes into the game. Three different scenarios all involving game winning situations, athletes, and pressure. Scenarios like these can occur in every sport at every level. Athletic competitions at all levels have reached new heights in almost every aspect of it. With the growing competition and talent, athletes now need both physical and mental strength to achieve their maximum performance level. Sport psychology helps athletes enhance their mental strength needed to perform better in their sport by improving their mental skills.
Sport psychology is a relatively new established field in psychology. According to Jarvis, the concept of sport psychology is as old as psychology itself. The first cited sport psychology experiment was performed by Norman Triplett during the nineteenth century (Jarvis). In 1920 the Deutsche Sporthochschule (German Sport University Cologne) was the first sport psychology laboratory established by Carl Diem in Berlin, Germany (Careers in Sport Psychology). Sport psychology was introduced to the United States by Coleman Griffith. Griffith established the first sport psychology laboratory in the United States known as the Athletic Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois. Due to this, Coleman Griffith is often referred to as the “father of sport psychology” (Jarvis). In 1965 the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) was formed. A year later in 1966, sport psychologists in Chicago founded the was created (Careers in Sport Psychology). In 1985 the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP) was formed. The creation of these three sport psychology focused associations sparked interest and expanded the field of sport psychology across the United States and Europe.
Sport psychology is “the study of the psychological and mental factors that influence and are influenced by participation and performance in sport, exercise, and physical activity, and the application of the knowledge gained through this study to everyday settings”(Careers in Sport Psychology) . Athletes seek sport psychologists for three main reasons; to enhance performance, to overcome pressures that accompany competitions, and to overcome an injury (Careers in Focus).
A sport psychologist can help enhance the performance of an athlete by strengthening the athlete’s mental skills. Mental skills can be categorized into five different categories (Cockshott). The first one is deals with an athlete’s goals. Goals must have two parts to them; the first being direction and the second being the minimum standard of performance required. These two parts make a goal attainable. A goal setting guides an athlete towards their goals. Mastery and skill acquisition can be acquired through an athlete’s goal setting (Cockshott). Sport psychologists help athletes achieve their goals by a process known as goal orientation and the athlete’s own motivation. There are two types of goal orientation. The first is outcome goal orientation. Outcome goal orientation is guided by objective, measurable verifications of improvements such as a winning record. The second type is performance goal orientation. This type of orientation is guided by an athlete’s improvement or mastery of skills (Cashmore).
Imagery is the second mental skill that can enhance an athlete’s performance. Imagery involves “…mentally picturing an event as vividly as possible with the intention of duplicating that event in actuality…” (Cashmore). Imagery is most commonly used prior to a competition or training session. A sport psychologist helps an athlete simulate or imagine themselves performing a skill (Cockshott). Imagery can also help an athlete in decision making by thinking through and imagining possible scenarios the athlete...
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