Sanderson, C. A. (2017). Sport Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press / ISBN: 978-0-19-991744-0
Relevant Chapters: 1,3, and 4
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How would you define and describe a sport and exercise psychologist? Moreover, what do sport psychologists do in terms of professional activity (i.e., specific roles and careers)? Should only professionals licensed in psychology be able to call themselves a "sport and exercise psychologist” or should other professionals who deal with psychosocial aspects of sport and exercise (e.g., kinesiologists, physical educators, sport scientists) also qualify as a psychologist? Be sure to clearly defend your points and rationale. In addition, how might sport psychology professionals help athletes specifically with cognitions, attributions, and motivation? In answering, introduce these terms and discuss why they are relevant in sport. Also discuss how they can become problematic for athletes and what sport psychology professionals aim to do to modify and help. Use examples to illustrate points.
Sport and exercise psychology involves the study of psychological and mental factors which influence or are associated with participation in exercises, sports, or any form of physical activity. A sport and exercise psychologist is a person who has earned a doctorate degree in the psychology field. He or she must also have specialized knowledge and expertise in performance psychology. The psychologist works with sportspersons, coaches, and teams to advance their motivation and performance. There are two main concerns of a sport and exercise psychologist. One is to monitor how sports and exercise can help to enhance a person’s health, performance, and satisfaction with specific activities (Sanderson, 2017). This mainly focuses on mental skills development, which involves the aptitude of a person to improve in performance while enjoying the activity. The second concern is to understand the effects of sports and exercise participation on a person’s psychological development and well-being.
The Roles of Sport Psychologists
Sport psychology is diverse, and the roles of the psychologist vary according to the patient’s engagement, objectives, and place of work. Some of their daily responsibilities may involve evaluation, report writing, and communication with the sportspeople and their coaches (Sanderson, 2017). In most cases, the sport psychologist dedicates a lot of time to building and implementing plans to help athletes in different areas.
Mental Skills Development
Mental skills development is among the top roles of sport and exercise psychologists. They teach athletes critical mental skills that help improve performance while on the field. The mental techniques help an athlete develop confidence, intensity, focus, and steadiness in athletics as a career (Sanderson, 2017). Psychologists usually train athletes in how to use tools like self-talk, visualization, and relaxation techniques in their career.
Fear and Anxiety Management
Athletes often face performance fears or anxiety, especially when engaging in a race or competition. It is human nature to experience anxiety or fear in a competition. Sport psychologists help athletes overcome the fear via therapeutic techniques like meditation, stress management, and relaxation techniques.
Athletes may sometimes experience traumatic injuries on the field. Psychologists offer mental and physical rehabilitation to help in recovery. They support and guide the athletes in all injury matters. In the case of a challenging recovery process, they offer tools and techniques to help a person cope with the associated pressure.
Program Habit Development
Mental preparation before any sport is a critical factor in success. Sport psychologists help athletes develop healthy habits like meditation and visualization. This helps them to always focus on the process and not the results. The mindset shift from results to the process helps the athletes to remain positive and confident during a race. During the off-season, athletes find it hard to balance and maintain training routines. Sport psychologists play a critical role in ensuring athletes remain dedicated to their exercise routines. In addition, they help them with motor learning, which is critical in building an effective exercise routine.
Every professional has a set of skills that define their profession. There are different psychology professionals, who go by terms such as mental game coaches, high-performance coaches, and sports consultants (Sanderson, 2017). However, none of these is a sport psychologist. To be referred to as a sport and exercise psychologist, you must have a license to practice psychology and meet “American Psychological Association-Division 47 (Proficiency in Sport Psychology) educational and training standards.” Also, the sport psychologist must attain certification through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). In some states—for instance, in Minnesota—sport psychologists are required to obtain certification through the psychology board. Thus, not everyone with an understanding of the psychosocial aspects of sport and exercise is a sport psychologist (Cherry, 2022).
How Sport Psychology Professionals Help Athletes
Sport psychology professionals help athletes in cognition and attribution, and motivate them. In sports, cognition skills involve the ability of the sportsperson to identify and get relevant information for success in a specific sport. Athletes need to use mental strategies to reach their full potential. The sport psychologist helps them through cognition by offering them knowledge and information that helps them focus on the process rather than the end goal (Sanderson, 2017). In addition, they help athletes with attribution, through which they analyze and understand what athletes attribute their success to, and influence their thinking to ensure they strive to reach their goals (Sanderson, 2017). In sports, attributions define what the players attribute their success or loss to. Sport psychologists also help motivate the athlete to continue working hard and support them when they need help. Motivation is foundational to one’s drive to continue taking part in the sport (Sanderson, 2017). The psychologist offers techniques to help athletes stay motivated and handle daily matters like stress management and meditation techniques.
Cognition, attribution, and motivation may be problematic for an athlete, consciously or unconsciously. When a player lacks the necessary knowledge about a race, for instance, they may be pessimistic. Several instances of defeat may discourage an athlete. The sport psychologist helps them to stay motivated, gives them stress management techniques, and helps them get over the defeat and continue training for future matches.
Cherry, K. (2022). An overview of sports psychology. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-sports-psychology-2794906
Sanderson, C. A. (2017). Sport psychology. Oxford University Press.
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