Sports psychology


Sport is an important part of human activities. Competitiveness, effort, the fame of athletes as a synonym for success and improvement influence society in various fields. Looking for a way to understand and improve the productivity of athletes comes the psychology of sport . Mind and body must be in tune, so it is increasingly common for these psyche professionals to be included in the multidisciplinary group that attends to the needs of players and their teams. Although the application of its fundamentals dates from the 1920s (Europe and the US), its popularity is only recent, especially in Latin America.


What is sports psychology?

Sports psychology is an extension of psychology, a specialization that analyzes the thoughts and behaviors of athletes and their environment . This science is responsible for applying treatments, corrections and systems aimed at developing the potential of an athlete and / or team. After developing programs and mental exercises, it fosters positive attitudes and emotions that translate into competitive effectiveness.



Physical activities that are carried out under specific rules and that are linked to competition are called sport or sports discipline. The story notes that the first practices were in Greece in 700 BC . Since then these actions were associated with the progress of man and society, as well as their benefits in the metal and physical health of the individual. Over the years, sport has become more relevant and is no longer seen only as a form of entertainment. Hence, it has been sought to understand how the psyche works in this area, the pathologies that arise, the solutions and the evolution of the athlete thanks to mental work. The first investigations and links of psychology they arose after the end of World War I.



Before the specialization was created, coaches sought the help of a psychologist to obtain tools that would help them deal with the most “conflictive” players, motivational tips for teamwork, as well as certain strategies for the development of capacities. individual. With the creation of the “Central Institute for Scientific Research in Physical Education” in Europe in 1930, fundamental advances in the sector began. The papers dealt with specific points such as mind control during training.

Father of sports psychology

Since the 1920s a man was taking giant steps towards the establishment of Sports Psychology, as it is known today. It was Coleman Griffith , who today is considered the father of the specialty. The expert founded and directed the Laboratory of Sports Psychology at the University of Illinois, United States , the first of its kind. There he addressed various aspects, including sports education, motor skills and physical work. The philosophy and psychology various subjects were also analyzed. Other important men in the investigation of the area were the Soviets Alexander Rudik and A Peter Puni.

Characteristics of sports psychology

  • It studies the physical capacities of athletes in relation to their emotions and psychological health.
  • Analyze the cognitive system
  • Covers the influence of motivation in sport
  • It addresses conditions that reduce sports performance such as stress, anxiety, self-esteem and perfectionistic behaviors, among other pathologies.
  • Work on emotional control
  • Enhance relaxation
  • Helps detect psychosocial elements that affect sports squads
  • It offers ways for psychological control during exercise, especially when training and competing.
  • Provides psychophysical well-being
  • Allows behavioral analysis of coaches, sports public and athletes


Broadly speaking, Sports Psychology is divided into two types according to their specializations. These are:

  • Therapeutics : Addresses the different therapies or treatments that are applied to athletes to balance their emotions (psyche) and the body (body performance). The individual is treated as a particular patient.
  • Developer : It has a more clientelistic treatment. It covers “mental training.” They condition athletes to evolve comprehensively and achieve personal and group goals.


There are three fundamental objectives of the subdiscipline of psychology:

  • Help the athlete to manage situations that produce stress and control it so that it is not negatively affected inside and during competitions.
  • Achieve effective results after converting your expectations of success into expectations focused on the (technical) actions inherent in your capabilities and development to achieve positive goals.
  • Knowing the inside of the patient to optimize their work and reach their maximum potential in a comprehensive way.

Functions of sport psychology

Although the generalized belief about the functions of the Sports psychologist points to motivational help, there are several tasks that this professional performs. Some are:

  • Assist the entire team that makes up the sports group, that includes athletes, coaches and Physical Education teachers, whom he advises to meet proposed objectives.
  • Produces “psychodeportological ” reports on individuals to point out the mental factors prone to their empowerment.
  • Improve the internal resources that the athlete has and thus optimize their strategic and communicative performance. His intervention will seek the evolution of the individual.
  • Prepare work plans with the techniques to be implemented to exercise mental capacities such as concentration, confidence or behaviors in the face of stress, among others.
  • When the patient shows problems that go beyond the sporting context, they can act according to the psychological tools they have or recommend more specialized help, as the case may be.


The disadvantages of applying Sports Psychology are minimal and those that exist are directly related to the choice of the professional trained in this area. It is essential to hire a trained person with proven studies in the specialization to make the contributions that athletes require. As in the clinical sector, there is confidentiality between the patient and the psychologist. The only way to share personal information is with the prior authorization of the affected party, with a view to carrying out multidisciplinary actions in their athletic performance .

Skills that are trained

Just as it seeks to develop the muscles and body conditions of athletes through physical exercise, psychologists in the specialty perform mental exercises (techniques) so that individuals enhance certain abilities. These are:

  • Self-confidence: Be confident about your abilities and that they will help you achieve.
  • Self-knowledge : Being aware of the emotions that certain external stimuli generate and of the reactions that he produces. This way you can use tools to control yourself.
  • Attention : It is linked to concentration. In Sports, the ability to deal effectively with various situations, factors and information is vital.
  • Communication : An athlete must have the ability to interact satisfactorily with his teammates, supervisors, coaches and the rest of the team around him. To do this, you must know and apply assertive communication methods .
  • Motivation : It is essential to stay enthusiastic, positive and focused through achievable goals and with the final achievement of short, medium and long term objectives in your performance.
  • Concentration : Eliminate external distractions and internalize to maintain focus on the tasks you perform.
  • Visualization : It is a psychological method to program thoughts on a specific point. Engage the senses.
  • Relaxation : It is very important to recover after injuries, when you face problems or have sleep disorders. Mental relaxation leads to bodily relaxation.


On many occasions the sports psychologist is on the court and performs appropriate interventions, at peak moments to reinforce learning, self-esteem and motivation. Cases are common when the specialist’s inputs into time-outs have raised the spirits of a player or team.

The presence of these professionals has served to smooth rough edges within a squad and thus contribute to good performance and group work.

Getting better after an injury can be a long and difficult process for an athlete. Having professional psychological support is useful and encouraging.

Importance of sports psychology

Just as body performance, exercising, practicing, refining techniques and strategies on a sporting discipline is essential to achieve goals, knowing how an athlete functions psychologically has the same magnitude and relevance. The importance of emotional development, optimal mental health and proper behavior management are elements that become inherent in the human being and therefore very important within the field of Sport. There are many external and internal pressures to which they are subjected.


  • Antonelli, Ferruccio / Salvini, Alessandro: Sport Psychology. (1982)
  • Weinberg, Robert S. / Gould, Daniel: Fundamentals of sport and physical exercise psychology. Ariel, Editorial SA, (1996)
  • Nachon, C. / Nascimbene, F .: Introduction to Sports Psychology (2001)
  • Silva, J. Personality and sport performance : controversy and challenge (1984).

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