Article by Robert David Malseed

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Sport Psychology

Sport Psychology

What exactly is Sport Psychology?

In trying to nail down certain concepts of Sport Psychology here are a few that are often confused with each other. Two concepts that are constantly confused are Incentives and Motivation. There are numerous people who provide motivational speaking with the notion that this is Sport Psychology, this is far from the mark. Specifically they are mostly referring to incentives. In relation to Motivation in Sport Psychology we referred to intrinsic and extrinsic factors such as internal and external loci of control, and other related concepts such as the Ringlemann Effect or Social Loafing. To say the least athletes do not need any motivational speakers to talk to them about motivation or indeed incentives as athletes are already adequately motivated. What athletes do need from sport psychology is intervention strategies before or when things start to go wrong and in the planning of a training/racing programme. A coach/sport psychology main task is to teach an athlete what signs to look out for that indicate over-training/underperformance.  A simple tool that doesn't require any over-elaborate technical ability is the Profile of Mood State (POMS) assessment. This is a inventory questionnaire that lists various items of mood and they are then scored. The ideal graphical structure is an ice-berg pattern, with the inverted ice-berg possibly indicating over-training/underperformance. I have taken this structure further by doing a linear graph of each of the items and keeping the point-score measure them in correlation with time and to each other. On a continuous assessment this would provide a better overall look and avoid the "one-off" assessment.  Another assessment tool that athletes and coaches should be aware off is the Competitive Anxiety Stress Inventory (CASI).  This assessment allows the athlete and coach identify areas of competition anxiety that affects performance and allows for athlete/coach develop a intervention strategy to deal with these certain areas.  Performance anxiety affects almost every athlete and can be devastating if not properly addressed. 

Sport Psychology is separated into two areas of specialisation 1. Academic Sport Psychology and 2. Applied Sport Psychology.  Both areas are mostly Statistical based with the Academic Sport Psychology based in the laboratory and consist mostly of Quantitative Statistics.  Applied Sport Psychology is based mainly on Qualitative Statistics and leans more to Behaviourism and Physiology.  It is very important to understand that there is a difference to both types of Sport Psychology. When athletes are mesured for their VO2 on the treadmill in an intervention study the research method is Quantitative Statistics, whereas the dependent and independent variables are controlled and measured, and the VO2 only indicates a particular Physiological marker within those parameters.  In relation to Performance indication where performance is qualitative, the athletes participating in a competition on a track/road/cross country and the variables are not controlled - but could be measured to some degree. The Quantitative aspect is the actual measurements such as time/distance etc.,

 In Applied Sport Psychology we are looking at intervention strategies based on human behaviourism and physiology. In Academic Sport Psychology we are assessing the results of laboratory research such as the efficacy of a training intervention or the efficacy of a sport supplement.