Sports Psychology

Sports PsychologySports psychology is both a sports medicine discipline and an applied science.  As a sports medicine discipline, it is part of a comprehensive health care and injury prevention program for the athlete.  The psychological health of the athlete is as important as his or her physical health in both preventing, and recovering from, injury.  As a science, the objective of sports psychology is:

  • To identify the psychological factors that affect and enhance sports performance. 
  • Once identified, these factors are used by coaches and scouts to evaluate and select athletes. 

These psychological factors are used by the sports medicine team to prevent injury onset and to rehabilitate injured athletes.  Sports psychology has recognized value for both performance improvement and sports injury rehabilitation.

Sports Psychology And Selection

Sports PsychologySports psychology is a key factor in the selection of athletes for sports participation at the collegiate and professional level.  The physical skills and performance of an athlete have never been easier to collect.  In addition to in-person observation at sporting events, player performance can be reviewed and evaluated on TV, video, and the Internet.  Sport-specific strength and speed measurables, such as bench press or 40 yard dash, are also easy to obtain.  Not so easy to capture, and just as important, are the psychological factors that predict athlete performance.  It is these factors that separate super stars from the rest of the field at the highest level of sports participation.   Coaches, scouts, athletic directors, and general managers want to know the player’s:

  • Self-confidence
  • Self Awareness – Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Sport Intelligence – Ability to learn
  • Decision Making Speed
  • Decision Making Quality
  • Ability To Handle Pressure
  • Mental Toughness
  • Coachability
  • Teamwork Investment
  • Work Ethic
  • Self-Discipline
  • Ability To Focus
  • Competitiveness

 Athletes are evaluated and graded on these mental factors.  These grades, along with:

  • The athlete’s measurables, (height, weight, speed, age)
  • On field performance history

result in a player composite score that ranks him or her among the competition.  Sports psychology is a critical factor in the selection process for athletes at the collegiate and professional level. 

Sports Psychology and Performance Improvement

Sports psychology is about recognizing the factors that lead to on-field success and strenghtening them.  A basic foundation of sports performance improvement is strength and conditioning.  The principles of strength and conditioning apply to both the mental and physical development of an athlete.  A muscle, if properly exercised and conditioned, will strengthen…meaning it will increase its capacity to work.  This is as true for behaviors and beliefs as it is for bone and tissue.  Psychology is about understanding and modifying behaviors and mental processes.  People can and do change.  Sports psychology is about understanding change agents and effecting change in a positive direction for the athlete.  The short term benefits of this change are to improve sports performance.  The long term goal is to effect postive changes in behaviors and beliefs that last a lifetime.     

  • Self confidence can be increased
  • Sport intelligence can be learned
  • Mental toughness can be hardened
  • Focus can be sharpened
  • Self-discipline can be habitualized
  • Appreciation for the value of teamwork can be realized

Greatness in sport is realized by those who believe (are mentally prepared) and achieve (are physically prepared).  At the collegiate and professional level, everyone is talented physically.  Those that achieve greatness have a mental edge, a different mindset, that makes the difference.

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Sports psychology focuses on strengthening the beliefs, behaviors, and mental processes of the athlete to improve on-field performance.  

Sports Psychology and Injury Rehabilitation

Sports pyschology is  part of the holistic approach to player health and wellness.  As part of the sports medicine regimen, the goal of sports psychology is injury prevention.  The reality of sports at a collegiate and professional level is that injuries do occur.  Sports psychology then becomes part of the treatnment and rehabilitation program.  As critical as the care the injured athlete receives from doctors, surgeons, and athletic trainers is the mental health the player brings to his or her recovery.  The medical health team, coaches, and sports psychologist work with the athlete to assess the following:

  • Does the athlete want to recover
  • Does the athlete want to return to competition
  • If so, does the athlete see returning to competition as an achievable goal
  • Does the athlete see the value of recovery beyond their sports career
  •  Does the athlete see the recovery program as realistic
  • Does the athlete have the work ethic, focus and self-discipline to accomplish the recovery program
  • Does the athlete have a support system in place to provide encouragement for recovery

Based on the results of this assessment, a comprehensive recovery program that addresses the physical and mental wellness and recovery of the player is put in place.  Sports psychology brings motivation, participation, and performance to the injury rehabilitation process.  Here’s a good video about the power of sports psychology and training your brain for success in sports. 

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Sports psychology plays a vital role in the athlete selection process, on field performance, and injury rehabilitation.