Sport Psychology is not “psychology”

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*This is Part 1 of the 5 Things You Need to Know About Sport Psychology Series*

Last year, I wrote an article asking if 2014 was the Year of Sport Psychology.  While sport psychology has enjoyed great gains lately, the field is still somewhat of a mystery to most.  I suspect if you’re reading this, you have the basic understanding of the importance of the mental game, but here are 5 things you need to know to have a deeper understanding of how sport psychology can help improve your mental game and overall performance.

#1 – Sport Psychology is not “psychology” psychology

This is typically the biggest misconception is about the field as a whole.  According to, here is the definition:

psychology  [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][sahy-koluh-jee]

1.  the science of the mind or of mental states and processes.
2.  the science of human and animal behavior.
3.  the sum or characteristics of the mental states and processes of a person or class of persons, or of the mental states and processes involved in a field of activity:  the psychology of a soldier; the psychology of politics.
4.  mental ploys or strategy:   He used psychology on his parents to get a larger allowance.

While all of these definitions are good descriptions of how sport psychology works, it’s important to make the distinction.  The field of psychology is pretty diverse – there are psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors.   Many practitioners in psychology diagnose and treat mental disorders, usually according the DSM-5.

In sport psychology, professionals are more closely related to coaches than these other titles. Mental Skills Coach, Mental Toughness Coach, or Mental Conditioning Coach might be a better way to define our work. We work with athletes on their mental and emotional states, mental and emotional processes as they pertain to sports, and habits and behavior.  These states and processes are essential for athletes to perform at the top of their game.  Sport psychology professionals help athletes to define, build, and maintain the proper habits and behaviors to excel at sports.  For further mental health issues, such as eating disorders, depression, drug abuse, and borderline personality disorder, sport psychology professionals refer athletes to qualified psychologists and therapists.

As sports become more and more competitive, as athletes continually become bigger, stronger, and faster, the desire for the competitive edge, just being coached by the team coach isn’t enough. The full team of coaches for many top level teams and athletes include the head coach, position coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, and sport and exercise scientists.  This ensures the best chance to be highly skilled, knowledgeable of the sport, physically fit, strong, and less prone to injury.   But what about the mentality of sports? What about the emotions that go into competition?  Isn’t this just as important?  Sport psychology is a great compliment to the technical, tactical, and physical training, rounding out a complete program for athletes.

All athletes feel anxiety and pressure and stress. Teamwork and positivity are all characteristics that are necessary to be success in athletics over a long period of time.  Sport psychology is a great tool for teaching and strengthening the mental skills associated with these qualities.  Among other things, we are coaches of focus and emotional control, and mental toughness trainers. We are a key piece of the athletic puzzle, because we bring a unique perspective to high level performance.

To see more about the services we provide at SPINw, click here.

Stay tuned for the rest of the things you need to know:
#2 – Sport Psychology is not just a reactive measure.

#3 – The Mental Game is mostly about FUN.

#4 – Sport Psychology is not just for Athletes.

#5 – Sport Psychology works![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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