Sports psychology: a profession to discover and increasingly fashionable.
Sports psychology: a profession to be discovered and on the rise in 2021, as more and more clubs and athletes take the psychological aspect into account when planning their training and goals.
Today we will explain what the discipline of sports psychology is based on, its methods and objectives, and other data of interest to understand this discipline that aims to improve the performance and experience of athletes and teams.
Sports psychology: what does it consist of?
A sedentary life with some excesses (tobacco, alcohol), added to the lack of sports activity, usually lead to serious health problems , which makes it a good idea to seriously consider practicing sports as a guarantee of physical, mental and emotional .
There is no country in the world where some kind of sport is not practiced. Thousands of articles have been written about the benefits of practicing sport, be it amateur or professional, and how this regular practice is related to both physical and mental health.
A bit of sports history
Sport is considered any activity that is regulated and associated with competition, involving the physical and mental part of the person.
The sport and its disciplines have been practiced for millennia. There is evidence that the first to practice regulated physical activity were the Greeks back in the 700s BC The ancient Persians were not far behind and were the first to play Polo in the 6th century BC Sports activity was always closely linked to development human beings and their societies, who used physical activity for relaxing and beneficial purposes, or as a means of survival in certain social conditions, as happened with slaves in ancient Rome.
Currently, with all the technology we have it is almost impossible not to be aware of what is happening with the great sports stars of the moment in competitive sports that enjoy greater coverage in the mass media, such as soccer, tennis, basketball, gymnastics Olympic, Formula 1, etc. This specific media presentation of sports activity has a great influence on the perception of the masses about sport in general, through expectations great athletes generate based on certain values and images.
The human need to play sports
The human being is characterized by an incessant search for knowledge and knowledge, and sport has gone from being practiced as mere entertainment to being fully studied by sports science, whose mission is to unravel all kinds of questions about the influence of exercise on the body and mind, when it is not the competitive sport itself that is analysed in order to discover rules to improve performance.
It is for this reason that a branch of the many that exist in Psychology was created with the purpose of delving into sports activity and its interaction with the psyche, founding the sub-discipline known as Sports Psychology.
Psychology applied to sport: a new and vital discipline of knowledge
Nacho and Nascimbene (2001), in their book Introduction to Sports Psychology, perfectly define the scope of study and the purposes of Sports Psychology:
“Sports Psychology is the science dedicated to studying how, why and under what conditions athletes, coaches and spectators behave the way they do, as well as investigating the mutual influence between physical activity and participation in sports and psychophysical well-being, health and personal development”.
The work of the sports psychologist
It is often thought, erroneously, that the main function (if not the only one) of the sports psychologist is to motivate athletes, and / or to be in charge of containing and trying to channel those athletes with the worst temperament.
However, the work of a sports psychologist consists of knowing both the psychological phenomena experienced by athletes, in addition to the specificities of character and personality of each athlete and sports context, in order to execute a series of structured techniques that allow optimization the sporting and psychological performance of the player or team. Most professional squads enjoy the services of a sports psychology professional, occupying the aforementioned functions, thus collaborating with the coaching staff in the operation of the team.
Sports Psychology has a long way to go in some European countries and in the USA, with the North American state being the one that has contributed the most to developing theories related to sport and its influence on the psyche (and vice versa).
In Latin America, the story is very different as regards the development of the sub discipline of Sports Psychology. This specialty is just beginning to take its first steps, and it will be necessary to continue researching to be able to develop schools and own theories that can found new paradigms and contribute to the construction of content and knowledge in this field.
The delay with respect to the old continent and the United States is motivated by the indifference and ignorance of the Latin American sports and political authorities, who until recently had kept these lines of scientific research in total darkness.
The way of working and intervening in this branch of Psychology has its peculiarities with respect to other specialties, although many affirm that the similarities with clinical Psychology are numerous, due to the themes on which both try to influence (motivation, personality), although it would be daring to relate them too much since the fields of study and intervention are very different.
The importance of having a sports psychologist on the team
The functions and tasks of the sports psychologist can be extremely complex if he does not show a training to take on ambitious challenges. Hence the need to also master the mental health facet of the professional in charge of competition groups in team sports. This is also an area that pertains to sports psychology.
It has been demonstrated the importance of having a sports psychologist if working with high-performance sports groups (Silva, J., 1984). In this sense, it has become almost indispensable in any sport or discipline. With regard to the king of sports in most Spanish-speaking countries, football, it is notorious how each year clubs and national teams from all over the world compete not only on the pitch, but also in a series of intellectual fields, such as communication, group management and talent detection and development, with the sole objective of going beyond what the previous year could be achieved in sport.
As the writing of this article coincides with the World Cup dispute in Brazil, I cannot miss the opportunity to point out that each of the national teams manages a certain policy, whose command is the federation of each country, who are in charge of following the minute by minute championship to be able to subsequently carry out the respective analyses and thus obtain some conclusions on how to improve in the future from the different facets that influence the game of the national team : strategy, direction, tactics, team dynamics, selected teams, motivation …
Knowing how to choose the right people for each specific role on the field of play in a team is a task as complex as it is decisive. The opinions and evaluations, the criteria and the decisions must be taken, preferably, unanimously both by the executive side and the personnel in charge of the group. Among them, including the sports psychologist, who must provide the nuance on the mood of the players, their fears and their motivations at each moment of the competition.
In particular, I think that behind an optimal performance in the performance of an athlete on the playing field there is a sports psychologist doing the job with efficiency and professionalism, managing to strengthen confidence and playing the keys necessary for an ideal mental health. It is necessary to continue providing support to this specialty in order to obtain developments to achieve cohesive, self-realized sports groups that in turn are a source of collective well-being, both in elite teams and in amateur teams, and emphasizing the need for a Psychology of the sport for the base categories.