By Giannis Fliatis
Sport psychology is a recent, but interesting field of psychology. It refers to the fields of psychology and kinesiology, as it combines knowledge from both of these sciences. Sport psychology targets to define how psychological factors affect an athlete’s performance and how sports or general physical activity could affect someone’s psychological condition. Studies have now shown that training should not only refer to physical skills, but also include psychological training in order to improve an athlete’s performance. Truth is that down deep most athletes do endorse what the ancient Greeks had quoted thousands of years ago “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. Nowadays, sport psychologists are the ones who implement the meaning of these words, in order to help reduce the negative effects of athleticism like excessive anxiety and to help increase the positive ones.
Knowledge of basic aspects of sport psychology is definitely beneficial for both athletes and coaches. Establishing a ‘steady’ personality and building strong confidence in one’s abilities are some of the benefits of applied sport psychology. Athletes often face stressful situations or events regarding the goals they desire to achieve. If they are overwhelmingly affected emotionally and psychologically from such situations or events, it is important for them to have the ability to deal with them impacts on their own and in the long term. For instance, self-talk is a successful “tool”, which can greatly improve and athlete’s emotional self-regulation during stressful periods. Additionally, through self-talk athletes can process and assess their mistakes and reach a greater level of self-honesty and clarity. Another trick of the trade is clear and detailed goal setting. The athletes set specific, definite goals and focus on possible ways to achieve them. By having a detailed procedure of goal setting, an athlete can manage the details and steps toward their goals better and allows for critical assessment each step of the way, which can in turn help improve athlete’s mental-athletic skills.
In addition, sport psychology attempts to help solve the motivation mystery. What really drives some professional athletes to overcome their limits again and again? What makes people competitive in sports? How do sports influence the psychology of the general population? Answering these questions helps establish a more universal view about the psychology that underlies sports, but also help us better understand the true nature of motivation and competition.
In general, there are two kinds of motivation. Extrinsic motivation, which refers to any kind of motivation that has its origins to an outside source, ex. financial, while intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that often emanates from inside an athlete. Motivation is greatly important, as it is one of the only factors related to performance over which athletes have great control. Motivation has an undeniable impact on performance, and highly motivated athletes simply work harder to reach the desired standards.
It is important for athletes and the coaches who train them, at every level of training, to be aware of the basic elements of sport psychology. As all parties involved need to be ready to deal with any possible psychological dysfunctions or impacts, which could affect performance or the athlete’s wellbeing.
Giannis Fliatis is a Basketball coach and writer, and also an undergrad studying Psychology, and he lives in Thessaloniki, Greece. Giannis_Fli@hotmail.gr
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