The British Psychological Society (2015) describes sport psychology in the following way:
“Sport psychology considers all aspects of the psychological phenomena associated with sport. These include the learning and performance of motor skills which facilitate sports performance and the optimisation of performance, whether this is at an elite, youth or recreational level. It considers variables affecting sport behaviour, whether this be of participants, officials, supporters or other relevant individuals. It also considers the influence of sport on behaviour”
Sport psychology is also considered to be both an ‘art’ and ‘science’, that refers to the study of the mind (including thoughts and feelings) and behaviour in sports and/or performance settings.
Many athletes spend a vast amount of time practicing and refining technical and physical skills, but often neglect fine-tuning their psychological skills. This might be because the athlete lacks knowledge of the appropriate strategies needed to enhance psychological skills and subsequent sports performance; a sport psychologist can help by educating the athlete about those appropriate strategies.
WHAT DOES A SPORT PSYCHOLOGIST DO?
Sport psychologists can help educate athletes, coaches and parents about key psychological skills (e.g., confidence, concentration/focus, motivation, self-awareness, emotional control) that affect performance. The sport psychologist provides strategies (e.g., mental imagery, self-talk, thought awareness and control) that can enable performers (If s/he is motivated to practice them!) to enhance their psychological skills. Through enhancing psychological skills like confidence and concentration, subsequent performance improvements will occur. Through psychological support and advice, the sport psychologist can also play a crucial role in developing life skills, personal growth and well-being.