What Is Sport Psychology?
Sport psychology is the study of psychological factors associated with participation and performance in sport, exercise and other types of physical activity. In other words, sport psychology focuses on the mental and emotional aspects of sport performance. Those who practice and are trained in this science are concerned with teaching athletes/teams/systems psychological skills/techniques to improve performance and understanding how participation (in physical activity) affects an individual's psychological development and well-being.
Psychologists (mostly counseling or clinical psychologists with a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., who are licensed to practice in their states) can call themselves "sport psychologists" when guided by the American Psychological Association's (APA) "Ethical Standards", which set boundaries of competence. For a licensed psychologist to provide services as a sport psychologist, he or she should have both experience in applying psychological principles in sports settings and knowledge in the research base of the psychology of sport and the field of exercise science.
The science of sport psychology is an ever growing one with its roots in the Soviet Block Countries. It has since made its way to the shores of the United States and has flourished; so much so that currently every U.S. Olympic team and many colleges and universities including Ohio State University, Washington State University, The University of Notre Dame, UCLA, and the University of Rhode Island have such services available for athletes.
A proper mindset can be the difference in the heat of most competitions. There is very little difference between elite athletes physically, but mentally differences can be significant. When races are won by a mere hundredth of a second, it is the mental aspects that are the difference. More and more athletes from all levels of competition are examining whether they have the ‘winner’ mindset of confidence, concentration, consistency and control. Luckily, the mental toughness necessary for the ‘winner’ mindset can be learned by anyone!