Sports psychology began around the late 19th century when psychologists like Norman Triplett began studying groups and teams. The first sport psychology lab was founded at the University of Illinois in 1923 but was shut down after lack of interest and the Great Depression less than 10 years later. It didn’t come to greater attention until Glenn “pop” Warner wanted to find out how to make the offense move faster and in unison when the center hiked the ball. During this era of sports psychology, more and more athletes and teams became inclined to use these insights in order to analyze performance and to increase successes. Many people today in the world of sports believe that much of any game is mental no matter the sport. That being said, sports psychologist began creating experiments and resources to help with the mental well being of their athletes.
One of the first labs that was opened up tested many different things within athletic performance in university athletes. It studied:
- The relation between physical exercise and learning,
- The effects of extreme physical exercise on longevity and disease resistance
- The nature of sleep in athletes
- Methods of teaching psychological skills in football
- Measurement of physical fitness
- The effects of emotion on learning of habits
- Muscular coordination
- Persistence of errors
- The effects of fatigue on performance
- Measures of motor aptitude
- Mental variables associated with excellent athletic performance
With all of this knowledge, sports psychology began to grow and develop to be a well researched and respected field.
We all admire athletes’ abilities to contribute to society at a physical level, but what many people to not understand are the inner workings of an athletes’ brain and team chemistry. By stretching the limits of human capability, one could imagine the mental and psychological strain on an individual. In having the ability to overcome high-stake situations, athletes need to have a way to communicate their frustrations in order to proceed in their successes.
The job of any sport or performance psychologist is to help athletes and other professionals within the sports world overcome issues that may hinder any performance based success. This job can range anywhere from helping clients overcome stress, anxiety, or trauma to helping teammates communicate with coaches and accept or grow from their criticism. Being able to hone in on human potential can create a resilient and successful player or team.
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