The mind is as important to an athlete as the body. To that end, sports psychology helps many athletes to excel and develop a competitive edge. Performance can be improved by managing one’s emotions and reducing the negative effects that can occur from a poor performance or an injury. Sports psychologists employ a number of tools to help athletes, such as positive visualization, relaxation and goal setting.
When a sports psychologists takes on a client, he will often conduct some tests to determine what the client’s learning style is. Some people are visual learners, for example, and others are auditory learners. Assessing the learning style helps the sports psychologists develop an effective plan to improve the client’s performance. An auditory learner will be best served by imagining the cheers they would hear if they won a match or a game.
The history of sports psychology dates back to the late 19th century, but became more prevalent during the 1970s. Sports psychology can be helpful for amateur and professional athletes of various ages. Young children who are being honed for competitive sport can learn techniques at an early age that will help them throughout their athletic careers. Sports psychology is also frequently used by athletes who have suffered injuries; the techniques employed in sports psychology help an injured athlete maintain the motivation needed to complete rehabilitation and return to the competitive arena.
In sports psychology, athletes learn about the importance of cohesion, or social bonds — this is applicable to team sports such as baseball or football. An athlete who is working with a sports psychologist develops the ability to block out crowd noise that can impede performance. Another important mental skill that athletes need is self-talk, whereby the athlete maintains an ongoing conversation to keep themselves motivated throughout a sporting event.