Sport Psychology Essay

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Sport psychology as an academic discipline examines values, attitudes, interests, and behaviors effect and have been affected by participating in or observing sport. Sport psychology as a profession focuses on appropriate models of educational training, accreditation of training programs, credentialing issues (e. g. , certification versus licensure), and ethical concerns.

Success in advancing sport psychology as an academic discipline and profession is clearly dependent on the adequacy, richness. nd diversity of the assessment approaches that have underscored the field. Within sport and exercise psychology settings, psychological assessment has played an important role in at least four domains: health and exercise (e. g. , mood changes as a function of exercise participation); clinical (e. g. , evaluation of eating disorders); performance enhancement (e. g. , evaluation of an imagery training program); and special purposes (e. g. , talent identification) (Heil & Henschen, 1996).

Goals of the sport Sport psychology started to grow and come into prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. The original research focused on the relationship between personality and per mance, attempting to determine whether highly able athletes have different personality styles from less successful athletes or nonathletes. Investigating whether certain personality types are more likely to be successful in different sports or positions within sports was another area of interest.

This was followed by a focus on testing mainstream psychology theories (e. . , attribution theory, achievement motivation theory, social facilitation theory) in laboratory settings using motor performance as the major outcome variable. These early studies yielded some interesting findings that helped lay the foundation for our body of knowledge in sport psychology. However, in the 1980s a number of sport psychologists felt that these highly controlled, mostly laboratory studies compromised the generalizability of these finding:; to the extent that applications to the real competitive sport environment were limited.

At the same time, there was an increased interest from coaches and athletes regarding the mental side of sport performance, with many individuals feeling that this aspect was being neglected and needed to be developed. As the field started to progress in the 1980s and 1990s the focus became more applied, investigating how various psychological techniques such as anxiety management. goal-setting, imagery, self-talk, and concentration training might enhance athletic performance.

Many practitioners started to become interested in using some of these psychological skills (i. .. mental skills) to enhance their own performances or the performances of their athletes. However, a debate started to emerge among sport psychologists regarding the research basis for the effectiveness of these interventions. Specifically, although sport psychologists had become more interested in applied issues and the development of mental training pr 3grams to enhance performance, skepticism remained as to whether the accumulated scientific evidence warranted the use of psychological interventions with athletes.

For example, Dishman said that “it is not clear to what extent contemporary sport psychology possesses ii clearly defined and reliable technology for interventions in applied settings” (1983, p. 127). However, Gould (1988) argues that it is rare (if not impossible) for a profession have a complete scientific database to guide application, so sport psychologists should be guided by a careful integration of existing empirical data and professional practice experience.

In either case, it would be instructive to determine exactly what is the existing scientific knowledge concerning the effectiveness of psychological interventions in competitive sports. Motivation is generally defined as the study of goal directed behavior that involves examining personal and situational factors that influence the direction, intensity and duration of behavior. The study of sport-related motivation has taken different forms. An early emphasis on attempting to identify a personality profile that consistently discriminates athletes from nonathletes or successful athletes from unsuccessful athletes met with little success.

More recent sport motivation research has emphasized the study of individual differences as one aspect of a dynamic system. Interest in youth sport motivation has developed in response to the worldwide spread of organized youth sport programs and the posited physical, psychological, and social benefits of those programs. Descriptive research has identified a number of reasons for participating in and conversely for ceasing to participate in youth sport programs.

Reasons for participating include: social (being with friends, making new friends), sensory (enjoying activity), health (developing fitness), status (recognition of peers and others), and achievement (improving skills, performing better than others). Reasons for dropping out include: time pressures, choosing to spend time on other activities, loss of interest in or enjoyment of the particular activity, lack of skill or personal success in the activity, dislike of the leadership, or some other aspects of the experience.

In attempting to extend understanding of sport motivation beyond a simple descriptive level, researchers have employed a number of different social-cognitive theoretical perspectives. Attribution theory has been applied in an attempt to understand athletes’ thought processes, more specifically their causal attributions for sport outcomes as a means of understanding their feelings about sport (e. g. , satisfaction) and their future behavior.

Much of this research has been limited in scope, essentially applying American psychologist Bernard Weiner’s dimensional analysis of achievement attributions to sport contexts. The sport research has generally replicated results from other achievement contexts. Self-serving biases are evident, in that although athletes tend to attribute both success and failure to internal factors, typically more internal, stable, and controllable attributions are given for success than for failure (e. g. , “I won the game because of my athletic ability and effort,” but “I lost because I wasn’t feeling well or had bad luck. ). Much of this research has been limited to an objective definition of success as winning a sport competition and failure as losing: however, evidence indicates that individuals define personal success and failure more subjectively, in terms of how satisfied they are with their performance rather than objectively, in terms of game outcome. In sport, as in other achievement contexts, the particular attributions made have important consequences for feelings and for expectations concerning future performance behavior.

Athletes take greater pride in a successful performance if they attribute it to internal and controllable factors (e. g. , effort, superior teamwork) than to external and uncontrollable factors (e. g. , weak opposition, superior equipment). Stable and controllable attributions (e. g. , ability, effort) are related to expectations for success in future situations. Attributions of success to personal ability fosters perceptions of competency, mastery, or self-efficacy, which are central elements of a number of different motivational theories that are prominently represented in the sport psychology literature (e. . , Harter’s competence motivation theory.

Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory, Bandura’s self-efficacy theory. and Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory). While each of these theoretical positions provides a different emphasis, they are similar in emphasizing the importance of thoughts concerning one’s ability to meet the challenge of different tasks for motivation and performance (see, e. g.. Roberts, 1992). Sport psychologists have long been interested in the relationship between arousal and performance.

Although numerous recent theories and approaches such as the zone of optimal functioning hypothesis, multidimensional anxiety theory, catastrophe theory, and reversal theory provide different explanations for the relationship between arousal and performance, there is general agreement that performers must find the appropriate mixture of arousal-related states that lead to best performance. Moreover, if athletes are not in this ideal state, then strategies must be employed to regulate arousal (i. e. , arousal needs to be either increased or decreased).

The focus of attention in the sport psychology literature has been on identifying techniques (e. g.. biofeedback, mental/physical relaxation, cognitive-behavioral interventions, mental preparation routines) to reduce arousal with the goal of enhancing performance. Biofeedback, which involves the use of instrumentation that provides individuals with information regarding their physiological states, has been found to improve either arousal control or performance in 83% of the 42 studies reviewed by Zaichkowsky and Fuchs (1988).

Relaxation-based interventions such as the relaxation response, progressive relaxation, and autogenic training have been the most commonly employed techniques to teach athletes how to relax when encountering a stressful situation. More research is necessary to establish causal links between relaxation procedures and enhanced performance. In contrast to relaxation-based interventions that focus primarily on lowering physiological arousal, cognitive- behavioral interventions emphasize cognitive restructuring techniques combined with physical relaxation and imagery in an effort to assist an athlete in lowering arousal and enhancing performance.

Special attention is placed on replacing negative self-statements and images with positive affirmations and images of desirable performance. The three most popular programs used in the sport domain include stress inoculation training (SIT), stress management training (SMT), and visual motor behavior rehearsal (VMBR). The interventions just discussed have focused on the use of various psychological skills to enhance individual performance. However, most sport performance involves groups of individuals working together as a cohesive unit.

In essence, the individual ability of team embers may not be as important as their ability to work together toward common goals while understanding their individual roles within the team concept. This point is highlighted by the following quote from Michael Jordan, the basketball player formerly of the Chicago Bulls: Naturally there are going to be some ups and downs, particularly if you have individuals trying to achieve at a high level. But when we stepped in between the lines, we knew what we were capable of doing. When a pressure situation presented itself, we were plugged into one another as a cohesive unit.

That’s why we were able to beat more talented teams. (1994. p. 23) While leadership is important to sport performance and satisfaction, so too are group dynamics and the group behavior of participants. The most prominent small group research in sport has dealt with group cohesion. Bert Carron, together with colleagues at the universities of Waterloo and Western Ontario, has conducted a program of research over the past two decades that has contributed substantially to theory and instrumentation concerning group cohesion.

Cohesion is viewed as the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in pursuing its goals. Carron views overall cohesion, comprised of task and social cohesion components, as part of a dynamic process with a number of antecedents and two major sets of consequences: group and individual outcomes. Antecedent factors include environmental, personal, team, and leadership factors. The two outcome components include both performance and satisfaction aspects

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