What is sports psychology?

Sports psychology is the study of psychology within a sporting context. It is an intrinsic part of understanding athletes’ mental thought processes, as well as devising methods and tactics designed to improve the overall mental health and wellbeing of sportspeople, normally within a professional sporting environment.

Sports psychology can be utilized as part of ongoing player management, or alongside other areas of recovery and rehabilitation such as physiotherapy, sports therapy and sports massage.

When is sports psychology used?

Sports psychology is often used as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to maintaining strong performance from athletes and coaches.

Sports psychology can be an excellent option for professional athletes, and has been heavily utilized within a professional basketball context.

Modern day athletes come under a huge amount of pressure from sponsors, fans and the media, and as such can find themselves under an enormous amount of physical and mental strain.  Sports psychology is often applied when an athlete needs further support and guidance in order to maintain peak performance.

How is sports psychology applied?

Sports psychology is applied in a number of different ways; some sporting organizations employ the services of a sports psychologist to work with and support the wider team. In other cases, an athlete may independently employ the services of a professional sports psychologist and engage in face-to-face support as well as over the telephone.

Why sports psychology is important

Good mental health and positive overall wellbeing is intrinsically important no matter what interests or career you have. If an athlete is struggling with any aspects of their game, from stress and anxiety to depression or mental fatigue, seeking the support of a sports psychologist can be a game changer and help them on the road to a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Can sports psychology improve athletic performance?

It is widely accepted that anxiety has an effect on sporting performance. In addition to this, there are numerous pressures put on an athlete from both internal and external sources. From coaches and sponsors to the general public across social media, pressure can take its toll and has a massive effect on an athlete’s sporting performance.

Andy Murray engaged with a sports psychologist whilst working hard to return to play after suffering a labral tear

If through the services of a sports psychologist an athlete manages to overcome these pressures and develops a stronger level of positive focus and commitment, then improved performance is more than likely to follow.

Professional athletes who have used sports psychology

Below are just a handful of high-profile professional athletes who have utilized the services of a sports psychologist:

  • Rhys Priestland (Rugby) – after coming under a huge amount of pressure from the Welsh media and fans in equal measure, international outside half reportedly sought the help of a sports psychologist in 2012, not long before moving east of the river to continue plying his trade in England. This move saw Priestland regain form, and he has continued to play with a huge amount of skill and consistency for Aviva Premiership side Bath.
  • Andy Murray (Tennis) – in the 2019 documentary film Andy Murray: Resurfacing, Murray is seen recovering from a significant injury (labral tear) which has plagued his career in recent years. As part of his rehabilitation process and return to play, Andy utilized the service of a number of specialist practitioners, all with their own unique set of skills and experience in order for him to achieve his very best both mentally and physically, on and off the court. One such specialist was a sports psychologist, who provides Murray with guidance and support on a telephone call when he is battling with the emotional challenges brought on by his injury and rehabilitation.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (Basketball) – the Dallas Mavericks have employed sports psychologists as part of the backroom team, and NBA’s Dirk Nowitzki has spoken out about the benefits of working with a mental coach in an elite sporting context, especially at a young age.

If you are a professional athlete seeking support with your rehabilitation process, contact Jenkins Soft Tissue Therapy today and find out how our sports and remedial massage therapy and kinesio taping services can help you on your road to recovery.

Categories: InjuriesSports