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Sport and Exercise Psychology

scientific study of people and their behaviors in the context of sport and exercise


Goals of Sport Psychology

To understand how psychological factors affect an individual’s physical performance

To understand how participation in sport and exercise affect a person’s psychological development, health, and well-being


Sport Psychology Myths

For problem athletes
For elite training only
Provides a quick fix
Not useful


Roles of Sport Psychology Professionals



Two Approaches to Sport Psychology

Clinical sport psychologists

Educational sport psychology specialists (a.k.a. sport psychology consultants)


Clinical sport psychologists

licensed psychologists who work with athletic populations

-Trained to work with emotional disorders
-Licensed by state boards
-Must have a thorough understanding of clinical psychology
-Generally work with individuals
-Often work out of an office


Sport psychology consultants

educators who work with athletes on the mental aspects of performance

-Trained to work with performance issues
-Must have a thorough understanding of sport and exercise
-Not clinically trained
-Must refer when emotional disorders are encountered
-Generally work with groups or individuals
-Often work “on the field”
-“Mental coaches”


Period 1

Early Years (1893-1920)

Norman Triplett (1890s) – psychologist from Indiana University with interest in cycling

-Studied cycling races and verified that cyclists are faster when in groups or pairs
-Experiment with children reeling in fishing line


Period 2

Griffith Era (1921-1938)

Coleman Griffith – father of American sport psychology

-First North American to devote significant portion of his career to sport psychology at University of Illinois
-First sport psychology courses at a university
-First laboratory in sport psychology
-Helped develop one of first schools for coaches
-Wrote first books on sport psychology
"Psychology of Coaching and Psychology of Athletic"
-First sport psychology consultant – worked with Chicago Cubs


Period 3

Preparation for the Future (1939-1965)

Franklin Henry – responsible for the field’s scientific development

-In 1964, wrote the article “Physical Education: An Academic Discipline”
-Spurred development of the subdisciplines
-Created the discipline of Kinesiology as we know it today


Dorothy Hazeltine Yates

first woman in the U.S. to practice and research sport psychology

-Worked with collegiate boxers on relaxation and affirmations to enhance performance

(per 3)


Period 4

Academic Sport Psychology (1966-1977)

-Academic discipline of Kinesiology formed
-Sport psychology becomes a distinct subdiscipline
-Applied sport psychology consultants begin working with teams and athletes


Period 5

Expansion of Sport Psychology (1978-2000)

-Tremendous growth both at home and abroad
-Growth and development of exercise psychology
-Great expansion in academia

-More and better research
-Qualitative and interpretative methods accepted
-Specialty journals and conferences emerged
-Interest in applied issues
-Increased acceptance by public
-Dorothy Harris – first female president of NASPSPA; first female and American member of ISSP
-Made huge inroads for women in the field


Period 6

Contemporary Sport Psychology (2001-Present)

1. Increased number of sport psychology students, consultants, programs, and clients

2.Greater focus on counseling and clinical training

3.Ethical and competency issues are being addressed
AASP Certified Consultant

4.Trend towards specialization
Subspecialties such as exercise, music, coaching, arts, business, special needs, disabled athletes continue to emerge

5.Tension exists between academic and applied sport psychology; and clinical and educational sport psychology

6.Qualitative research methods are widespread

7.Great applied opportunities yet limited full-time positions for consultants

8.Globalization of the field


Orientations in Sport Psychology

Psychophysiological orientation
Social-psychological orientation
Cognitive-behavioral orientation


Psychophysiological orientation

examine physiological processes of brain and affect on performance

Heart rate, brain wave activity, galvanic skin response


Social-psychological orientation

examine relationship between social environment and performer

Leadership styles, group cohesion, communication


Cognitive-behavioral orientation

examine affect of thought processes on behavior and performance

Confidence, anxiety, goal orientations, imagery, motivation, self-talk, routines, personality