As someone who works within the field of psychology I am often asked the questions “What can sport psychology do for my performance?, What are the benefits?”. Within sport, psychology is often seen as a quick fix. Unfortunately sport psychology does not work that way. Often, people assume that sport psychology can only have short term benefits. Coaches and athletes employ sport psychologists to come in and fix a teams problem within the space of 2 to 3 months. However, when the issue is not sorted the sport psychologist is usually the first person to be blamed when things don’t go well.
Sport psychology is not just about improving athletic performance. Sport psychology plays a much large role within performance. Sport psychology can be about developing interventions which help to prevent mental health among the athletic population. Sport psychology can be about teaching athletes transferable skills that they can use in not only sport but also in work and family life. Sport psychology can be about helping athletes to manage transitions and deal with issues associated with retirement. Athletes can be particular vulnerable to mental health problems due to the intense pressure associated to elite sport and sport psychologists can help athletes to deal with some of these issues.
Coaches and athletes must move past the short term benefits of sport psychology. They must start to see the bigger picture and what sport psychology can do for athletes 2 or 3 years down the line. The sport community must start to realise that sport psychologists are not employed to just work with problems and when things don’t go well. Often we hear coaches or athletes say “I don’t have any problems or issues so why would I need sport psychology support?” Sport Psychology is not just to help people when things go wrong. Sport Psychology is a field which can help to move athletes to the next level. There are a number of athletes who will be seeing a sport psychologist every week to not just talk about problems but to learn more about the field. To learn how basic psychological tools such as goal setting, imagery, self talk and relaxation skills can help to boost their performance. To learn how to become the best possible athlete from a psychological point of view. To learn how to manage their family, work and sport life.
The next time you think about using or adopting sport psychology to your performance don’t just think about the short term benefits, think about what sport psychology could do for you in the long term. Think about how it can help to develop you into not only a better coach or athlete but a better person. Think about how certain theories and principles can be applied to not only your sporting environment but to all different environments that you associate yourself with. Sport psychology won’t just help you to deal with problems or issues, it will help you to learn more about how you can be in the best psychological state of mind. It will help you to understand how your self talk can influence your emotions and behaviour. The next time you think about sport psychology think about how often you spend every week training your body physically and learning about technical and tactical skills. Then think about how often you spend every week training your brain and your mind. What goes on inside your mind will influence everything that you do in training or competition. By learning to understand, manage and use your brain in an effective way you will achieve peak performance.