by John F. Murray, Ph.D.

Sport psychology was defined by Singer in 1978 as "the science of psychology applied to sport." Sport psychologists provide two major types of services:

(1) performance enhancement strategies,

(2) counseling for a variety of issues affecting the athlete. Although not all athletes have access to a qualified sport psychologist, much can be learned from the available research.

Psychology as a scientific discipline began in 1879, making it one of the youngest of all sciences. Sport psychology is younger still, with only 30 years of extensive research. In fact, it wasn't until 1985 that the Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology was recognized as a subspecialty of the American Psychological Association. Although still in its infancy, this field already has much to offer. Many research findings have still not been communicated to the player and coach in an easily available format. Much knowledge is just waiting to be tapped! It is my opinion that the complete athlete and coach of the 21st century will require all the benefits sport psychology has to offer to stay on top.

In this introductory article, I have briefly outlined several areas involved and services provided by the sport psychologist. Let's look at a few domains where sport psychology plays an active role:

  • Professional athletes and coaches
  • National team programs
  • Sport organizations
  • Youth development programs
  • Student athletes and coaches
  • Families of athletes
  • Players coping with injuries
  • Recreational programs

Here are some typical services provided by the sport psychologist:

  • Imagery training
  • Arousal management/attentional focus
  • Substance abuse management
  • Eating disorders/weight management
  • Relaxation training
  • Motivational strategies
  • Competitive pressure management
  • Programs to cope with retirement from sport

In closing, sport psychology has much to offer athletes and coaches at all levels. If you are looking for a competitive edge, or trying to help your players achieve at their maximum level, turn to the science of sport psychology!


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