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Sports Psychology: How To Overcome And Achieve

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We think of athletes as individuals with extraordinary abilities. We look to them when we want to see a story of people who set impossible goals and achieve them.

Many movies like Battle of the Sexes, I, Tonya, Coach Carter, Invictus, and so on are all made on this theme.

It is about the spirit of a sportsperson. The road that starts with adversity and ends in victory. Well, most of the time anyway. And more often than not, there is a moment in all these movies where we see the protagonist’s ability to push through pain and bag a win. That’s the crux of sports psychology.

 

What’s It All About?

This field is sort of what you might intuitively think it is supposed to be. It is a specialized field of knowledge about the psychological aspects that influence sportspersons’ performance, physical abilities, and exercise regimen.

Those who study and practice it try to understand and execute various techniques that will improve the well-being of individuals who play sports. So, it’s a huge part of the lives of athletes to improve their physical and mental stamina.

But this isn’t just about being an elite sportsperson’s doctor. It’s for those who want to stay healthy on a daily basis using exercise or sports. The methods they use are supposed to help improve your health while ensuring you enjoy the activities you undertake to get there.

 

Men's soccer team huddle for a team talk

 

In short, it is also for members of the general public who want to get professional advice so that they can choose and practice the right training regimen for their bodies. Here’s what knowledge in this area covers.

  • Understanding the developmental, cultural, historical, and social implications of the roots of sports psychology.
  • Expertise in techniques that will help train and enhance an individual’s skill set based on an assessment of their current form and future goals.
  • Counseling athletes to ensure their biological behavior and organizational and social issues that connect to their participation in sports.
  • Deep understanding of behavioral aspects like sports medicine, motor learning, and exercise physiology.

Specialized knowledge about the technical requirements of a sporting event and the science involved in training for it. This includes knowing the guidelines and restrictions outlined by organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

 

The Origin Story

This is a relatively new field, with its first research lab coming into existence only in 1925. They shut it down just a few years later, and interest in this particular field in the US didn’t resume till the second half of the 1960s.

The International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) was established in 1965. About five years later, educational institutions across North America started introducing sports psychology as a separate subject.

In the next decade, the 1980s, the scientific community started to focus on sports psychology. They started trying to figure out how this branch of psychology could be used to help athletes improve their performance. And they focused on both physical exercise and psychological factors like mood and stress levels.

 

Why Is Sports Psychology Important?

If you’re an athlete, and even if not, you know that a lot of time goes into improving technical skills and being physically fit. But that’s only one part of the story.

We also know the old adage, “mind over body” all too well. And from time to time, we put a lot of emphasis on wanting something and getting it over being too tired to try. Now, here’s the trick. Rest is important, but there are many ways to train your body and mind to be resilient for longer.

We’d all like to know how to become physically and mentally more robust and resilient, right? Well, sports psychology has a lot to do with it. You want to be tough in the conventional sense when there is pressure in extraordinary circumstances.

We all want to be the last man standing. And there are ways to make it happen without burning yourself out. You have to be smart about it. These are all things a sports psychologist can help you with.

 

3 Things Sports Psychology Can Help You Achieve

Now, in the contemporary world, sports psychology is used in many different fields. And that’s precisely because it has applications beyond the world of sports. Here’s what they are.

Being Mentally Tough

This is increasingly becoming something everyone reaching out to sports psychology experts is seeking. Mental toughness is something everyone feels the need for. Now, when it comes to athletes, they need it to make sure they can give their best on game day.

But clearly, it’s something we could all use from time to time. The techniques that help you gain this particular trait will improve your belief in yourself. But you will also learn about dealing with a setback and bouncing back when necessary. It’s what we popularly know as the spirit of a sportsperson.

And it’s what we want when we watch a movie. To see the person struck by adversity find their way out like the hero they are.

And in general, it’s an excellent tool to have in your toolbox for success.

It’s about being calm in high-pressure situations, keeping control under extraordinary circumstances, and staying positive when the going gets tough.

Tuning Out Distractions

Focus is one of the most important things when you have a job to finish. If you’re a sportsperson, you need to tune out the crowd and pay attention to what you need to do to win at that moment.

 

Female professional runner tuning out the distractions around her

 

Now, you can’t sit down and meditate anywhere and everywhere, but there are plenty of other techniques. Some of them are mindfulness, focusing on bodily sensations, and deep breathing exercises. All these techniques can help you focus on the moment and forget everything else.

Managing Anxiety

Those who have to deal with high-pressure situations more often will know the ease with which anxiety creeps in. You need to know how to manage it so that it doesn’t and you can win the day.

This is often seen in the context of sportspeople on game day, but it can happen to anyone. Sports psychologists are very well-equipped to teach you how to cope in these situations. Your anxiety doesn’t even have to be at a critical moment in the day.

Sometimes performance anxiety creeps in way before you have to do the task. And it’s incredibly stressful to feel this on a daily basis. It can lead to bad performance in the short term and burnout in the long run.

It is important to manage it to stay calm and perform as required.

And sports psychologists use techniques that help rewire negative thoughts, improve self-esteem and hence confidence, and relax in critical moments. Sometimes you are also taught how to distract your mind from the anxiety.

 

3 Commonly-Used Techniques

When you look at specific techniques that these professionals use to help you optimize your performance, these are the top three popular choices.

Hypnosis

This is a technique that is often used in programs that are built to help people quit smoking. But it can also be used to improve the performance of an athlete. That’s because, scientifically speaking, this is about putting an individual in a state of increased suggestibility.

Progressive Relaxation

This revolves around learning different techniques to relax your mind whenever needed. They could be to build your confidence or improve concentration or manage stress. Sometimes, all these techniques come together to help you get the job done.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a technique that is used in many branches of psychology. It is a technique where destructive behaviors and thoughts are identified. Once that happens, it becomes clear how they can be managed, manipulated, or eliminated.

So, it is obvious how this is applicable to sportspersons. In this demographic, they are used to reduce problems like performance anxiety along with improving sporting performance.

It can also be used to manage and improve the emotional health of an individual when they are recovering from injuries, major and minor.

Wrapping Up

 

Sportsperson holding a gold medal up to the sky with the help of sports psychology

 

Athlete or not, it isn’t only about maintaining optimal performance but getting as close as possible to doing the impossible while keeping your health.

And these are all skills, and some techniques can also help you in your everyday life.

No doubt.

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