In the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a football academy in Ghana as a mental skills trainer. Many of the athletes I worked with in Ghana had minimal knowledge on the principles of sport psychology. I was given full autonomy with respect to the strategies used when implementing interventions for the youth soccer players. This led to weeks of preparation prior to my trip and intensive research on the most effective teaching method in order to maximize my efforts with the youth. The purpose of my trip to Ghana, as a student of sport psychology, was to teach the principles of the subject to athletes who may have never been previously exposed to the field. However, the result was learning more from the athletes than I could have imagined, establishing lifetime friendships with these players, and most importantly, solidifying my passion in the field of sport psychology. Additionally, this internship fostered a fascination in cultural sport psychology.

Cultural sport psychology is a developing research category that investigates marginalized topics and cultural identities, while challenging the normative sport psychology assumptions. Cultural issues have emerged as a significant aspect of the sport psychology field. The ultimate goal of cultural sport psychology is to develop the field to become more socially just, inclusive, and ethical. This goal will result in the ongoing recognition and support of diversity and difference in terms of identities and practices. Furthermore, cultural sport psychology attempts to develop life skills that have the potential to change an athlete’s life. A developing country is defined as being in a state of growth in the direction of standard situations such as economic, political, administrative, and living standard. Currently, there is lack of sport psychology research regarding emerging countries, as most academic discourse favors specific established countries.

Culture can be defined as the customary beliefs, material traits, and social forms of a particular group. Furthermore, it includes common features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time. There are numerous cultural characteristics to consider while interacting with individuals, such as norms, values, beliefs, behaviors, enculturation and acculturation, collectivism and individualism, goal-directed behavior, space, time, and gender.

Basic Cultural Awareness Considerations for Sport Psychology 

  • Sport psychologists need to take into account their athletes’ culture and how it may differ from their own.
  • A spectrum exists in terms of athletes retaining their cultural background or assimilating into mainstream cultural norms, behaviors, and beliefs.
  • Sport psychologists have to consider with-in culture and between-culture nuances when working with athletes from different cultures.
  • Time and space vary depending on the culture, therefore, effective sport psychologists will integrate their exchanges accordingly.
  • Gender roles differ based on the culture, can be clearly defined or flexible.
  • One can develop cultural awareness by being exposed to various cultures and working with athletes from different backgrounds.

Why Cultural Sport Psychology is Necessary

  • Research indicates that culture is an important aspect in sport.
  • Research, theories, and interventions once thought to be universal require increased knowledge and may need to be adjusted.
  • It presents an opportunity to increase examination of sport psychology concepts that are not typically observed.
  • It increases cultural awareness and fosters skills that are necessary to increase multicultural competence.