Study Sports Psychology from Home Online and learn more about how the theories of psychology can be used to improve athletic performance
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
Course Duration: 100 hours
What is Sports Psychology?
In order to promote greater participation in sport, it is valuable to understand the psychology of the broader community; and in this way, determine those things that will motivate greater sporting participation.
Performance psychology is concerned with getting a better performance by applying psychological principles. It is a branch of psychology that studies the factors that allow societies, individuals and communities to flourish and develop. Performance psychology also includes the study of psychological skills and knowledge that is necessary to develop and facilitate peak performance in sports, fitness, performance arts and business.
- It may involve selecting players who have psychological characteristics that are more likely to bring success.
- It may involve attempting to change a player’s psychology/outlook, in order to increase the chances of a better performance.
There has been a growth in the field of performance psychology. The growth has applied to business and sports. By studying the psychology of athletes in a sporting situation, it has been possible to determine psychological characteristics that are most commonly present in successful sporting situations (e.g. teams where all the members are on friendly terms with each other statistically will win more often, than teams where there is conflict between members).
Physiological psychology is a branch of biological psychology. It considers the neural mechanisms of behaviour and perception by manipulating the brains of animal subjects in experiments. The main focus is the development of theories on the link between brain and behaviour. For example, they may consider the role of the hippocampus in memory.
This differs slightly to psychophysiology, which is useful in the role of the sports psychologist.
Is the study of the physiological (somatic) responses associated with cognition (i.e. thinking, emotion etc). So psychophysiology considers the physiological bases of psychological processes. Example: Heightened anxiety or stress can change the heart rate, cause blood vessels to contract (hence blood flow slows), etc. …and that can inhibit responses/performance.
Is the study of cognitive, psychophysiological and situational factors that influence exercise behaviour. Example: How physical exercise affects a person’s psychological behaviour …they exercise, blood flows, adrenalin may increase, waste products/toxins are removed more from the body … the mind becomes more alert.
This can involve studying the effects of such things as:
- Reasons for participating in exercise
- Reasons for not participating in exercise
- Addiction to exercise (positive & negative aspects)
- Factors affecting a person’s perception of the exercise they undertake
- Applying cognitive techniques to exercise (psych yourself up; exercising to music)
Choking (course extract)
Choking is the inability to perform to a former standard. High anxiety is usually the course of choking and can lead to a decrease in the athlete’s performance. The potential for choking depends on the situation and the athlete. As anxiety increases beyond the optimal level for a task, there will be a decline in performance. A certain level of stress may be good in sport, but if this goes too far, it may result in performance decline. Self doubts and a desire to impress others can create high levels of stress, as can the other stressors we mentioned in the previous lesson. When choking occurs, the athlete’s focus is no longer on the physical aspect of his/her performance.
For example, choking might occur when –
The athlete is concerned about what others think about his/her performance eg. Audience, coach, team mates.
There is a gap between their actual performance and the goal they want to achieve in the competition.
A top athlete is so focussed on winning that his/her anxiety increases and they are slow to react when the start pistol goes off, so losing time.
In football/soccer, loud support/shouting/booing from the audience may increase the self-attention of the athlete, which can result in performance errors.
In tennis/football or similar, the athlete misses an easy shot/goal. They may then become afraid of repeating the same mistake, so their performance may suffer.
Learn More - Improve your knowledge, improve your career prospects
- Study for professional development.
- Improve your job and career prospects in the sporting arena.
- Study for personal interest, learning more about what motivates athletes young and old.
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