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Benefits Of Sports Psychology On Athletes

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Introduction

In today’s age, sporting events are taking place everywhere whether it be for professional athletes competing for the Olympics, or recreational athletes participating in community events. Sports act as a crucial part of one’s life as it contributes to the development and physical fitness of the body (Why Sports is Important in a Student’s life, 2017). In order to be successful in sports activities, not only are the physical advantages and traits required, but as well as an athlete’s positive mental processes. These positive mental processes can be maintained through the approach of psychology, which is what ideally allows for the individual to execute the sport effectively. Psychology focuses on the mental process of one’s mind and behaviours. Sports psychologists teach mental skills to athletes in order to enhance performance and motivation (Cherry, 2019). Sports psychology uses psychological knowledge and skills that aids in breaking an athlete’s mental barriers that prevent them from performing up to their best potential, and also seeks to achieve these performance improvement goals. Sports psychology is about teaching athletes transferable skills that are used in sport and helps athletes learn how to become the best possible athlete from a psychological point of view (Morris, 2019). Knowing more about these skills is believed to improve the overall mental processes of an athlete and therefore, improves and amplifies their performance. Sport psychology provides numerous benefits and mental strategies on athletes such as: developing coping skills to deal with major setbacks and pressures of competition; to improve focus and deal with distractions; and growing motivation and confidence in athletes with doubts. These strategies of sports psychology play a vital role in an athlete’s success in the activity in order to intensify optimal performance and the overall wellbeing of an athlete.

Developing Coping Skills

Firstly, one of the benefits for an athlete that arise through psychological concepts is the developed coping skills that are used to deal with the setbacks and pressures of competitions. Regardless of the level of intensity and competition in a sport, “setbacks are inevitable and can promote stress, requiring effective coping skills” (Mosewhich, 2012). Athletes with multiple strict and exceedingly high expectations tend to have difficulties when dealing with minor errors that are a natural part of sports, such as getting nervous before a big tournament. Confronting these inconsequential complications is important considering it assists in helping athletes “stay composed under pressure when they commit errors or become frustrated” (Wood, 2010). Most athletes participating in any kind of sporting event has experienced choking under pressure. Even some of the most professional and talented athletes have experienced choking at one point or another throughout their career (Marchant, Morris, Wang, 2004). For example, famous tennis player Pete Sampras who is the record player for most singles Grand Slams Championships confessed “ We all choke… No matter who you are, you just feel pressure in the heat of the moment” (Sampras, 2000, p. 68). Though the inability to perform up to previously exhibited standards, a number of studies have shown and developed explanations as to why people deal with these kinds of setbacks and provide justification in regards to how to deal it (Marchant, Morris, Wang, 2004). Studies have shown that coping strategies affect choking susceptibility, and how these strategies prevent choking from happening in the first place. Some of these physiological coping strategies that essentially ease the cognitive functions of the mind include self-talk, imagery, and muscular relaxation (Shaw, 2005). Such setbacks that prevent an athlete from performing at their greatest capability, include sporting competitions. Self-talk is one of the most popular techniques that is used to motivate an athlete. Self-talk is a healthy way that reduces stressful situations before a game by using positive messages and mindsets to improve performance. Imagery acts as a configuration of cognitive reconstructing, that re-interprets previous negative experiences and use them to learn how to be better rather than using them to bring you down. By using these negative experiences in past sporting competitions to grow and learn from, confidence, motivation, and lower states of anxiety levels are decreased before and during a game are improved (Shaw, 2005). Therefore, this coping strategy strengthens the athlete’s performance. Another coping strategy sports psychologists use to eliminate hardships faced in sports is muscle relaxation. “Progressive muscle relaxation techniques are used to help lower cognitive and state anxiety levels in athletes” (Navaneethan, 2010). This training method can decrease competition anxiety; therefore increasing athletic performance (Shaw, 2005). To conclude, these coping techniques along with many others are used by sports psychologists to eliminate setbacks and pressures of competitions and to benefit the athlete in performance. Improving Focus

In addition to the developed coping skills that are used to deal with the setbacks and pressures of competitions, sports psychology also benefits an athlete through promoting and improving focus. “Throughout the history of psychology, there has been a significant review, discussion, and analysis of the topic of attention in focus” (Howland, 2007). Having the ability to pay attention and to stay focused allows for increased performance abilities, but being able to stay focused is often a hardship athletes tend to struggle with. Countless athletes have the ability to focus, although their focus is often displaced in the wrong areas such as “when a batter thinks ‘I need to get a hit’ while in the batter’s box, which is a result-orientated focus” (Wood, 2010). When athletes focus on outcomes prior to the competition or other distractions, it can pull their attention away from what is really important and leads to poor achievement in sports. To avoid this, effective mental focus in sports can be learned and applied through concepts of sports psychology. By learning to focus on the right things at the right time, the athlete is able to regain a better mindset and motivation. By focusing on the present times in the activity rather than all the possible outcomes and what outcomes the athlete wants to accomplish, it “leaves less room for doubts and distractions to creep into one’s mind” (Kia, 2019).

It is crucial for athletes to stay focused on the present moment in the sport and let go of all possible results to be successful in the activity. Athletes who have a difficult time focusing are easily distracted by negative thoughts, mistakes, and other factors such as the audience and coaches yelling during competition. Focus is one of the most significant aspects of sports psychology and the ability to focus in any sporting event is essential. Being able to focus during sports enables an athlete to move past mistakes and gets their head back the game, lessens anxiety, creates a positive mindset about competing, and blocks out mental and physical noise (Cohn, 2019). One of the main techniques that are used in order to better an athlete’s focus, is practice. Focus is something one can develop through training, therefore an athlete needs to practice focusing on a daily basis (Gill, 2019) such as before and during training. To prevent one’s mind from wandering and overthinking about ideas that decrease performance, it is crucial that an athlete focuses only on their own performance, and the vital cues necessary to perform effectively (Gill, 2019). Thinking about influences such as the opponents and the weather causes one’s mind to wander and thus, leads to a loss in focus.

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“When one’s minds start to drift into thoughts such as ‘This game is going to be hard’” (Cohn, 2019), it is important to refocus on what is going on in the moment, and about concepts only beyond the athlete’s control. These unhealthy beliefs and attitudes that may cause an athlete to not perform well and loss of focus should be replaced with a new, more positive way of thinking. Another way in which focus can be attained in an athlete is through goal setting and focusing on achieving these goals to their potential throughout the competition. When goal-setting, an athlete’s goals should be specific, measurable, and realistic (Taylor, 2017). The concept of goal setting and working towards these goals allows for an athlete’s focus to be entirely on themselves at that moment, and what they have to do in order to accomplish this goal. Therefore, improving their overall performance. All in all, the importance and tactics of improving focus is one of the contributing factors of the benefits of sports psychology on athletes.

Growing Motivation and Confidence

Along with promoting and improving focus, the beneficial artifacts of sports psychology on athletes is derived through the overall confidence and motivation of the individual. Confidence is a core mental game skill and is required in any kind of sporting activity in order to reach achievement (Wood, 2010). Self-doubt prior to or during performance sabotages overall performance, but self-doubt can be avoided through various coping strategies supported by sports psychology. “Motivation is an internal energy force that determines all aspects of our behaviour; it impacts how we think, feel and interact with others. In sport, high motivation is widely accepted as an essential prerequisite in getting athletes to fulfil their potential” (Hamilton, 2019). Reviewing and elaborating on one’s level of motivation and confidence determines their success within the sport and helps to maintain that the athlete is motivated for the right reasons. (Wood, 2010) For example, one may choose to participate in a sport just because their parents want them to, causing the performance of the athlete to overall not be as exceptional rather than participating in a sport that motivates them. Once an athlete chooses motivators and is participating in a certain sport for the right reasons, self-confidence comes into play in order to preserve high-achievements in performance.

“Self-confidence is considered one of the most influential motivators and regulators” when it comes to performance (Self-confidence and Performance, 1994). A variety of different physiological strageties and techniques are used on athletes to intensifies the motivation and self-confidence that may be the reasoning for poor performance. One strategy used on the mind to enhance motivation is through motivational music. A favourable way to motivate athletes during training prior to competition is through what the athlete perceives to be inspirational music. Motivationally, music mentally helps to prepare the individual for competition and also increases “work output, reduces perceived exertion and improves the pleasure experienced during the sport” (Hamilion, 2019). Another technique used to aid in increasing the motivation and self-confidence of an athlete is through extrinsic rewards. Extractive awards reinforce an athlete’s sense of completeness and self-worth (Hamilion, 2019). Providing an athlete with a small reward in front of all possible recipients allows for the individual to believe that their hard work is paying off and gives them more motivation and self-confidence that they are performing well.

These rewards also cause the athlete to want to do better, thus increasing motivation, in order to continue to be noticed. Another motivation and self-confidence technique used on athletes is positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is by far one of the most important strageties to motivate an individual as it can be used to increase “motivation across a wide variety of achievement domains in sports” (Hamilion, 2019). Positive self-talk reinforces one’s self-esteem and confidence which ultimately alters the aspects of performance. Positive self-talk not only strengthens the performance in the sport of the athlete, but also strengthens their overall mental well-being and contributes to a healthier mindset. To conclude, the overall motivation and self-confidence and the strageties used to sustain these positive mindsets are used by sports psychologists to better the execution of athletes in sports.

Conclusion

In conclusion, each and every athlete has the capability of over exceeding their expectations in performance through the many beneficial components of sports psychology. There are a variety of psychological factors that have the potential to drastically improve an athlete to perform optimally, and to their best ability. Strategies such as: developing coping skills to deal with major setbacks and pressures of competition; to improve focus and deal with distractions; and growing motivation and confidence in athletes with doubts allow an athlete to overcome mental processes and helps to minimize major setbacks that may cause poor performance during sports. Sports psychologists recognize the impacts of an unhealthy mindset on an athlete’s performance and work and prepare the mind to overcome these hardships substantially during activity, and in the long run.

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Benefits Of Sports Psychology On Athletes. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/benefits-of-sports-psychology-on-athletes/
“Benefits Of Sports Psychology On Athletes.” Edubirdie, 24 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/benefits-of-sports-psychology-on-athletes/
Benefits Of Sports Psychology On Athletes. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/benefits-of-sports-psychology-on-athletes/> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2022].
Benefits Of Sports Psychology On Athletes [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 24 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/benefits-of-sports-psychology-on-athletes/
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