Athletes in today’s society are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before but they still share the same goals as their predecessors, climb to the top of their sport and be crowned champion. Unlike in previous generations, the “game” is no longer just a game, it’s a booming business. Major League Baseball alone boasts a three point seven billion dollar a year industry. In this new generation of big business, how do athletes cope with the pressure of grossing fifteen million dollars a year and performing in front of twenty thousand screaming fans packed into Madison Square Garden or seventy-two thousand fanatical “Cheese Heads” at Lambeau Field? One of those answers is with sport psychology. But one answer leads us down a convoluted path with many other unanswered questions. This paper will define sport psychology and identify where it come from. It will also discuss the objectives of sport psychology and how are they applied. The final topic will describe sport psychologists do.
According to the sport psychology program at San Diego State University, sport psychology can be defined as “the study of people and their behavior in sport and exercise contexts”, or “the effect of sport itself on human behavior”, or “a field of study in which the principles of psychology are applied in a sports setting.”(SDSU, web para. 1) How did we arrive at this definition? The history of sport psychology can be divided into five periods dating as early as 1895 to the present.
The first period is from 1895-1920. Norman Triplett, a psychology professor at Indiana University, was the first researcher to confirm that bicyclists sometimes rode faster when they raced in groups or pairs than when they rode alone. Following Triplett’s work in 1899 is E.W. Scripture of Yale. Scripture believed that a certain set of personality traits could be fostered through participation in sports. In 1903, G.T.W Patrick wrote an article for the “American Journal of Psychology” that stated attending sporting events allowed fans to release pent-up emotions. We wrap up the early era with Coleman Griffith. Griffith began informal research of basketball and football players in 1918. His research led to the second period of sport psychology named in his honor, the Griffith era.
The Griffith era of sport psychology begins in 1921 and runs into 1938. Coleman Griffith is considered the grandfather of North American Sport Psychology due to his contributions during this period. Between 1921 and 1931, Griffith published over twenty five research articles relating to sport psychology. Griffith was also appointed as the director of research in athletics at the University of Illinois in 1925. The focus of the department was psychomotor skills, learning, and personality. The largest accomplishments of Griffith come in 1926 and 1928 when he wrote Psychology of Coaching and Psychology of Athletics respectively. We close the Griffith era when Phillip Wrigley hires him as sport psychologist for the Chicago Cubs in 1938.
The third and fourth periods of sport psychology are by far the slowest developing time for the new science. This portion begins in 1938 when Franklin Henry of the University of California, Berkeley established the psychology of physical activity graduate program. The forties and fifties were rather stagnant but we arrive in Rome, Italy for the first World Congress of Sport Psychology in 1965. Following the World Congress gathering is the first annual North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) conference in 1967. NASPSPA closed the door on the fourth period in 1974 when they published the proceedings of their conference for the first time.
Our current period in sport psychology is considered the contemporary period. The first event of the contemporary period was the establishment of the “Journal of Sport Psychology”, which is now known as “Sport and Exercise...