What is sports psychology?

William Woods Undergraduate

All sport management undergraduate students at William Woods take a course in Sports Psychology. But what is it? And how does it help someone interested in a career in sport management?

Competition can both emotionally and mentally affect athletes of every level —professional or not. Many athletes say that the “mind game” is just as important as the physical game. Because mental factors like concentration, pressure management, and strategy are all important to athletic success.

The job of a sports psychologist is to help conquer these mental barriers.

According to the American Psychological Association’s Society for Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, sport psychologists are interested in two main areas:

  1. Helping athletes use psychological principles to achieve optimal mental health and to improve performance,” or applied sports psychology, and
  2. Understanding how participation in sport, exercise and physical activity affects an individual’s psychological development, health and well-being throughout the lifespan,” or research.

Both are beneficial to the athletics industry and moving sports and human performance to its peak. Sport management professionals, no matter their job title or responsibilities, rely on the wellbeing of the athletes they work with to achieve the greatest levels of success. Even a basic understanding of how psychology factors into every sport business will be a useful tool in every sports management career.

Sports management professionals are also working to ‘stop the stigma’ of mental illness in athletics, and address the crucial role that mental health plays in not only athletic performance, but also an athlete’s wellbeing.

Moreover, those working directly with athletes and coaches may be able to gain awareness of the signs of mental distress early enough to know an athlete’s needs.

Lisa M. Miller, Ph.D., writes that sports leaders must understand the importance of checking the mental health of players who may suffer under stress and competition.

“Athletes around the globe feel greater pressure to perform with high competition and increased media coverage. Their mental reaction to stress could be monitored by teams not only to avoid tragic losses in talent but also to increase performance through ways of coping to flourish,” Miller writes.

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