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Sports psychology

Psychology as a science is divided into different branches that are responsible for the study of the behavior of the human mind in different aspects of life. The various psychological fields offer ample opportunities to learn about people and how they interact with others, whether in the workplace, in their personal relationships, when faced with health or other life challenges, including , the sporting challenge.

Next we will delve into an interdisciplinary branch of psychology, which is responsible for the study of psychic processes and behavior in sports activity. This branch is known as sports psychology.

What is sports psychology?

Sports psychology or sports psychology is an interdisciplinary practice that explores the link between physical and psychological factors that affect performance in competitive sports and athletic activity. This branch of psychology incorporates the science of physiology, kinesiology, and biomechanics to help sports professionals treat a wide range of mental health problems commonly experienced by athletes and professionals in the sports industry.

Sports psychology is based on the scientific study of psychological factors that are associated with participation and performance in sports, exercise, and other types of physical activity. It applies the psychological principles of human performance to help athletes consistently perform at the top of their abilities and to enjoy the athletic performance process more fully.

Sports psychologists are specially trained to participate in a wide range of activities that include: the identification, development and execution of knowledge; demonstration and training of the physical, mental and emotional skills necessary for excellence in sports domains; understanding, diagnosis and prevention of psychological, cognitive, emotional and behavioral inhibitors.

History of sport psychology

If we go back through time, we could see that the psychology of sport is present in our history. While in the early days his role would not have been formal or even helpful, in every approved comment on sports performance and engagement sports psychology was found, naive and undocumented but in action.

In ancient Greece , things were beginning to progress. Human behavior and the functioning of the mind were beginning to have a great impact, and psychology – even outside of science – was beginning to make itself felt. In the literature of the Greek period there are also references to the use of sports psychology.

In the 1800s , the first signs of today’s sports psychology can be recognized. The German scientist, Hermann von Helmholtz, during a stay with Professor Peter Tait of the University of Edinburgh at St Andrews in 1871, participated in scientific discussions in the intervals of exercise. Later, in 1898, Norman Triplett conducted the first formal experiment in sports psychology. This study focused on the effects of social facilitation and group interaction; finding that cyclists tended to produce faster times when riding in the presence of other cyclists than when riding alone.

In 1903 , GTW Patrick started the sports relaxation system. He studied the psychology of American football, reflecting on the obsession with the game among the American public and the pressure of its players. Patrick recognized that obviously play created a great force, psychological and sociological, that science had not yet been able to investigate.

From 1908 to 1915 , other psychologists – Judd, Swift, and Lashley – were also influenced by sports activities. They investigated learning skills using ball throwing and archery. (1903)
working from a psychoanalytic perspective, he was also more interested in spectators than athletes, in his case examining the cathartic effects associated with sports observation.

In 1912 , Howard, with a psychoanalytic perspective, became interested in the emotions that some sports games arouse, more in the spectators than in the athletes themselves. The author examined the cathartic effects associated with sports watching, and recognized that when people were watching a sport, they expressed their emotions more often. Emotions such as anger, frustration, joy and sadness were the most demonstrated by the spectators throughout the sports game.

In the 1920s , sports psychology began to gain momentum with the arrival of Coleman Roberts Griffith, who was named the father of sports psychology. In 1925 , Griffith inaugurated the first athletic research laboratory in the United States, at the University of Illinois and also published what is considered his most important essay “Psychology and its relation to athletic competition” (Green, 2003) . In his essay, the author tries to show why psychology is so valuable for sports performance.

In the author’s words: “The more the mind is used in athletic competition, the greater the skill of our athletes, the finer the contest, the greater the ideals of sportsmanship displayed, and the longer the games in our lives will be.”

The laboratory founded by Griffith was closed at age six and the psychologist was transferred to an administrative position. For sports psychology, Griffith’s career change was unfortunate. However later he was hired by Phillip K. Wrigley to be part of the baseball team “Chicago Cubs”, as a sports psychologist.

Outside of psychology, the emerging field of sports science quickly gained momentum and recognized the power of the mind to determine athlete performance. Therefore, while research on motor skills and motor development continued steadily within psychology departments, from the 1940s onwards sports psychology began to grow. Today, the sports psychologist is a requirement for professional sports leagues.

The role of the sports psychologist

The sports psychologist focuses on the personality of the athletes; According to the personality type, it uses tools to increase performance, well-being, self-esteem , self- confidence and the quality of life of the players and coaches of a sports team. It focuses on two main areas: helping athletes use psychological principles to achieve optimal mental health and performance enhancement, and understanding how participation in sport and physical activity affects an individual’s psychological development, health and your well-being throughout life.

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Professionals in this field may favor one domain over another, as the field requires a distinctive combination of training in both medicine and psychology. With their deep knowledge of physiology and kinesiology , in addition to their psychological training, some sports psychologists prefer to focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration of athletes after injury, while others prefer to focus on mental health problems such as depression, stress , demotivation or management of frustration surrounding communication conflicts between players or between the coach and the player.

Sports psychologists can practice in different institutions, such as: hospitals, clinics, gyms, clubs, physical rehabilitation centers, schools or universities. They can often be employed as part of a team of specialists, paired with other professionals from different disciplines to maximize health and well-being among athletes, coaches, and teams.

Sports psychologists should follow the following guidelines:

  • Be objective and have critical judgment
  • Make a confidentiality agreement
  • Possess extensive knowledge of sports science and sports medicine
  • Understand the severity of sports-related injuries and treatments
  • Learn about stress management skills and mental conditioning techniques
  • Know physical and mental relaxation skills
  • Perform data analysis, research and evaluation

The benefits of sport for mental health

Physical activity and sport have long been used in the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Many factors influence the way physical activity impacts people’s health. Sport and physical activity by itself may not lead directly to successful results, but in combination with other factors they can promote healthy lifestyles.

The conditions in which physical activity takes place can have a great impact on health. Some of the factors that determine the effectiveness of physical exercise on health are: nutrition, intensity and type of physical activity, footwear and clothing used, weather, warm-up, stress levels and sleep patterns.

It is not only the body that benefits from sports. The practice of physical activity contributes significantly to mental health , since it helps prevent mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders and helps increase self-esteem and self-confidence.

The evidence related to the health benefits of physical activity focuses on intrapersonal factors such as physiological, cognitive and affective benefits. To this we can add the social and interpersonal benefits that team sports and physical activity provide, which can also produce positive health effects in individuals and communities. For example, people who participate in team sports benefit from the social aspect, develop friendships and feel part of a group.

In the case of children, sport helps them learn positive skills that strengthen their mental health, these skills can include: responsibility, leadership and commitment, respect and empathy .

Playing sports can also work as a key strategy to reduce stress , since while doing physical activity, the body releases endorphins to increase your well-being and this lowers stress levels.

Differences between group sport and individual sport

There are different types of sports and each has its own benefits. Neither type of sport is better than the other, but each sport has different advantages , ranging from the muscles worked to the exercise of the cognitive part of the mind.

Each person has a sport of preference, which is usually chosen according to the interests and personality type of each individual.

Team sports provide different social and personal skills that help a person to strengthen their interpersonal relationships; However, individual sports provide other types of strength that help the development of intrapersonal skills, such as motivation, frustration management, stress management, among others.

Group sport

Group or team sports are sports in which a group of people work together to achieve the same goal. In group sports, all team members win and everyone loses, so the emotions manifested before a victory or a defeat are shared.

Team sports promote cooperation, regardless of the individual talents of each participant. To achieve good results in group sports, you must work together and trust in other colleagues will be essential to achieve success.

Working in a group helps team participants appreciate the value of each partner’s skills and see how their strengths can contribute to the shared goal. This can contribute to the development of skills such as solidarity, patience and optimism inside and outside the team.

Team sports include sports such as: volleyball, basketball, baseball, football, hockey, rugby, among others. These sports require high levels of coordination and extrinsic motivation (the drive to do something to achieve a goal). Those who prefer team sports are generally social people, who prefer working with others to working alone.

Individual sport

Individual sports are sports in which the individual works alone and competes against others to achieve their own personal goals. These bring higher levels of self-reliance, discipline, and passion to individual athletes. Winning or losing is entirely up to the athlete, and each competition is an opportunity to beat your best result and outdo yourself.

Some examples of individual sports include: tennis, track and field, golf, boxing, surfing, swimming, gymnastics, skiing, bowling, fencing, weightlifting, skating, discus throw, javelin, diving, mixed martial arts, badminton, archery , cycling and snowboarding, among others. These sports mentioned require a high level of individual motivation (intrinsic motivation) and a high level of personal responsibility and commitment.

In general, people who participate in individual sports are highly motivated and tend to excel in individual settings.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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