Sport Psychology


Being an athlete has always been related to having successful relationships with others, being loved by fans, enjoying self-confidence and personal traits of leadership, as well as achieving success in one's career. On the contrary, however, there are great athletic talents that quickly fade as a result of certain issues that negatively affect them and their talents, as well as their social relationships. That is because physical training is not sufficient to demonstrate special athletic talents; the psychological aspect is essential and should not be overlooked by those responsible for athletes, and that is what sport psychology is all about.


Sport psychology is a modern science that emerged in the early 20th century at the hands of Coleman Griffith. In 1918, while still a student, he started out by studying how vision and attention predicted basketball and football performance.

In 1925, Griffith established the first-ever laboratory of athletic research at the University of Illinois. There, he conducted his research on athletic performance and published in the same year his famous essay “Psychology and Its Relation to Athletic Competition", which tackled why psychology is valuable to athletic performance.

Having shown value in enhancing players performances and achieving magnificent successes, the field was further developed by other researchers. Sport psychologists became responsible for several tasks regarding athletes, such as psychological counseling, sport teams assistance, relevant researches to develop athletic skills and enhancing performance.


Sport psychology studies the influence of psychological factors on athletic performance. Some specialists in this field are interested in enhancing the athletic performance by adjusting these factors, while others use exercise in improving people’s lives in general in the long term.

It is an essential branch of psychology that studies all aspects related to the psychology of athletes, their abilities, personal traits, physical fitness and training, and the exploitation of their talents and characteristics effectively; in order to achieve great success.

Sport psychology studies several concepts and theories; most important of which are:

  • Issues and techniques of psychological assessment and the mental skills of athletes.
  • Medical issues and players counseling.
  • Developmental and social issues related to sport participations.
  • Behavioural rules of sports and exercises.
  • Studying the science of training and the technical requirements of sport competitions.


The significance of sport psychology cannot be denied thanks to its continuous support of athletic talents towards achieving more and greater successes. That importance could be summarized in several points:

  • Enhancing player-performance: Sport psychologists apply several techniques, such as imagination or visualization, self-talk, and relaxation methods; in order to achieve natural psychological stability, without which the player cannot reach success and achievement.
  • Assisting players to overcome their fears: Unfortunately, several promising talents fade over time because of fear; either of failure or audience. That is why several sport psychologists study that topic in an attempt to encourage the players to cope with their fears.
  • Relieving psychological pressures on players: Players are exposed all the time to psychological and physical pressures, whether from their coaches, parents, or audience, all of whom are eager for the player to succeed regardless of his/her psychological or physical condition. Here comes the role of sport psychology in reducing that pressure. It is not concerned only with the player, but also entails talking to coaches and parents as well.
  • Injury Recovery: Most people think that physical injuries have nothing to do with mental health, which is totally wrong. Among the tasks of sport psychologists is assisting players with injuries to bear the pain, commit to treatment, and accept being away from matches or competitions during their treatment, and until their full recovery.
  • Continued training: Although most players—if not all—keep training with their coaches, some players remain unable to achieve the required goals. In this case, a sport psychologist intervenes to motivate the player and tries to solve the problems he/she is exposed to, being it physical or psychological.
  • Enjoying sports: Sport psychology does not deal only with professional athletes, but also with children and amateurs; by motivating them to play sports and create the appropriate environment to enjoy them.

Physical exercise alone is not enough for athletes to achieve success. Equally important, sport psychology shows athletes’ talents and skills, and its absence puts an end to that talent.


This article is published in SCIplanetSummer 2018 Issue "Science and Sports".

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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