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Sport Performance Psychology

Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 13 October 2020
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

Performance psychology focuses on the psychological skills and knowledge necessary to facilitate peak performance in sport, business, and the performing arts.

Sport psychology can be considered a sub-set of performance psychology. It is the study of psychological factors that influence, and are influenced by, participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity, and the application of this knowledge to training and competition settings. Sport psychologists work with athletes, coaches, teams, and organisations across three broad domains:

  • Performance enhancement. An athlete’s mental state can be either an asset or an obstacle to performance success. Sport psychologists can help athletes to become more “podium prepared” or ready to perform optimally “on the day”; teach skills and strategies to regulate thinking, emotions, and attention; facilitate productive team environments; and, foster the development of leadership and communication skills.
  • Performance restoration. Sport is a challenging environment that can at times derail even elite athletes. Sport psychologists can influence a quicker and easier return back to baseline and beyond by educating and supporting for efficient recovery from injury, performance slumps, and training stresses; cultivating resilience and productive coping skills; and, helping athletes to develop better conflict management skills.
  • Mental health promotion and support. Sport psychologists are also interested in how participation in sport may enhance or detract from personal development and wellbeing. To that end, sport psychologists balance their focus on performance with an understanding and appreciation of the psychological care and wellbeing of athletes and coaches; promote the value of a healthy life balance; assist through periods of transition; and, when mental health issues arise, are prepared to screen, manage, and coordinate appropriate support.

Information for coaches
In the high performance training environment performance psychology skills are best delivered in regular and consistent doses through a variety of means

Provision of performance psychology services
At the elite level, mental and emotional skill building should be embraced not only by athletes, but by the team as a whole, and coaching staff as well.

Resources

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