Understanding Sports Psychology

Let’s start this topic with few questions for the readers.

Is winning a game directly proportional to the physical fitness of an athlete?

Does everyone believe that a sportsperson wins a game because he is more skilled than his competitor?

If you think that the answers to both the questions are “yes” then you are wrong! Now before doubting my last sentence, let me ask you one more question- Do you think Bangladesh cricket team was more skilled than the Indian cricket team when they won the series against India last year? So, a win is not only dependent on the physical fitness and the skills of a player or the team but also on several other factors which we will learn soon.

The mental strength of a sports person/ team is equally or I would say more important than their physical ability while playing a game. Every one of us enjoy the matches between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both the legendary players are equally skilled and talented but the one who wins the match is that sportsperson who handles the pressure and balances his aggression at crucial moments of the match.
Mental toughness is an attribute that helps the athlete to perform consistently at the high level. The athletes who are mentally tough have few qualities which differentiate them from others. Their self-belief and confidence in their abilities help them to maintain their composure under pressure. They develop internal satisfaction and are self-motivated to perform better than before.
While playing a match, the focus of a sports person should be entirely on the game. If that focus is lost because of any pressure or family problems or any other thing which is on their mind then it affects the performance of the player.

It’s difficult to understand that what exactly goes in the mind of a player before and during the match that creates a major difference in the result of a match;  And to understands it, we have the subject “Sport Psychology”. Sport psychology deals with the study of psychological factors which affect the performance of an athlete. Sport Psychologist helps the sportspeople by instructing and training their psychological skills for performance improvement. They work with athletes, coaches and sports teams regarding injury, rehabilitation, communication, team building and career transitions.

We might wonder that why do sports people need a sports psychologist when the same job can be done by a coach who is also there to help the athletes in improving their performance. But it’s because the coaches mainly focus on the physical aspect of the sport. Their job is to train the athletes so that they develop the required skills to play the game in a better way. The Sport Psychologist focus on the mind of an athlete. They help the athletes in developing a positive attitude and mental strength.

The athletes can seek the help from a Sport Psychologist if they face difficulty in focusing during major tournaments, difficulty in controlling their aggression, have some personal or family problems or get nervous or pressurized easily. Even if the athlete doesn’t have any such problems, they can still consult the sport psychologist in improving their performance.

Sport Psychologists can also help athletes in various ways:

1. To overcome their pressures at crucial time- Being an expert of psychology, they can recommend and teach various mental techniques to the athletes that can help them in relaxing their mind and in maintaining a calm temperament.

2. Enhancing performance- The mental strength of an athlete further enhances the performance and brings their full-potential during the matches.

3. Recovering from injuries- Sports Psychologist helps an athlete in healing their injuries so that they recover early from them.

So now you must have understood why Australian cricket team sledges a lot during the matches. It’s not because they hate their opponent or they have a bad nature but their main intention is to make the opponent team angry or pressurized so that they make mistakes while playing the game and they could win the game easily.

After reading so much about Sports Psychology if you are considering it as a career option, then remember, it’s just you who can understand if this career meets your interests and goals or not. If you like sports, exercise, science and understanding human behavior and also like helping people in achieving their goals and working in a team, then it might be your dream career.

Image Source- http://www.aventure.ac.in/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/psychology.jpg 

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Ekta Khangawal

Founder and Editor, Law student at Faculty of Law, Law Centre I, University of Delhi

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