It’s not all couches and statistical data analysis in the world of psychology. Sports psychologists have been able to gain ground until they have consolidated a branch of the discipline that is making headlines.
The figure of the sports psychologist
Although the role of the sports psychologist is unknown to many people, few doubt the importance of psychological factors in sports performance. More and more teams and athletes who hire the services of the sports psychologist are aware of the benefits he brings to different aspects of competition, training or interpersonal relationships .
The specialized knowledge of human behavior that Psychology provides and its specific methodology to evaluate, study, understand and modify it, can be very useful for both athletes and coaches.
The contribution of the sports psychologist
The contribution of the sports psychologist is not limited to the use of standardized questionnaires (which in many cases are ineffective and sometimes harmful) and to training athletes to master relaxation or imagination techniques, but his contribution is essential to sports performance , as is, for example, the contribution of the physical trainer in the area of physical conditioning.
In other words, the psychological functioning of the athletes is just as transcendental for the athletes as the physical, technical and tactical/strategic functioning . Moreover, with respect to the latter, psychological functioning may influence in a positive or negative way their functioning, so it is very important to control the mental aspect in the right direction. Therefore, it is necessary that the psychological preparation be integrated into the overall preparation of the athlete, as one more element, which will interact correctly with the physical, technical and tactical/strategic plots.
Athletes can benefit from the work of the sports psychologist, and each sports specialty will require specific psychological skills , which will allow the athlete to compete more efficiently. For example, a footballer who has correct control of his attention, is able to make better decisions and finish plays in a more productive way. On the other hand, a marathon runner who controls his thoughts and feelings of fatigue will be able to continue to perform at an optimal level during critical moments of the race.
The job of the sports psychologist: benefits in athletes and coaches
In addition to these examples, the work of the sports psychologist will focus on the manipulation of psychological variables that are also relevant in the sports context, such as motivation, psychosocial stress, self-confidence, self-esteem, moods, level of activation, attention, decision-making, aggressiveness, constancy or persistence, interpersonal relationships and team cohesion, taking into account the environmental and personal conditions that affect these variables and the strategies that can control them in the right direction.
But the sports psychologist will not only act directly on the athlete, but will work with the coach so that he or she also improves both on an individual level and for the benefit of the athlete or team he or she is coaching. The role of the sports psychologist in this sense will influence certain aspects, such as sports planning , the adherence to the training of athletes, leadership skills, the improvement of communication, or the evaluation of their work as a coach.
10 reasons to hire a sports psychologist
The benefits of having a psychologist are many as we have already seen. Here are the 10 reasons why a sports psychologist will positively influence sports performance:
1. Suitable mental state
It is clear that it is necessary to have a great physical preparation or to eat well in order to perform to the maximum, but it is also necessary to be well prepared mentally for the moment of the competition . In sports psychology the ideal state to reach one’s maximum level is known as the “Optimal Level of Functioning”.
2. The reinforcement
Reinforcing players at opportune moments is really important to improve their self-esteem , and is one of the basic principles of learning psychological, technical or tactical skills.
3. The objectives
The sports psychologist will help both the player and the coach to benefit from proper planning. Realistic goals, and the intelligent steps to achieve them , can reinforce the players’ level of self-confidence, keep their motivation high and avoid self-esteem problems.
Here is a specific article on the influence of the sports psychologist in setting effective goals:
“The importance of goal setting in Sports Psychology”
4. Group cohesion
The psychologist’s knowledge of aspects of group psychology, can play a role in helping the team work as a whole . A united team is much more beneficial for the good functioning of the sport than a team with internal problems.
Self-instruction can be used in sport to acquire new skills, to increase motivation, to eliminate negative habits, to initiate action or to maintain effort in extreme situations or when the focus of attention has to be maintained for a long time. In addition, positive self-instructions serve to enhance self-esteem, motivation, attention, performance and help to better withstand fatigue by causing the subject to focus more on the task.
6. Imagination Training
In our article “Mental Training through Imagination: Sport Psychology” we already talked about the benefits of this type of training for athletes. It is useful, among other reasons, to reduce anxiety or for the acquisition of new skills.
7. Stress Management
Although we need a certain level of stress in competition, stress can be a negative factor for performance. The sports psychologist can improve the stress management of the athlete , for example, by contributing to making the athlete’s lifestyle as stress-free as possible, and making it easier for him/her to reconcile all his/her daily obligations. In addition, it can also reduce the “pressure” on the athlete by influencing performance expectations and focusing attention on achievable goals.
Attention techniques are very useful for good performance during sport. Some of the benefits are: improved emotional control, improved concentration, better learning of skills, more ability to endure the difficult moments of competition, etc.
9. Productive emotions
There are performance facilitating emotions: the emotional state of the athlete directly determines his performance in competition. Generating facilitating emotions is a key element in the good sports performance of each person. In addition, the sports psychologist can help athletes to use negative emotions such as anger, fear or disappointment to their advantage.
10. Support in recovery from injuries
Getting injured is one of the hardest moments in a sportsman’s life. Psychological support can be useful to accept an injury and overcome bad moments . The psychologist can provide tools to gradually return to training and maintain motivation during rehabilitation.