Sports Psychology: History, Theories and Applications

3063 words (12 pages) Essay

5th Apr 2018 Psychology Reference this

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Emergence from Traditional Psychology Practice

Practice of applied psychology emerged with the sport psychology experiences becoming more prominent every other day. This prominence highlighted the necessity for the development of athlete hostility (Friesen & Orlick 2011). According to the definition of American Psychological Association (APA), scientific study of the psychological factors that are linked with the performance and participation in sport, exercise and other types of physical activities is known as sport psychology. Coleman Griffith is considered to be the founder for applying psychological principles in a systematic way to improve sport performance. He did this when he was first employed in Chicago Cubs in 1938 (APA n.d). He focused on the psychomotor skills and motor learning that enabled a link between physical performance and personality variables. However, Griffith’s ideas were not fully supported and accepted by the experts in the field of psychology (APA n.d).

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From the beginning of 1950s and till 1980s, sport psychology acquired an individual identity, free from exercise psychology, motor control and motor learning. At this time, sport psychology was linked with the performance, especially physical performance. With the publishing of one of the first books on sport psychology by Ogilvie and Tutko, psychologists began taking interest in the world of sports, by focusing their psychological theories on different sports personalities (APA n.d). Traditional psychological practice emerged with the study of individual personalities of human beings. Moreover, when factors, such as, aggression, sentiments, anger, motivation, confidence, grief and joy were studied, psychologists realize their role in individual personality and performances. Likewise, sport psychology is one of the types of individual performances.

Theories and Theoretical Models causing separate Specialism

The theory for coaching provides a set of guiding principles for coaching practice that identifies major principles and beliefs, which can help coaches achieve their aims and objectives. One of the theoretical models for sports psychology is “non-linear pedagogy”. Non-linear pedagogy is the application of concepts and tools or non-linear dynamics. This theory is based on the claim that learner is like a human movement system, which is characteristically non-linear. This theory explains ideas, such as, self-organization, stabilities and instabilities, etc. this theory let the functional movement patterns, such as, and decision-making behaviors in sport activities emerge (Renshaw, Davids, Shuttleworth & Chow 2009).

One of the other sport psychology theories is the “Dynamical Systems Theory”, which says that after the process of self-organization shaped by the interaction of individual constraints, task and environment, sport behavior emerges. Stable movement patterns can only be developed if all these constraints are kept constant. Likewise, any kind of changes in all these constraints can cause instabilities in learners and re-organization of the system, along with new patterns of behavior. In the light of this theory, instabilities are generally perceived as an integral part of learning process. This theory can be understood through the example of children coaching, where size of a child’s hand and grip strength is the factor determining quality of ball pass rather than technique (Renshaw, Davids, Shuttleworth & Chow 2009).

Neurobiological Model

Figure 1: Neurobiological Model.

Source: Sturmey 2007.

Neurobiological Model of psychology interprets that how neurological science can contribute towards better coaching and athlete performances. This model represents the fear circuit, which is present in every athlete’s body. Amygdale, medial and orbital regions play an important role in the management of anxiety. On the other hand, cortex controls emotional regulation that may cause hyperactivity and lack of motor response. All the factors, such as, anxiety, fear, stress, etc can be calculated, in terms of their effect on sports players through Neurobiological Model. All these factors cause unintended alterations in the motor behavior of an athlete, causing poor performance (Sturmey 2007).

Current Practices

Currently, psychologists focus more on personality psychology rather than performance psychology in connection to various sports personalities. However, efforts are still being made to fill this loop hole. Counseling psychology focuses on doing psychological counseling of a person who has been sportsman earlier. This kind of counseling is being done keeping in mind the organizational, environmental and system issues of sportspersons. All these categories include issues, such as, coaching, team dynamics, etc. psychologist go through additional trainings, which enable them to work effectively with teams, coaches and organizations. On the other hand, performance psychology is also one of the most important fields of current sport psychology (APA n.d).

Performance psychology says that people should be able to find happiness and meaning in life, then only they will be able to perform well in their fields. However, according to other variables in psychology, finding meaning and happiness in life does not always guarantee that a person shall be able to perform excellent in all the fields. But it does approve of some kind of success in life. Psychologists are trying to work on this principle by assisting sportsmen in their physical and mental problems. Their issues and problems are catered in such a way that a person does not lose hope in their continuing profession of sports or any other physical activity (APA n.d).

Performance psychologists make use of the consultation model of intervention, along with the individual interventions, to develop certain issues in their patients (APA n.d). In addition, currently, kinesiology is also very popular in giving the consultation and psychology of performance knowledge. However, there is nothing very extraordinary about this practice. Instead of giving this psychological knowledge in kinesiology departments, it should rather be given in sport psychology departments (APA n.d).

Aims and Objectives

Field of sport psychology aims to bring competence in the psychological performances that include interventions and theories of optimal performance, coaching and leadership, motivation, team dynamics, emotions, human growth and development. Moreover, it also aims to provide mental health counseling by developing and maintaining a working alliance, clinical interviews, facilitating behavioral changes, motivating interviews, multilevel and systematic diagnosis interventions and group facilitations. Through all these aims and objectives, field of psychology shall be able to focus in building the competence in performance specialty domain. This domain includes performing arts, business, high-risk occupations and sports (Prodaniuk, Plotnikoff, Spence & Wilson 2004). Moreover, there is also an evident need for the supervised practicum experiences (APA n.d).

Experience makes a person a very good teacher, but the field of psychology cannot solely rely on experienced practitioners. Only experience cannot develop competence in individuals. Practitioners also vary in terms of their self-awareness. Confidence may not always guarantee accuracy of skills employed by all the practitioners. Sport psychology aims to produce practitioners, which are not just competent in confidence and experience but also in their skills and contemporary knowledge related to psychology. In addition, performance sport psychologists need to have grip over advanced knowledge of ethics (Gaag 2012). This makes them become aware of the nature of context in which they are working (APA n.d).

Sport psychology professionals should be aimed to take multiple roles, challenges to confidentiality, boundary crossings and informed consent to allure to the environment of their field performance. Professionals of this field should also realize that the single therapy with individuals is not sport psychology. Sport psychology should aim at giving services to almost every other sport organization in the country, along with the excellent therapeutic services. Teaching should be one of the major steps in making sportsmen realize the importance of stable psychological condition. Sport psychology believes that there should be effective communication between coaches and team psychologists (APA n.d).

Demonstration of Applications, Approaches and Techniques in Various Contexts

Performance psychology applications are connected with the field of counseling and clinical psychology. Some of the major areas of focus for this study are using clinical interviewing skills, working alliance and understanding the behavioral change process. Performance psychology gives challenges and opportunities that provide the basis for the training of sports psychologists for future. These trainings include various contexts, interventions and issues that may become a part of professional practice in future. Performance psychologists approach sportsmen by focusing on their basic mental skills. These skills gives them the knowledge of probable mental and physical challenges a person is currently having or may go through in future (APA n.d).

One of the other sport psychology applications is the experiential learning programs, which rely on the principle of, learn by doing. Direct involvement in the experience makes a person learn through it. Kolb developed a model, which explained that how learning occurs in individuals when they are directly involved in an experience. This model is based on the step of Do, Review, Learn and Apply. This model is very effective in the team development and providing a psychological rationale for learning. Four stages based on psychological concepts form the basis of this model. This model is depicted in the figure 2(Boyle 2002):

Experiential Learning Model

Figure 2: Experiential Learning Model.

Source: Boyle 2002.

Sport injury management is another type of approach and techniques, which is a fruit of the field of sport psychology. sport injury management have planned designs and techniques, which makes sports management in educational institutions able to deal with any kind of sport circumstances with students. Sport injury management have planned their sport psychology approach in such a way that it makes teachers, peers and parents of students also get involved in the physical and psychological recovery of patient students. Figure 3 shows the breadth of sport injury management, where all the people become the part of care scenario (Comfort & Abrahamson 2010):

Sport Injury Management

Figure 3: Sport Injury Management.

Source: Comfort & Abrahamson 2010.

Barriers in Application and Delivery

Referring trainings and knowledge with the labels of kinesiology, psychology or ESS is one of the biggest barriers in the discussion that is needed for the advancement of the field of psychology. The debate between kinesiology and psychology hinders the knowledge and trainings in psychology of performance, ethics, consulting, etc (APA n.d). Injuries, weather, change in family or working patterns that makes trainings less convenient are some of the major barriers in the field of sport psychology (Jarvis 2006). According to Karageorghis and Terry (2011), four barriers that stood between every sportsman’s performances is his view of strength, size, his negative view of snap and his recent interpretation to take the snap.

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Parents, peers and some other members of the society often becomes a barrier in psychological process when they are playing a negative role in the overall treatment (Melchert 2011). Furthermore, sport psychology is a field that has derived from the umbrella field of psychology. It can only work effectively if psychology is being discussed and practiced with regard to other fields as well. For example, ecological psychology also plays a significant role in the development of psychological answers (Renshaw, Davids, Shuttleworth & Chow 2009). Lack of knowledge becomes a significant barrier in the development of sport psychology. One of the other barriers in sport psychology is the collection of data (Somekh & Lewin 2011).

Mostly, students do not participate in data collection activities. Best sport psychology data can only be collected if student athletes become a part of the sort psychology data collection (Somekh & Lewin 2011). Similarly, one of the biggest barriers of sportsmen, especially young sportsmen is to adopt sport psychology methods and techniques individually (Sturmey 2007). Often young athletes are not completely able to understand any particular sport psychology approach or application. Most of the times, individuals have to try their technique on their own. Ultimately, this creates a problem for young athletes and they are unable to accomplish the desired results.

Critical Evaluation of Theories and Models of Cognition and Condition Relevant to Sports Environment and Applications

Hemmings and Holder conducted an experiment on Shane, an athlete. They told him recall different inspirational and meaningful quotes or statements. As a reaction, Shane found all these statements cognitively stimulating for both competition and practice situations. However, he did not agree with all the statements himself. All these inspirational statements have cognitive affirmations, self-instructions and personally symbolic reminders. All these statements facilitated behavioral intensity, emotional and attention control for self-assessment on courts and physical training sessions. This tool played a significant role in increasing the efficacy by doing verbal persuasion; however, it was a kind of self-persuasion in Shane’s case (Hemmings & Holder 2009).

These phrases were selected in such a way that Shane should be able to refer any one of them to any athletic situation he faces. This Alphabet Motivator acted as a verbal persuasion for Shane. It increased his self-regulation and confidence to increase success on different tasks. Figure 4 represents the words that were selected for Shane’s Alphabet Motivator:

Shane’s Alphabet Motivator

Figure 4: Selected Cognitive and Emotive Statements from Shane’s Alphabet Motivator.

Source: Hemmings & Holder 2009.

In addition, there were mental rehearsal exercises, which were conducted on Shane regularly during his on-court practices and physical trainings. Motivational General Mastery Imagery is a sport psychology application, which is used to enhance confidence in athletes (Hemmings & Holder 2009).

This application focused on Shane’s strengths and all the tactical, technical, physical and psychological responses, which are required by Shane is any of his athletic sessions. Shane was asked to visualize scenarios, where he would feel a need to remember motivational statements that can make him successful in the session ahead. Control-related and confidence-related images are given to Shane to select them for physical, technical and psychological aspects of the game. In this application, Shane was also asked to select role model figures of sports and imagine himself in the body of these role models at the time he feels any difficulty during his sports sessions (Hemmings & Holder 2009).

Historical Development of Models and their Adaptation according to the Aims and Objectives of Applications

Psychological consultants had taken the challenge of studying athlete’s ego-oriented, self-defeated beliefs to support them in the athletic sessions and work-outs. Throughout psychological assessment, high level of articulation and encouraged reflection of a good degree of personal capacity and awareness was demonstrated on athlete’s behalf. High level of commitment demonstration developed the psychological approach, which a sportsperson can appropriately take under his current performance-related belief structure. This also enabled the development of coaching and mentoring as a part of nurturing individuals abilities of behavior and performance (Deans & Oakley 2006). This psychological application was based on the variety of psychological references (Ryba 2005).

This variety of references does not suggest that the entire sport psychologist should be confused within the information they give but rather it can be used to broaden the vision of sport psychology (Ryba 2005). All the factors associated with sport psychology emerged immediately after the emergence of mental counseling. Psychologists realize that factors, such as, motivation, emotions, energy level, self-esteem, confidence, patriotism, etc play an integral role in the development of a certain personality. Although a person may be playing in a team, every team player has his individual personality. If all these factors play a significant role in personality making, then they also play a role in effecting sport performance of an individual.

Emergence from Traditional Psychology Practice

Practice of applied psychology emerged with the sport psychology experiences becoming more prominent every other day. This prominence highlighted the necessity for the development of athlete hostility (Friesen & Orlick 2011). According to the definition of American Psychological Association (APA), scientific study of the psychological factors that are linked with the performance and participation in sport, exercise and other types of physical activities is known as sport psychology. Coleman Griffith is considered to be the founder for applying psychological principles in a systematic way to improve sport performance. He did this when he was first employed in Chicago Cubs in 1938 (APA n.d). He focused on the psychomotor skills and motor learning that enabled a link between physical performance and personality variables. However, Griffith’s ideas were not fully supported and accepted by the experts in the field of psychology (APA n.d).

From the beginning of 1950s and till 1980s, sport psychology acquired an individual identity, free from exercise psychology, motor control and motor learning. At this time, sport psychology was linked with the performance, especially physical performance. With the publishing of one of the first books on sport psychology by Ogilvie and Tutko, psychologists began taking interest in the world of sports, by focusing their psychological theories on different sports personalities (APA n.d). Traditional psychological practice emerged with the study of individual personalities of human beings. Moreover, when factors, such as, aggression, sentiments, anger, motivation, confidence, grief and joy were studied, psychologists realize their role in individual personality and performances. Likewise, sport psychology is one of the types of individual performances.

Theories and Theoretical Models causing separate Specialism

The theory for coaching provides a set of guiding principles for coaching practice that identifies major principles and beliefs, which can help coaches achieve their aims and objectives. One of the theoretical models for sports psychology is “non-linear pedagogy”. Non-linear pedagogy is the application of concepts and tools or non-linear dynamics. This theory is based on the claim that learner is like a human movement system, which is characteristically non-linear. This theory explains ideas, such as, self-organization, stabilities and instabilities, etc. this theory let the functional movement patterns, such as, and decision-making behaviors in sport activities emerge (Renshaw, Davids, Shuttleworth & Chow 2009).

One of the other sport psychology theories is the “Dynamical Systems Theory”, which says that after the process of self-organization shaped by the interaction of individual constraints, task and environment, sport behavior emerges. Stable movement patterns can only be developed if all these constraints are kept constant. Likewise, any kind of changes in all these constraints can cause instabilities in learners and re-organization of the system, along with new patterns of behavior. In the light of this theory, instabilities are generally perceived as an integral part of learning process. This theory can be understood through the example of children coaching, where size of a child’s hand and grip strength is the factor determining quality of ball pass rather than technique (Renshaw, Davids, Shuttleworth & Chow 2009).

Neurobiological Model

Figure 1: Neurobiological Model.

Source: Sturmey 2007.

Neurobiological Model of psychology interprets that how neurological science can contribute towards better coaching and athlete performances. This model represents the fear circuit, which is present in every athlete’s body. Amygdale, medial and orbital regions play an important role in the management of anxiety. On the other hand, cortex controls emotional regulation that may cause hyperactivity and lack of motor response. All the factors, such as, anxiety, fear, stress, etc can be calculated, in terms of their effect on sports players through Neurobiological Model. All these factors cause unintended alterations in the motor behavior of an athlete, causing poor performance (Sturmey 2007).

Current Practices

Currently, psychologists focus more on personality psychology rather than performance psychology in connection to various sports personalities. However, efforts are still being made to fill this loop hole. Counseling psychology focuses on doing psychological counseling of a person who has been sportsman earlier. This kind of counseling is being done keeping in mind the organizational, environmental and system issues of sportspersons. All these categories include issues, such as, coaching, team dynamics, etc. psychologist go through additional trainings, which enable them to work effectively with teams, coaches and organizations. On the other hand, performance psychology is also one of the most important fields of current sport psychology (APA n.d).

Performance psychology says that people should be able to find happiness and meaning in life, then only they will be able to perform well in their fields. However, according to other variables in psychology, finding meaning and happiness in life does not always guarantee that a person shall be able to perform excellent in all the fields. But it does approve of some kind of success in life. Psychologists are trying to work on this principle by assisting sportsmen in their physical and mental problems. Their issues and problems are catered in such a way that a person does not lose hope in their continuing profession of sports or any other physical activity (APA n.d).

Performance psychologists make use of the consultation model of intervention, along with the individual interventions, to develop certain issues in their patients (APA n.d). In addition, currently, kinesiology is also very popular in giving the consultation and psychology of performance knowledge. However, there is nothing very extraordinary about this practice. Instead of giving this psychological knowledge in kinesiology departments, it should rather be given in sport psychology departments (APA n.d).

Aims and Objectives

Field of sport psychology aims to bring competence in the psychological performances that include interventions and theories of optimal performance, coaching and leadership, motivation, team dynamics, emotions, human growth and development. Moreover, it also aims to provide mental health counseling by developing and maintaining a working alliance, clinical interviews, facilitating behavioral changes, motivating interviews, multilevel and systematic diagnosis interventions and group facilitations. Through all these aims and objectives, field of psychology shall be able to focus in building the competence in performance specialty domain. This domain includes performing arts, business, high-risk occupations and sports (Prodaniuk, Plotnikoff, Spence & Wilson 2004). Moreover, there is also an evident need for the supervised practicum experiences (APA n.d).

Experience makes a person a very good teacher, but the field of psychology cannot solely rely on experienced practitioners. Only experience cannot develop competence in individuals. Practitioners also vary in terms of their self-awareness. Confidence may not always guarantee accuracy of skills employed by all the practitioners. Sport psychology aims to produce practitioners, which are not just competent in confidence and experience but also in their skills and contemporary knowledge related to psychology. In addition, performance sport psychologists need to have grip over advanced knowledge of ethics (Gaag 2012). This makes them become aware of the nature of context in which they are working (APA n.d).

Sport psychology professionals should be aimed to take multiple roles, challenges to confidentiality, boundary crossings and informed consent to allure to the environment of their field performance. Professionals of this field should also realize that the single therapy with individuals is not sport psychology. Sport psychology should aim at giving services to almost every other sport organization in the country, along with the excellent therapeutic services. Teaching should be one of the major steps in making sportsmen realize the importance of stable psychological condition. Sport psychology believes that there should be effective communication between coaches and team psychologists (APA n.d).

Demonstration of Applications, Approaches and Techniques in Various Contexts

Performance psychology applications are connected with the field of counseling and clinical psychology. Some of the major areas of focus for this study are using clinical interviewing skills, working alliance and understanding the behavioral change process. Performance psychology gives challenges and opportunities that provide the basis for the training of sports psychologists for future. These trainings include various contexts, interventions and issues that may become a part of professional practice in future. Performance psychologists approach sportsmen by focusing on their basic mental skills. These skills gives them the knowledge of probable mental and physical challenges a person is currently having or may go through in future (APA n.d).

One of the other sport psychology applications is the experiential learning programs, which rely on the principle of, learn by doing. Direct involvement in the experience makes a person learn through it. Kolb developed a model, which explained that how learning occurs in individuals when they are directly involved in an experience. This model is based on the step of Do, Review, Learn and Apply. This model is very effective in the team development and providing a psychological rationale for learning. Four stages based on psychological concepts form the basis of this model. This model is depicted in the figure 2(Boyle 2002):

Experiential Learning Model

Figure 2: Experiential Learning Model.

Source: Boyle 2002.

Sport injury management is another type of approach and techniques, which is a fruit of the field of sport psychology. sport injury management have planned designs and techniques, which makes sports management in educational institutions able to deal with any kind of sport circumstances with students. Sport injury management have planned their sport psychology approach in such a way that it makes teachers, peers and parents of students also get involved in the physical and psychological recovery of patient students. Figure 3 shows the breadth of sport injury management, where all the people become the part of care scenario (Comfort & Abrahamson 2010):

Sport Injury Management

Figure 3: Sport Injury Management.

Source: Comfort & Abrahamson 2010.

Barriers in Application and Delivery

Referring trainings and knowledge with the labels of kinesiology, psychology or ESS is one of the biggest barriers in the discussion that is needed for the advancement of the field of psychology. The debate between kinesiology and psychology hinders the knowledge and trainings in psychology of performance, ethics, consulting, etc (APA n.d). Injuries, weather, change in family or working patterns that makes trainings less convenient are some of the major barriers in the field of sport psychology (Jarvis 2006). According to Karageorghis and Terry (2011), four barriers that stood between every sportsman’s performances is his view of strength, size, his negative view of snap and his recent interpretation to take the snap.

Parents, peers and some other members of the society often becomes a barrier in psychological process when they are playing a negative role in the overall treatment (Melchert 2011). Furthermore, sport psychology is a field that has derived from the umbrella field of psychology. It can only work effectively if psychology is being discussed and practiced with regard to other fields as well. For example, ecological psychology also plays a significant role in the development of psychological answers (Renshaw, Davids, Shuttleworth & Chow 2009). Lack of knowledge becomes a significant barrier in the development of sport psychology. One of the other barriers in sport psychology is the collection of data (Somekh & Lewin 2011).

Mostly, students do not participate in data collection activities. Best sport psychology data can only be collected if student athletes become a part of the sort psychology data collection (Somekh & Lewin 2011). Similarly, one of the biggest barriers of sportsmen, especially young sportsmen is to adopt sport psychology methods and techniques individually (Sturmey 2007). Often young athletes are not completely able to understand any particular sport psychology approach or application. Most of the times, individuals have to try their technique on their own. Ultimately, this creates a problem for young athletes and they are unable to accomplish the desired results.

Critical Evaluation of Theories and Models of Cognition and Condition Relevant to Sports Environment and Applications

Hemmings and Holder conducted an experiment on Shane, an athlete. They told him recall different inspirational and meaningful quotes or statements. As a reaction, Shane found all these statements cognitively stimulating for both competition and practice situations. However, he did not agree with all the statements himself. All these inspirational statements have cognitive affirmations, self-instructions and personally symbolic reminders. All these statements facilitated behavioral intensity, emotional and attention control for self-assessment on courts and physical training sessions. This tool played a significant role in increasing the efficacy by doing verbal persuasion; however, it was a kind of self-persuasion in Shane’s case (Hemmings & Holder 2009).

These phrases were selected in such a way that Shane should be able to refer any one of them to any athletic situation he faces. This Alphabet Motivator acted as a verbal persuasion for Shane. It increased his self-regulation and confidence to increase success on different tasks. Figure 4 represents the words that were selected for Shane’s Alphabet Motivator:

Shane’s Alphabet Motivator

Figure 4: Selected Cognitive and Emotive Statements from Shane’s Alphabet Motivator.

Source: Hemmings & Holder 2009.

In addition, there were mental rehearsal exercises, which were conducted on Shane regularly during his on-court practices and physical trainings. Motivational General Mastery Imagery is a sport psychology application, which is used to enhance confidence in athletes (Hemmings & Holder 2009).

This application focused on Shane’s strengths and all the tactical, technical, physical and psychological responses, which are required by Shane is any of his athletic sessions. Shane was asked to visualize scenarios, where he would feel a need to remember motivational statements that can make him successful in the session ahead. Control-related and confidence-related images are given to Shane to select them for physical, technical and psychological aspects of the game. In this application, Shane was also asked to select role model figures of sports and imagine himself in the body of these role models at the time he feels any difficulty during his sports sessions (Hemmings & Holder 2009).

Historical Development of Models and their Adaptation according to the Aims and Objectives of Applications

Psychological consultants had taken the challenge of studying athlete’s ego-oriented, self-defeated beliefs to support them in the athletic sessions and work-outs. Throughout psychological assessment, high level of articulation and encouraged reflection of a good degree of personal capacity and awareness was demonstrated on athlete’s behalf. High level of commitment demonstration developed the psychological approach, which a sportsperson can appropriately take under his current performance-related belief structure. This also enabled the development of coaching and mentoring as a part of nurturing individuals abilities of behavior and performance (Deans & Oakley 2006). This psychological application was based on the variety of psychological references (Ryba 2005).

This variety of references does not suggest that the entire sport psychologist should be confused within the information they give but rather it can be used to broaden the vision of sport psychology (Ryba 2005). All the factors associated with sport psychology emerged immediately after the emergence of mental counseling. Psychologists realize that factors, such as, motivation, emotions, energy level, self-esteem, confidence, patriotism, etc play an integral role in the development of a certain personality. Although a person may be playing in a team, every team player has his individual personality. If all these factors play a significant role in personality making, then they also play a role in effecting sport performance of an individual.

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