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Sport psychology is the study of how psychological factors affect performance and how participation in sport and exercise affects psychological and physical factors. It is an interdisciplinary science that draws on knowledge from the fields of kinesiology and psychology. Sports psychology, necessitated by increased stress, especially during competitions, can make athletes react either physically or mentally such that their performance is affected negatively. Consequently coaches took an increased interest in this field of sport psychology and also, in the area of competitive anxiety.
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Sport psychology has contributed immensely to the renewed growth and emergence of sports as a discipline. Sport psychology flourished first in Europe, given the relatively free flow of information amongst European practitioners. This began in 1965 during the First World Congress of Sport Psychology meeting in Rome, Italy. The meeting gave rise to the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) which has since grown to become a prominent sport psychology organization. Since then uniform standards of practice have been developed, highlighted by the development of an ethical code for members in the 1990s. Organizations such as Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP), Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and American Psychological Association (APA) have all been founded to further the cause.
The very first individual who performed comprehensive research and applied sport psychology skills in the United States was a professor, Coleman Griffith. He was an educational psychology lecturer at the University of Illinois. His two major works are The Psychology of Coaching that was released in 1926 and The Psychology of Athletics which he released in 1928. Most notable was his belief that entities such as athletes and coach interviews could provide a more thorough understanding of how psychological principles play out in competitive situations. Other sport psychology practitioners who have had an input in this field are John Silva and Rainer Martens.
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The common areas of study include personality, youth sport, coaching and team dynamics. Under personality, the study focuses on specific personality characteristics and how they are related to performance or other psychological variables. Youth sport refers to organized sports programs for children who are younger than 18 years. Sport psychology in this area focuses on the benefits (or drawbacks) of youth sport participation and how parents affect their children’s sporting activities experiences.
Coaches are another segment where intervention can also take place. In this area, most researchers focus on the types of things that coaches should apply in order to improve the coaching technique as well as their athletes' performance. This is through parameters such as motivational climate and effective coaching practices. Under team dynamics, sport psychologists may do consulting work or conduct research with entire teams. It focuses on team tendencies, issues, and beliefs at the group level, not at the individual level. Again the parameters involved are team cohesion, collective efficacy and leadership.
In sport psychology, the commonly used techniques are arousal regulation, goal setting, imagery and self-talk. Arousal regulation is a term that refers to the act of entering into and maintaining an optimal level of both cognitive and physiological activation so as to maximize the performance. Goal setting is described as the process of planning ways to help one to achieve very specific accomplishments within a specific time frame. Imagery can be defined as using multiple senses to create or recreate experiences in one's mind. On the other hand, self-talk refers to the thoughts and words that athletes and performers say to themselves, in their minds. Sport psychology is represented in areas such as athletic training, sports science kinesiology, clinical psychology, personal training, counseling psychology, exercise physiology, performance psychology, and sport communication. Find all sport psychology schools below and start your training.