What Sport Psychology is and What it is Not

Sport psychology is the study of the mind and behavior of athletes. The knowledge gained from sport psychologists can be applied to help improve athletic performance and mental health. Sport psychologists do this by teaching effective and healthy attitudes about sports and performance along with improving the mental skills of athletes. Sport psychology is not well understood by the average American. There are many myths about sport psychology. Here I will explain what sport psychology really is and what it is not.

Sport psychology is not a magical cure for athletes. Some people think that athletes who receive help from a sport psychologist are suddenly going to start dominating their competition. However, it does not provide some mystical mode of thinking that immediately improves performance. First of all, sport psychology is just one component of sports. Sports can be broken down into four components: technique, fitness, strategy, and the mental game (sport psychology). It is debatable, but all components are roughly equal in importance. It can be said that sport psychology only affects about 25% of an athlete's total success. So there are limits to how much a sport psychologist can benefit an athlete.

The second reason why sport psychology isn’t a quick solution for poor performance is because like the other components of sports, the mental component of sports requires systematic and consistent training to provide results. You wouldn’t exercise your arms for only one day then expect to be the strongest athlete. Mental strength, like physical strength takes a lot of practice. Some of the best athletes hire their own personal sport psychologist who creates a mental training regimen that the athlete does on a daily basis. Sport psychology needs to be trained systematically and consistently to significantly improve an athlete’s mental game.

While some people think sport psychology is a magical cure, others think sport psychology is unnecessary. They think athletes only need a sport psychologist if they are performing poorly. They see it as a crutch, meaning as soon as you are fixed, the crutch is useless and you can get rid of it. But sport psychology isn’t just for treating bad performances. It is also preventative, like daily medicine. It also helps you elevate your game to the next level. Sport psychology is continuously needed to maintain a strong mental game and good performance. It is a necessary tool for reaching one’s athletic potential, which is highly desired by most athletes. Don’t stigmatize sport psychology, thinking only “broken” or “bad” athletes need it.

Lastly, some people think sport psychology is only applicable for elite athletes. They think amateur and junior athletes don’t need it. But sport psychology is beneficial for every type of athlete, no matter their level of skill or motivation. Elite athletes can use it to help them perform under intense pressure. High school athletes can use it to help them become better teammates. Ten-year-olds can use it to help them enjoy exercise in general. The mind is an important part of any athletic activity, so sport psychology has a wide range of uses.

I hope by reading this blog, you will gain a better understanding of sport psychology and be able to apply its principles to help your athletic performance and mental health. A new post will be added every Sunday evening. I will write about topics such as motivation, attitudes, peak performance, athletic training, coaching/leadership, mental exercises, general psychology, and other components of sports such as fitness, strategy, technique, and nutrition.