What Is Sports Psychology? What Does A Sports Psychologist Do?

Sports psychology is quite an unheard-of thing until a couple of decades ago. That’s not anymore.

Today, sports psychologists play an important role in setting the right mindset in an athlete. A psychologist focuses on strengthening the player to overcome obstacles and boosting confidence for optimal performance.

Psychology helps to harness the untapped energy source in the individual towards achieving superior results in sports.

Undoubtedly, success or failure in the sports arena often depends on mental factors as much as physical ones.

What is Sports Psychology?

Sports psychology is all about applying psychological principles and skills in influencing the best performance and mental well-being of athletes.

In addition, psychology in sports tries to solve issues associated with sports management and the organization of events.

Psychology also plays a very important role in the social and developmental aspects of an athlete.

In short, sports psychology is the study of how psychology influences sports, exercise, physical activity, and optimal athletic performance.

Sports psychology helps not only athletes but also motivates coaches, parents, and administrators. It helps to resolve issues involving levels of competition, setting, ages, professional organization of sports events, and violence in sports.

Development and Progress of Psychology in Sports

The world’s first sports psychology laboratory was found by Carl Diem at the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Berlin, Germany, in 1920.

Besides these two more sports psychology institutes were set up in 1925. One of them was by Coleman Griffith at the University of Illinois and the other by A.Z. Puni at the Institute of Physical Culture in Leningrad.

Then over the years, several sports psychology institutions were set up in different parts of the world.  Unfortunately, these institutions in the early years lacked enough research and knowledge to serve athletes.

Sports psychology gained suitable recognition when Ferruccio Antonelli established the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) in 1965. By the year 1980, most of the leading universities in the USA and Europe had dedicated departments or courses in sports psychology.

Current State of Sports Psychology

Currently, sports psychology is a well-established branch of psychology with numerous research and recognitions to its credit. It is a very vast and diverse field of psychology.

At present, every athletes and team competing in the international sports arena have a sports psychologist to train them.

A sports psychologist is a mentor and motivator who help to bring the best out of every athlete.  Importantly, sports psychology is also beneficial for improving the mental and physical activity of everyone in any walk of life.

Core Areas Psychological Interventions for Sports Persons

A sports psychologist tries to improve the performance of the athlete by focusing on specific areas and the technique of mental development. Some of the key areas of concern are:


Psychologists apply methods that help to improve the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of the athlete. Intrinsic motivation inculcates in the athlete’s strong passion, desire, and determination to win the competition. Extrinsic motivation includes the trophy, recognition, fame, and money an athlete can achieve.

Focus and attention

A psychologist helps to nurture the ability to concentrate on the sporting event instead of being distracted by other events.  For example, cheering or hooting crowds or distracting tactics of the opponents can distract the athlete.


It involves visualizing the actual event and performing the sporting skills and ability to the at most capacity.

Enhancement of Physiological Capacities

Sports psychology helps to enhance physiological capacities such as strength, speed, and flexibility, etc. through motivational training and goal setting.

Understanding and correcting the behavior

It helps in identifying and correcting the behavior of athletes or sportspersons engaged in competitive sports. Coaches can learn about the athlete’s drives, personality, instincts, attitude towards physical activity, and interest.

Psychological preparation of athletes for competitions

Psychological tips and motivations to players before and after the competition can help to improve the performance.

Sports psychology also plays a role in the preparation of athletes. Sports psychologists create the ‘will to win’ attitude in the players.

Controlling the emotions

Emotional balance is a must for achieving success in sports. Psychology can help to bring about healthy emotional balance in sportspersons during practice as well as a competition. Psychological counseling helps the individual to overcome emotional issues such as disgust, anger, the feeling of ownership, negative self-thinking, etc.

Chief Benefits of Psychology for Sportspersons

Sportspersons have to be physically and mentally fit to win a competition. Psychology can help you as an athlete in many ways such as:

  • Creates self-awareness of your strengths and weakness
  • Helps you get rapport and support of your parents or caretakers
  • Improves your relationship with the coach and sports administrators
  • Aids you in choosing the right sports career path and vision for success
  • Prepares you to be mentally and emotionally fit for the sporting event
  • Brings in concentration and dedication in training and competition
  • Helps you overcome setbacks and initial failures
  • Strengthens your motivation and sports drive
  • Makes you handle well to stress and pressure
  • Helps you manage the paradox of success and forms sportsmanship
  • Develops self-confidence, self-esteem, and competence in sports

Sports Psychologists

American Psychological Association (APA) recognized sports psychology citification is necessary for becoming a sports psychologist in the United States.

A licensed psychologist with a doctorate in sports psychology is a good qualification in this field.

The proficiency of sports psychologists lies in their ability to motivate and help the athlete to cope with the intense pressure of the competition.

Besides, they help the athlete recover from injuries and mental exhaustion.

They help the sportspersons to learn how to tolerate rigorous exercise programs and enjoy sports.

Psychology Careers in Sports and Games

The job of a sports psychologist is a very rewarding career. It is also a very good profession for especially those with great interest in sports and coaching. Psychologists who work with national and international teams or elite sports persons earn mass reputation and fat salaries.

The American Psychological Association describes sports psychology as a “hot career.”

The standard salary of those working in university athletic departments is around $60,000 to $80,000 per year.

The Bottom Line

Today sports psychologists are an integral part of advanced training for sports and games. They help the athletes to develop the right mindset and focus on overcoming obstacles in winning a competition.

Psychologist motivates guides and builds ‘I can, I will” attitude in the athlete.

Sports psychology can help to balance emotions and make the athlete improve performance. It prepares the athletes mentally to win the competition.

More Related Stories 

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How Much Do Psychologists Make?

Article Source:

Article Source:

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