Sport Psychology

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Sport Psychology

To fully understand sport psychology, we must ask ourselves two very important questions, first, what is sport psychology and second, who is it for? Put in the most sim-ple way, sport psychology can be an example of psychological knowledge, principles, or methods applied to the world of sport. "Two psychologists, Bunker and Maguire, say sport psychology is not for psychologists, but is for sport and its participants." (Murphy & White, 1978:2) However, it can be argued that sport psychology, can be for psycho-logy, just as it can be for sports scientists, managers, teachers, administrators, coaches and last but by no means least, the athletes themselves.

It is sport psychology that has stood apart from the discipline of psychology as a whole. "Its history is different, its concerns are often different, its centres of learning and teaching are often different, and its professional training is different." (Garfield, 1984:34) Yet despite this, sport psychology remains permanently bonded to psychology through its common interest in the fundamental principles of psychology, human behavior, and experience.

No one can deny the significant role which sport and recreation plays in every cul-ture and society across the globe. In the western and eastern worlds alike, sport and lei-sure continue to support huge industries and take up massive amounts of individual time, effort, money, energy, and emotion. Within the media, competitive sport has gotten enor-mous attention and despite this, the public's appetite for more sport never is stated. "It has been estimated that around two thirds of all newspaper readers in Great Britain first turn to the sports pages when they pick up their daily paper." (Butt, 1987:65) When one con-siders the number of people who actually engage in sport or even take regular exercise, then the significance of sport to all our lives cannot be denied.

A common problem with sport psychology research lies in its somewhat myopic or short-sighted appreciation of present day accumulated psychological knowledge. As we look into sport psychology, we are confronted by a landscape of knowledge which rises and falls often suddenly and dramatically. "At certain times, massive peaks of understand-ing rise up before out eyes yet at other times, huge tracts of psychology remain untouched to the horizon." (Garfield, 1984:6)

Around the 1960's, scientific traditions, institutions, and publications which pros-per to this day first came into being, and it was this era which truly marked the structural genesis of modern day sport psychology. However, there are many untouched aspects of sport psychology today. In order for us to determine whether psychology plays a signi-ficant role in the mind of a young athlete, we must look at the uses and techniques of sport psychology.

Sport psychologists over the years have maintained a keen interest in psychological profiling and have been naturally drawn to the quantification of personality variables. As sport itself revolves aroung the measurement and reward of individual differences in per-formances, it is no surprise that scientists quantify psychological differences rather than sporting differences. "The research is often looked at in terms of three primary areas, the search for the winning profile, a comparison between athletes and non-athletes, and diffe -ences in the personalities of athletes either competing in different sports or playing in different positions." (Butt, 1987:97)

Any discussion of personality traits in sports could not ignore one particular trait which has occupied more time than any other, competitive anxiety. Helping athletes deal with pressure has become the bread and butter of many sport psychologists. "The prob-lem of anxiety is dealt with with two areas of research: test anxiety and achievement moti-vation." (Hackfort & Spielberger, 1989:247) Presently, the test scale which enjoys the greatest popularity is the...
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