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What Is Sports Psychology?

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

essay on sports psychology

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

essay on sports psychology

Frequently Asked Questions

Sports psychology is the study of how psychological factors influence sports, athletic performance, exercise, and physical activity. Sports psychologists investigate how participating in sports can improve health and well-being. They also help athletes utilize psychology to improve their athletic performance and mental wellness.

As an example, a sports psychologist working with Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant helps these athletes perform better on the basketball court by teaching them psychological techniques for "being in the flow" and getting in "the zone."

A sports psychologist doesn't just work with elite and professional athletes either. This type of professional also helps non-athletes and everyday exercisers learn how to enjoy sports and stick to an exercise program. They utilize exercise and athletics to enhance people’s lives and mental well-being .

History of Sports Psychology

Sports psychology is a relatively young discipline in psychology ; the first research lab devoted to the topic opened in 1925. The first U.S. lab closed a short while later (in the early 1930s) and American research did not resume in this area until the late 1960s when there was a revival of interest.

In 1965, the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) was established. By the 1970s, sports psychology had been introduced as a university course offered at educational institutions throughout North America.

By the 1980s, sports psychology became the subject of a more rigorous scientific focus. Researchers began to explore how psychology could be used to improve athletic performance. They also looked at how exercise could be utilized to improve mood and lower stress levels .

Types of Sports Psychologists

Just as there are different types of psychologists —such as clinical psychologists, developmental psychologists, and forensic psychologists—there are also different types of sports psychologists.

Educational Sports Psychologists

An educational sports psychologist uses psychological methods to help athletes improve sports performance. This includes teaching them how to use certain techniques such as imagery , goal setting , or self talk to perform better on the court or field.

Clinical Sports Psychologists

Clinical sports psychologists work with athletes who have mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety . This work involves using strategies from both sports psychology and psychotherapy . A clinical sports psychologist helps athletes improve their mental health and sports performance at the same time.

Exercise Psychologists

An exercise psychologist works with non-athlete clients or everyday exercisers to help them learn how to make working out a habit. This work can include some of the same techniques used by other sports psychologists, such as goal setting, practicing mindfulness , and the use of motivational techniques .

Uses of Sports Psychology

Contemporary sports psychology is a diverse field and there are a number of different topics that are of special interest to sports psychologists. Here are a few areas of sports psychology and how they are utilized.

Attentional Focus

Attentional focus involves the ability to tune out distractions (such as a crowd of screaming fans) and focus on the task at hand. This allows athletes to manage their mental focus , even in the face of other things that are vying for their attention.

Common strategies that might be used for this purpose include deep breathing, paying attention to bodily signals and sensations, and mindfulness. All of these can help athletes stay focused on the present moment.

Mental Toughness

Mental toughness has become an area of increasing interest in sports psychology. The term refers to the psychological characteristics that are important for an athlete to reach optimal performance.

Among these characteristics are having an unshakeable belief in one's self , the ability to bounce back from setbacks , and an insatiable desire to succeed. Reacting to situations positively, remaining calm under pressure, and retaining control are a few others that contribute to mental toughness.

Visualization and Goal-Setting

Setting a goal, then visualizing each step needed to reach that goal can help mentally prepare the athlete for training or competition. Visualization involves creating a mental image of what you "intend" to happen. Athletes can use this skill to envision the outcome they are pursuing. They might visualize themselves winning an event, for instance, or going through the steps needed to complete a difficult movement.

Visualization can also be useful for helping athletes feel calmer and more focused before an event.

Motivation and Team-Building

Some sports psychologists work with professional athletes and coaches to improve performance by increasing motivation . A major subject in sports psychology, the study of motivation looks at both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators .

Extrinsic motivators are external rewards such as trophies, money, medals, or social recognition. Intrinsic motivators arise from within, such as a personal desire to win or the sense of pride that comes from performing a skill.

Team building is also an important topic in this field. Sports psychologists might work with coaches and athletes to help develop a sense of comradery and assist them in working together efficiently and effectively.

Professional sports psychologists help athletes cope with the intense pressure that comes from competition. This often involves finding ways to reduce performance anxiety and combat burnout.

It is common for athletes to get nervous before a game, performance, or competition. But these nerves can have a negative impact on performance. So, learning tactics to stay calm is important for helping athletes perform their best.

Tactics that might be the focus of this area of sports psychology include things like relaxation techniques , changing negative thoughts , building self-confidence , and findings distractions to reduce the focus on anxiety.

Burnout can also happen to athletes who frequently experience pressure, anxiety, and intense practice schedules. Helping athletes restore their sense of balance, learn to relax, and keep up their motivation can help combat feelings of burnout.


Another important focus of sports psychology is on helping athletes recover and return to their sport after an injury. A sports injury can lead to emotional reactions in addition to physical injury, which can include feelings of anger , frustration , hopelessness , and fear .

Sports psychologists work with these athletes to help them mentally cope with the recovery process and to restore their confidence once they are ready to return to their sport.

Impact of Sports Psychology

Research indicates that using various sports psychology techniques can help improve the performance of all types of athletes, from very young gymnasts (aged 8 to 13) to some of the top Olympians . Sports psychology also has impacts that extend into other areas of wellness.

For example, one study noted that it's common for doctors to have negative reactions when treating acutely unwell patients. Yet, when the doctors used the same psychological routines as athletes, they were able to better control these reactions. It also improved their patient care.

Others suggest that sports psychologists can play an important role in reducing obesity , particularly in children. By helping kids increase their physical activity and their enjoyment of the activity, a sports psychologist can help kids achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Techniques in Sports Psychology

Some professionals use one specific technique when helping their clients while others use a wide range of sports psychology techniques.

Progressive Relaxation

Relaxation techniques offer athletes many benefits. Among them are an increase in self-confidence, better concentration, and lower levels of anxiety and stress—all of which work together to improve performance.

One of the relaxation strategies sports psychologists use with their clients is progressive muscle relaxation . This technique involves having them tense a group of muscles, hold them tense for a few seconds, then allow them to relax.

Some health professionals use hypnosis to help their patients quit smoking. A sports psychologist might use this same technique to help their clients perform better in their sport of choice.

Research indicates that hypnosis (which involves putting someone in a state of focused attention with increased suggestibility) can be used to improve performance for athletes participating in a variety of sports, from basketball to golf to soccer.


Biofeedback involves using feedback provided by the body to notice how it feels physiologically in times of stress (elevated heart rate, tense muscles, etc.). This information can then be used to help control these effects, providing a more positive biological response.

One systematic review noted that using heart rate variability biofeedback improved sports performance in more than 85% of the studies. Other research supports using biofeedback to reduce an athlete's stress and anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help all kinds of people identify and change destructive thoughts and behaviors. Therefore, it would only stand to reason that athletes would also benefit from its effects.

One case study involving a 17-year-old female cross-country skier noted that CBT helped reduce performance anxiety while improving sport-specific behaviors. Another piece of research involved 16 NCAA Division I athletes with severe injuries and found that CBT enhanced their emotional well-being during recovery.

Becoming a Sports Psychologist

Becoming a sports psychologist could be exciting for many psychology students, and it may be a good career choice for those with a strong interest in sports and physical activity.

The American Psychological Association (APA) describes sports psychology as a "hot career," suggesting that those working in university athletic departments earn around $60,000 to $80,000 per year.  

If you are interested in this career, start by learning more about the educational requirements, job duties, salaries, and other considerations about careers in sports psychology .

A Word From Verywell

Sports psychology, or the use of psychological techniques in exercise and sports, offers benefits for athletes and non-athletes alike. It also encompasses a wide variety of techniques designed to boost performance and strengthen exercise adherence.

If you have a passion for sports and psychology, becoming a sports psychologist could be a good career choice. And it offers a few different career options, enabling you to choose the one that interests you most.

Sports psychology offers athletes many benefits, from improved performance to a healthier mental recovery after sustaining a physical injury. It can help these athletes stay engaged in the sports they love. Sports psychology also offers benefits for non-athletes, such as by helping them stick to an exercise program. Getting regular exercise improves brain health , reduces the risk of disease, strengthens bones and muscles, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight—while also increasing longevity.

Different sports psychology techniques work in different ways. Some are used to promote self-confidence. Others are designed to reduce anxiety. Though they all have one goal in common and that goal is to help the athlete improve their performance.

Sports psychologists can take a few different career paths. If you want to teach athletes how to improve their performance through psychological techniques, you can do this as an educational sports psychologist. If you want to work with athletes who have a mental illness, a clinical sports psychologist offers this service. If you want to work with the everyday exerciser versus athletes, becoming an exercise psychologist might be a good career choice for you.

A number of colleges and universities offer a sports psychology program. Some are undergraduate programs, offering a bachelor's degree in sports psychology. Others are higher-level programs, providing a master's degree or above. Depending on the educational institution, you may also be able to study sports psychology online.

In some cases, sports psychology improves performance by reducing anxiety. In others, it works by improving focus or increasing mental toughness. A sports psychologist can help uncover issues that might be limiting the athlete's performance. This information is then used to determine which psychological techniques can offer the best results.

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NCAA Sport Science Institute. Mind, body and sport: anxiety disorders .

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Mehdinezhad M, Rezaei A. The impact of normative feedback (positive and negative) on static and dynamic balance on gymnast children aged 8 to 13 . Sport Psychol . 2018;2(1):61-70.

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Morelli V, Davis C. The potential role of sports psychology in the obesity epidemic . Prim Care . 2013;40(2):507-23. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2013.02.001

Parnabas V, Mahamood Y, Parnabas J, Abdullah N. The relationship between relaxation techniques and sport performance . Universal J Psychol . 2014;2(3):108-112. doi:10.13180/ujp.2014.020302

Milling L, Randazzo E. Enhancing sports performance with hypnosis: An ode for Tiger Woods . Psychol of Consciousness: Theory Res Pract . 2016;3(1):45-60. doi:10.1037/cns0000055

Morgan S, Mora J. Effect of heart rate variability biofeedback on sport performance, a systematic review . App Psychophysiol Biofeed . 2017;42:235-45. doi:10.1007/s10484-017-9364-2

Dziembowska I, Izdebski P, Rasmus A, Brudny J, Grzelczak M, Cysewski P. Effects of heart rate variability biofeedback on EEG alpha asymmetry and anxiety symptoms in male athletes: A pilot study . App Psychophysiol Biofeed . 2015;41:141-150. doi:10.1007/s10484-015-9319-4

Gustafsson H, Lundqvist C, Tod D. Cognitive behavioral intervention in sport psychology: A case illustration of the exposure method with an elite athlete . J Sport Psychol Action . 2017;8(3):152-62. doi:10.1080/21520704.2016.1235649

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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Christina DeBusk is a personal trainer and nutrition specialist.

essay on sports psychology

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What Is Sports Psychology? 9 Scientific Theories & Examples

Sports Psychology

And maintaining focus when your team is behind and heading into the final few minutes of the game requires mental toughness.

Sports are played by the body and won in the mind, says sports psychologist Aidan Moran (2012).

To provide an athlete with the mental support they need, a sports psychologist considers the individual’s feelings, thoughts, perceived obstacles, and behavior in training, competition, and their lives beyond.

This article introduces some of the key concepts, research, and theory behind sports psychology and its ability to optimize performance.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

This Article Contains:

What is sports psychology, 4 real-life examples, 5 theories and facts of sports psychology, why is sports psychology important, brief history of sports psychology, top 4 sports psychology podcasts, positivepsychology.com’s helpful resources, a take-home message.

“Sport psychology is about understanding the performance, mental processes, and wellbeing of people in sporting settings, taking into account psychological theory and methods.”

Meijen, 2019

Sports psychology is now widely accepted as offering a crucial edge over competitors. And while essential for continuing high performance in elite athletes, it also provides insights into optimizing functioning in areas of our lives beyond sports.

As a result, psychological processes and mental wellbeing have become increasingly recognized as vital to consistently high degrees of sporting performance for athletes at all levels where the individual is serious about pushing their limits.

Indeed, as cognitive scientist Massimiliano Cappuccio (2018) writes, “physical training and exercise are not sufficient to excel in competition.” Instead, key elements of the athlete’s mental preparation must be “perfectly tuned for the challenge.”

For example, in recent research attempting to understand endurance limits , psychological variables have been confirmed as the deciding factor in ceasing effort rather than muscular fatigue (Meijen, 2019). The brain literally limits the body.

Beyond endurance, mental processes are equally crucial in other aspects of sporting success, such as maintaining focus, overcoming injury, dealing with failure, and handling success.

As psychologists, we can help competitors enhance their performance by “providing advice on how to be their best when it matters most” (Moran, 2012).

Tiger Woods

Pushing from within

As long ago as 2008, Tiger Woods confirmed the importance of his mental strength and ability to push himself from within (Moran, 2012):

“It’s not about what other people think and what other people say. It’s about what you want to accomplish and do you want to go out there and be prepared to beat everyone you play or face?”

And golf experts agree. While Tiger Woods’s natural gifts are self-evident, you can never count him out when he is losing, because of his robust mindset. He is always prepared and always has a plan (Bastable, 2020).

Vision and the right mindset will overcome

When sports scientist and motivational expert Greg Whyte met Eddie Izzard, the British comedian didn’t even own a pair of running shoes. Yet Whyte had six weeks to prepare her for the monumental challenge of running 43 consecutive marathons.

Vision, belief, science-led training, psychological support, and Izzard’s epic degree of determination were the essential ingredients that resulted in success (Whyte, 2015).

Reframing arousal

When sports psychologist John Kremer was approached by an international sprinter complaining that pre-race anxiety was impacting his races, he took time to understand what he was experiencing and how it felt.

Kremer helped reframe the athlete’s perception of his pounding heart from stress negatively affecting his performance to being primed and ready for competition (Kremer, Moran, & Kearney, 2019).

Visualizing success

Diver Laura Wilkinson broke three bones in her foot in the lead-up to the U.S. trials for the 2000 Olympics.

Working with a sports psychologist, she created a routine involving visualizing a series of complex dives performed flawlessly every time. Not only did she successfully qualify, but she went on to take gold at the Sydney Olympics despite limited (real-world) practice and a foot that was not yet fully healed (Afremow, 2014).

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Sports psychology is not one theory, but the combination of many overlapping ideas and concepts that attempt to understand what it takes to be a successful athlete.

Indeed, in many sports, endurance in particular, there has been a move toward more multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, looking at the interactions between psychological, biomechanical, physiological, genetic, and training aspects of performance (Meijen, 2019).

With that in mind, and considering the many psychological constructs affecting performance in sports, the following areas are some of the most widely studied:

  • Mental toughness
  • Goal setting
  • Anxiety and arousal

1. Mental toughness

Coaches and athletes recognize mental toughness as a psychological construct vital for performance success in training and competition (Gucciardi, Peeling, Ducker, & Dawson, 2016).

Mental toughness helps maintain consistency in determination, focus, and perceived control while under competitive pressure (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002).

While much of the early work on mental toughness relied on the conceptual understanding of the related concepts of resilience and hardiness, reaching an agreed upon definition has proven difficult (Sutton, 2019).

Mentally tough athletes are highly competitive, committed, self-motivated , and able to cope effectively and maintain concentration in high-pressure situations. They retain a high degree of self-belief even after setbacks and persist when the going gets tough (Crust & Clough, 2005; Clough & Strycharczyk, 2015).

After interviewing sports professionals competing at an international level, Jones et al. (2002) found that being mentally tough takes an unshakeable self-belief in the ability to achieve goals and the capacity and determination to bounce back from performance setbacks.

Mental toughness determines “how people deal effectively with challenges, stressors, and pressure… irrespective of circumstances” (Crust & Clough, 2005). It is made up of four components, known to psychologists as the “four Cs”:

  • Feeling in control  when confronted with obstacles and difficult situations
  • Commitment  to goals
  • Confidence  in abilities and interpersonal skills
  • Seeing challenges as opportunities

For athletes and sportspeople, mental toughness provides an advantage over opponents, enabling them to cope better with the demands of physical activity.

Beyond that, mental toughness allows individuals to manage stress better, overcome challenges, and perform optimally in everyday life.

2. Motivation

Motivation has been described as what maintains, sustains, directs, and channels behavior over an extended amount of time (Ryan & Deci, 2017). While it applies in all areas of life requiring commitment, it is particularly relevant in sports.

Not only does motivation impact an athlete’s ability to focus and achieve sporting excellence, but it is essential for the initial adoption and ongoing continuance of training (Sutton, 2019).

While there are several theories of motivation, the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) has proven one of the most popular (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2017).

Based on our inherent tendency toward growth, SDT suggests that activity is most likely when an individual feels intrinsically motivated, has a sense of volition over their behavior, and the activity feels inherently interesting and appealing.

Optimal performance in sports and elsewhere occurs when three basic needs are met: relatedness, competence, and autonomy (Ryan & Deci, 2017).

3. Goal setting and focus

Setting goals is an effective way to focus on the right activities, increase commitment, and energize the individual (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2015).

Goal setting is also “associated with increased wellbeing and represents an individual’s striving to achieve personal self-change, enhanced meaning, and purpose in life” (Sheard, 2013).

A well-constructed goal can provide a mechanism to motivate the individual toward that goal. And something big can be broken down into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks that take us nearer to achieving the overall goal (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2015).

Athletes can use goals to focus and direct attention toward actions that will lead to specific improvements; for example, a swimmer improves their kick to take 0.5 seconds off a 100-meter butterfly time or a runner increases their speed out of the blocks in a 100 meter sprint.

Goal setting can define challenging but achievable outcomes, whatever your sporting level or skills.

A specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound (SMART) goal should be clear, realistic, and possible. For example, a runner may set the following goal:

Next year, I want to run the New York City Marathon in three hours by completing a six-month training schedule provided by a coach .

4. Anxiety and arousal

Under extreme pressure and in situations perceived as important, athletes may perform worse than expected. This is known as choking and is typically caused by being overly anxious (Kremer et al., 2019).

Such anxiety can have cognitive (erratic thinking), physical (sweating, over-breathing), and behavioral (pacing, tensing, rapid speech) outcomes. It typically concerns something that is not currently happening, such as an upcoming race (Moran, 2012).

It is important to distinguish anxiety from arousal . The latter refers to a type of bodily energy that prepares us for action. It involves deep psychological and physiological activation, and is valuable in sports.

Therefore, if psychological and physiological activation is on a continuum from deep sleep to intense excitement , the sportsperson must aim for a perceived sweet spot to perform at their best. It will differ wildly between competitors; for one, it may be perceived as unpleasant anxiety, for another, nervous excitement.

The degree of anxiety is influenced by (Moran, 2012):

  • Perceived importance of the event
  • Trait anxiety
  • Attributing outcomes to internal or external factors
  • Perfectionism – setting impossibly high standards
  • Fear of failure
  • Lack of confidence

While the competitor needs a degree of pressure (or arousal) and nervous energy to perform at their best, too much may cause them to crumble. Sports psychologists work with sportspeople to better understand the pressure and help manage it through several techniques including:

  • Visualization
  • Breathing and slowing down
  • Sticking to pre-performance routines

Ultimately, it may not be the amount of arousal that affects performance, but its interpretation.

5. Confidence

While lack of confidence is an essential factor in competition anxiety, it also plays a crucial role in mental toughness.

As Gaelic footballer Michael Nolan says, “it’s not who we are that holds us back; it’s who we think we’re not”  (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2015).

Confidence is ultimately a measure of how much self-belief we have to see through to the end something beset with setbacks.

Those with a high degree of self-confidence will recognize that obstacles are part of life and take them in stride. Those less confident may believe the world is set against them and feel defeated or prevented from completing their task (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2015).

Self-confidence also taps into other, similar self-regulatory beliefs such as staying positive and maintaining self-belief (Sheard, 2013). An athlete high in self-confidence will harness their degree of self-belief and meet the challenge head on.

However, there are risks associated with being too self-confident. Overconfidence in abilities can lead to taking on too much, intolerance, and the inability to see underdeveloped skills.

Olympic Gymnast

And yet, that can only ever be part of the success story.

Sports place tremendous pressure on the competitor’s mind in competition and in training, and that pressure must be supported by robust and reliable psychological constructs (Kumar & Shirotriya, 2010).

The abilities to maintain focus under such pressure and also control actions during extreme circumstances of uncertainty can be strengthened by the mental training and skills a sports psychologist provides.

Mental preparation helps ready the individual and team for competition and offers an edge over an adversary while optimizing performance.

Not only that, but the skills learned in sports psychology are transferable; we can take them to other domains such as education and the workplace.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (2018) recognized the parallels between achieving “sustained high performance in the face of ever-increasing pressure and rapid change” in the workplace and on the sports field.

Perhaps the earliest known formal study of the mental processes involved in sports can be attributed to Triplett in 1898.

Triplett explored the positive effect of having other competitors to race against in the new sport of cycling. He found that the presence of others enhances the performance of well-learned skills.

In the decades that followed, the focus turned to a range of sports, including archery and baseball, with the first dedicated psychology research center called the Athletic Research Laboratory  set up at the University of Illinois in 1925.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that sports psychology formally emerged as a distinct discipline from psychology, specifically with the International Society of Sport Psychology in 1965. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that sports psychology had its own division in the American Psychology Association (Moran, 2012).

Sports Psychology Podcasts

The following recommendations all engage with professional psychologists, coaches, and competitors to provide psychological theory and practical guidance:

  • Mental Preparation Secrets of Top Athletes, Entertainers, and Surgeons In this episode of Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast, Dan McGinn talks about how top performers in sports and the world of business “prepare for their big moments.”
  • Science of Ultra A podcast that explores the psychology and physiology of endurance through fascinating conversations with scientists, psychologists, trainers, coaches, and athletes.
  • The Sport Psych Show‬‬‬ Sports psychologist Dan Adams takes listeners on a journey to demystify the psychological tools and techniques available to drive sporting participation and performance.
  • Sports Psychology Podcast by Peaksports.com‬‬‬ Patrick Cohn helps athletes, coaches, and sports parents understand how to adopt the right mindset to improve confidence and boost performance.

We have many tools and worksheets that can help you or your clients identify and work toward goals, develop resilience, and grow self-confidence:

  • Setting SMART+ Goals Capture SMART goals and their accountability to ensure they receive the appropriate focus to ensure completion.
  • Confidence Booster Add confidence boosters to your daily and weekly schedule.
  • Understanding Self-Confidence Gain insight into your self-confidence and use that understanding to begin to improve your self-esteem.
  • 17 Motivation & Goal-Achievement Exercises If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others reach their goals, this collection contains 17 validated motivation & goals-achievement tools for practitioners . Use them to help others turn their dreams into reality by applying the latest science-based behavioral change techniques.
  • Sports Psychology Books Another great way to get a better understanding of Sports Psychology, is to read recommended books. Our article listing the top 20 Sports Psychology Books is the perfect place to start.
  • Sports Psychology Techniques & Tips Explore these Sports Psychology techniques and tips that can help athletes up their game, overcome obstacles, and deliver peak performances.
  • Sports Psychology Courses Last but not least, to find out where you can study Sports Psychology, this article shares 17 of the best Sports Psychology Degrees, Courses, & Programs .

Becoming an elite performer results from years of careful planning and hard work. The winners get to the top by identifying, defining, and achieving a series of smaller goals along the way to reaching the podium.

But being at that level takes sustainable motivation and the ability to remain calm under considerable pressure. Successful performance requires the right mindset and psychological tools to allow the sportsperson to overcome both defeat and success. Neither of which is easy.

Modern athletes (professional and amateur), coaches, and team managers recognize the challenges within their sport and the competitive edge gained from seeking sports psychologists’ help.

Time-crunched athletes require focused, pragmatic support and solutions that allow them to deliver a consistent high-quality performance.

Even in the world outside the sporting arena, we are all competing. Understanding the psychological mechanisms involved in overcoming obstacles, hitting our goals, and achieving success is invaluable.

As academic philosopher David Papineau writes, many have come to realize that “sporting prowess has much to teach us about the workings of our minds” (Cappuccio, 2018).

Review the examples, theories, and approaches introduced in this article, and consider how they can benefit performance at any level of competition and be applied to manage stress, overcome obstacles, and improve performance.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free .

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  • Sutton, J. (2019). Psychological and physiological factors that affect success in ultra-marathoners (Doctoral thesis, Ulster University). Retrieved from https://pure.ulster.ac.uk/en/studentTheses/psychological-and-physiological-factors-that-affect-success-in-ul
  • Triplett, N. (1898). The dynamogenic factors in pacemaking and competition. The American Journal of Psychology , 9 (4), 507–533.
  • Whyte, G. P. (2015). Achieve the impossible: How to overcome challenges and gain success in life, work and sport . Bantam Press.

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ali amr

Hello, my name is Ali, and I have a question about something. I graduated last year from the Faculty of Physical Education in my country, Egypt, Helwan University, and I got a bachelor’s degree with excellent grades. I was majoring in sports psychology. I am really interested and very passionate about this field. The articles I read helped me in fact. On this site about this specialization, it increases my desire to stick to work in this field, but I am currently facing a problem, which is I do not know where to start specifically, should I complete postgraduate academic studies in this specialty until I get at least a master’s degree in order to work in clubs As a sports psychologist? Or do I apply directly to one of the clubs and ask to work as a sports psychologist in it? And with which team, in particular, or in what sport? What are the required conditions and qualifications that allow me to work in this field? What are the types of books that I should read in order to improve my cognitive, scientific and applied skills in this field? Thank you very much

Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

Yes, if you want to become a registered psychologist in any discipline, you will need to complete a Master’s degree. You’ll need to do this before you can work as a psychologist in the field. You can learn more about the process in this article , and also in our digital guidebook on becoming a therapist (which also covers what’s involved in becoming a psychologist).

We also have a dedicated blog post full of sport psychology book recommendations here . I imagine once you’ve gone through a sports psychology Master’s program and done further reading, you may discover which specific sports and teams you are most likely to enjoy working with — ultimately that decision is up to you!

Hope these materials help.

– Nicole | Community Manager

Eric Tobin

Do you think this translates to a 1:1 with digital athletes (like in esports)? Or do you think the physical athlete’s connection with physical exercise during competition may change the way this type of anxiety is dealtwith?

Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

That’s a great question! I can’t give you a clear answer as research in this space is still very much new and emerging. However, at face value, I think many of the components here do equally apply to esports. For instance, it is just as important to set effective goals and manage anxiety/arousal in esports as it is in traditional sports.

As you note, however, mechanisms for effective goal-setting, management of anxiety, etc. may be different from traditional sports, as they may not rely on the mind-body connection in the same way, or draw more on cognitive resources and capabilities.

For a review that sets the stage for research in this space, definitely check out Pedraza-Ramirez et al. (2020) .

Hope this helps a little!

Abigial ochigbo

Hi am a Nigerian students of physical and health education my question is what are d criteria to work as a physiotherapist after study physical and health education

Hi Abigial,

The laws re: practicing as a physiotherapist will vary depending on country and state, so could you please let me know where you were hoping to practice? Then I can point you in the direction of some advice.


How can we use sports psychology to motivate people to get moving again outside, especially because of Covid-19? Can the answer/s also encourage society to create new gender neutral sports that keeps players separate without hands or head touching shared equipment? Can the lack of exercise be a big contributing factor why some students are not doing so well with Covid-19 forced remote learning?

Sounds like this post inspired some big questions for you! And I’ve no doubt the nature of sports around the world is likely to change in the wake of the pandemic. Early thinking seems to suggest that the impact of COVID on people’s exercise habits (and flow-on effects to things like study and mental health) depends somewhat on people’s preferred sports. E.g., this article suggests that, due to the nature of restrictions, cyclists, runners, etc. are well catered for, but those used to doing other sports may not be. A search for ‘exercise covid’ in Google Scholar will reveal some other interesting and emerging research in this space if you’d like to read more.

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Sport psychology and performance meta-analyses: A systematic review of the literature

Marc Lochbaum

1 Department of Kinesiology and Sport Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, United States of America

2 Education Academy, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania

Elisabeth Stoner

3 Department of Psychological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, United States of America

Tristen Hefner

Sydney cooper.

4 Department of Kinesiology and Sport Management, Honors College, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, United States of America

Andrew M. Lane

5 Faculty of Education, Health and Well-Being, University of Wolverhampton, Walsall, West Midlands, United Kingdom

Peter C. Terry

6 Division of Research & Innovation, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

Associated Data

All relevant data are within the paper.

Sport psychology as an academic pursuit is nearly two centuries old. An enduring goal since inception has been to understand how psychological techniques can improve athletic performance. Although much evidence exists in the form of meta-analytic reviews related to sport psychology and performance, a systematic review of these meta-analyses is absent from the literature. We aimed to synthesize the extant literature to gain insights into the overall impact of sport psychology on athletic performance. Guided by the PRISMA statement for systematic reviews, we reviewed relevant articles identified via the EBSCOhost interface. Thirty meta-analyses published between 1983 and 2021 met the inclusion criteria, covering 16 distinct sport psychology constructs. Overall, sport psychology interventions/variables hypothesized to enhance performance (e.g., cohesion, confidence, mindfulness) were shown to have a moderate beneficial effect ( d = 0.51), whereas variables hypothesized to be detrimental to performance (e.g., cognitive anxiety, depression, ego climate) had a small negative effect ( d = -0.21). The quality rating of meta-analyses did not significantly moderate the magnitude of observed effects, nor did the research design (i.e., intervention vs. correlation) of the primary studies included in the meta-analyses. Our review strengthens the evidence base for sport psychology techniques and may be of great practical value to practitioners. We provide recommendations for future research in the area.


Sport performance matters. Verifying its global importance requires no more than opening a newspaper to the sports section, browsing the internet, looking at social media outlets, or scanning abundant sources of sport information. Sport psychology is an important avenue through which to better understand and improve sport performance. To date, a systematic review of published sport psychology and performance meta-analyses is absent from the literature. Given the undeniable importance of sport, the history of sport psychology in academics since 1830, and the global rise of sport psychology journals and organizations, a comprehensive systematic review of the meta-analytic literature seems overdue. Thus, we aimed to consolidate the existing literature and provide recommendations for future research.

The development of sport psychology

The history of sport psychology dates back nearly 200 years. Terry [ 1 ] cites Carl Friedrich Koch’s (1830) publication titled [in translation] Calisthenics from the Viewpoint of Dietetics and Psychology [ 2 ] as perhaps the earliest publication in the field, and multiple commentators have noted that sport psychology experiments occurred in the world’s first psychology laboratory, established by Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig in 1879 [ 1 , 3 ]. Konrad Rieger’s research on hypnosis and muscular endurance, published in 1884 [ 4 ] and Angelo Mosso’s investigations of the effects of mental fatigue on physical performance, published in 1891 [ 5 ] were other early landmarks in the development of applied sport psychology research. Following the efforts of Koch, Wundt, Rieger, and Mosso, sport psychology works appeared with increasing regularity, including Philippe Tissié’s publications in 1894 [ 6 , 7 ] on psychology and physical training, and Pierre de Coubertin’s first use of the term sport psychology in his La Psychologie du Sport paper in 1900 [ 8 ]. In short, the history of sport psychology and performance research began as early as 1830 and picked up pace in the latter part of the 19 th century. Early pioneers, who helped shape sport psychology include Wundt, recognized as the “father of experimental psychology”, Tissié, the founder of French physical education and Legion of Honor awardee in 1932, and de Coubertin who became the father of the modern Olympic movement and founder of the International Olympic Committee.

Sport psychology flourished in the early 20 th century [see 1, 3 for extensive historic details]. For instance, independent laboratories emerged in Berlin, Germany, established by Carl Diem in 1920; in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia, established respectively by Avksenty Puni and Piotr Roudik in 1925; and in Champaign, Illinois USA, established by Coleman Griffith, also in 1925. The period from 1950–1980 saw rapid strides in sport psychology, with Franklin Henry establishing this field of study as independent of physical education in the landscape of American and eventually global sport science and kinesiology graduate programs [ 1 ]. In addition, of great importance in the 1960s, three international sport psychology organizations were established: namely, the International Society for Sport Psychology (1965), the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (1966), and the European Federation of Sport Psychology (1969). Since that time, the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (1986), the South American Society for Sport Psychology (1986), and the Asian-South Pacific Association of Sport Psychology (1989) have also been established.

The global growth in academic sport psychology has seen a large number of specialist publications launched, including the following journals: International Journal of Sport Psychology (1970), Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (1979), The Sport Psychologist (1987), Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (1989), Psychology of Sport and Exercise (2000), International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology (2003), Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology (2007), International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology (2008), Journal of Sport Psychology in Action (2010), Sport , Exercise , and Performance Psychology (2014), and the Asian Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (2021).

In turn, the growth in journal outlets has seen sport psychology publications burgeon. Indicative of the scale of the contemporary literature on sport psychology, searches completed in May 2021 within the Web of Science Core Collection, identified 1,415 publications on goal setting and sport since 1985; 5,303 publications on confidence and sport since 1961; and 3,421 publications on anxiety and sport since 1980. In addition to academic journals, several comprehensive edited textbooks have been produced detailing sport psychology developments across the world, such as Hanrahan and Andersen’s (2010) Handbook of Applied Sport Psychology [ 9 ], Schinke, McGannon, and Smith’s (2016) International Handbook of Sport Psychology [ 10 ], and Bertollo, Filho, and Terry’s (2021) Advancements in Mental Skills Training [ 11 ] to name just a few. In short, sport psychology is global in both academic study and professional practice.

Meta-analysis in sport psychology

Several meta-analysis guides, computer programs, and sport psychology domain-specific primers have been popularized in the social sciences [ 12 , 13 ]. Sport psychology academics have conducted quantitative reviews on much studied constructs since the 1980s, with the first two appearing in 1983 in the form of Feltz and Landers’ meta-analysis on mental practice [ 14 ], which included 98 articles dating from 1934, and Bond and Titus’ cross-disciplinary meta-analysis on social facilitation [ 15 ], which summarized 241 studies including Triplett’s (1898) often-cited study of social facilitation in cycling [ 16 ]. Although much meta-analytic evidence exists for various constructs in sport and exercise psychology [ 12 ] including several related to performance [ 17 ], the evidence is inconsistent. For example, two meta-analyses, both ostensibly summarizing evidence of the benefits to performance of task cohesion [ 18 , 19 ], produced very different mean effects ( d = .24 vs d = 1.00) indicating that the true benefit lies somewhere in a wide range from small to large. Thus, the lack of a reliable evidence base for the use of sport psychology techniques represents a significant gap in the knowledge base for practitioners and researchers alike. A comprehensive systematic review of all published meta-analyses in the field of sport psychology has yet to be published.

Purpose and aim

We consider this review to be both necessary and long overdue for the following reasons: (a) the extensive history of sport psychology and performance research; (b) the prior publication of many meta-analyses summarizing various aspects of sport psychology research in a piecemeal fashion [ 12 , 17 ] but not its totality; and (c) the importance of better understanding and hopefully improving sport performance via the use of interventions based on solid evidence of their efficacy. Hence, we aimed to collate and evaluate this literature in a systematic way to gain improved understanding of the impact of sport psychology variables on sport performance by construct, research design, and meta-analysis quality, to enhance practical knowledge of sport psychology techniques and identify future lines of research inquiry. By systematically reviewing all identifiable meta-analytic reviews linking sport psychology techniques with sport performance, we aimed to evaluate the strength of the evidence base underpinning sport psychology interventions.

Materials and methods

This systematic review of meta-analyses followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines [ 20 ]. We did not register our systematic review protocol in a database. However, we specified our search strategy, inclusion criteria, data extraction, and data analyses in advance of writing our manuscript. All details of our work are available from the lead author. Concerning ethics, this systematic review received a waiver from Texas Tech University Human Subject Review Board as it concerned archival data (i.e., published meta-analyses).

Eligibility criteria

Published meta-analyses were retained for extensive examination if they met the following inclusion criteria: (a) included meta-analytic data such as mean group, between or within-group differences or correlates; (b) published prior to January 31, 2021; (c) published in a peer-reviewed journal; (d) investigated a recognized sport psychology construct; and (e) meta-analyzed data concerned with sport performance. There was no language of publication restriction. To align with our systematic review objectives, we gave much consideration to study participants and performance outcomes. Across multiple checks, all authors confirmed study eligibility. Three authors (ML, AL, and PT) completed the final inclusion assessments.

Information sources

Authors searched electronic databases, personal meta-analysis history, and checked with personal research contacts. Electronic database searches occurred in EBSCOhost with the following individual databases selected: APA PsycINFO, ERIC, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, and SPORTDiscus. An initial search concluded October 1, 2020. ML, AL, and PT rechecked the identified studies during the February–March, 2021 period, which resulted in the identification of two additional meta-analyses [ 21 , 22 ].

Search protocol

ML and ES initially conducted independent database searches. For the first search, ML used the following search terms: sport psychology with meta-analysis or quantitative review and sport and performance or sport* performance. For the second search, ES utilized a sport psychology textbook and used the chapter title terms (e.g., goal setting). In EBSCOhost, both searches used the advanced search option that provided three separate boxes for search terms such as box 1 (sport psychology), box 2 (meta-analysis), and box 3 (performance). Specific details of our search strategy were:

Search by ML:

  • sport psychology, meta-analysis, sport and performance
  • sport psychology, meta-analysis or quantitative review, sport* performance
  • sport psychology, quantitative review, sport and performance
  • sport psychology, quantitative review, sport* performance

Search by ES:

  • mental practice or mental imagery or mental rehearsal and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • goal setting and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • anxiety and stress and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • competition and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • diversity and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • cohesion and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • imagery and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • self-confidence and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • concentration and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • athletic injuries and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • overtraining and sports performance and meta-analysis
  • children and sports performance and meta-analysis

The following specific search of the EBSCOhost with SPORTDiscus, APA PsycINFO, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, and ERIC databases, returned six results from 2002–2020, of which three were included [ 18 , 19 , 23 ] and three were excluded because they were not meta-analyses.

  • Box 1 cohesion
  • Box 2 sports performance
  • Box 3 meta-analysis

Study selection

As detailed in the PRISMA flow chart ( Fig 1 ) and the specified inclusion criteria, a thorough study selection process was used. As mentioned in the search protocol, two authors (ML and ES) engaged independently with two separate searches and then worked together to verify the selected studies. Next, AL and PT examined the selected study list for accuracy. ML, AL, and PT, whilst rating the quality of included meta-analyses, also re-examined all selected studies to verify that each met the predetermined study inclusion criteria. Throughout the study selection process, disagreements were resolved through discussion until consensus was reached.

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Data extraction process

Initially, ML, TH, and ES extracted data items 1, 2, 3 and 8 (see Data items). Subsequently, ML, AL, and PT extracted the remaining data (items 4–7, 9, 10). Checks occurred during the extraction process for potential discrepancies (e.g., checking the number of primary studies in a meta-analysis). It was unnecessary to contact any meta-analysis authors for missing information or clarification during the data extraction process because all studies reported the required information. Across the search for meta-analyses, all identified studies were reported in English. Thus, no translation software or searching out a native speaker occurred. All data extraction forms (e.g., data items and individual meta-analysis quality) are available from the first author.

To help address our main aim, we extracted the following information from each meta-analysis: (1) author(s); (2) publication year; (3) construct(s); (4) intervention based meta-analysis (yes, no, mix); (5) performance outcome(s) description; (6) number of studies for the performance outcomes; (7) participant description; (8) main findings; (9) bias correction method/results; and (10) author(s) stated conclusions. For all information sought, we coded missing information as not reported.

Individual meta-analysis quality

ML, AL, and PT independently rated the quality of individual meta-analysis on the following 25 points found in the PRISMA checklist [ 20 ]: title; abstract structured summary; introduction rationale, objectives, and protocol and registration; methods eligibility criteria, information sources, search, study selection, data collection process, data items, risk of bias of individual studies, summary measures, synthesis of results, and risk of bias across studies; results study selection, study characteristics, risk of bias within studies, results of individual studies, synthesis of results, and risk of bias across studies; discussion summary of evidence, limitations, and conclusions; and funding. All meta-analyses were rated for quality by two coders to facilitate inter-coder reliability checks, and the mean quality ratings were used in subsequent analyses. One author (PT), having completed his own ratings, received the incoming ratings from ML and AL and ran the inter-coder analysis. Two rounds of ratings occurred due to discrepancies for seven meta-analyses, mainly between ML and AL. As no objective quality categorizations (i.e., a point system for grouping meta-analyses as poor, medium, good) currently exist, each meta-analysis was allocated a quality score of up to a maximum of 25 points. All coding records are available upon request.

Planned methods of analysis

Several preplanned methods of analysis occurred. We first assessed the mean quality rating of each meta-analysis based on our 25-point PRISMA-based rating system. Next, we used a median split of quality ratings to determine whether standardized mean effects (SMDs) differed by the two formed categories, higher and lower quality meta-analyses. Meta-analysis authors reported either of two different effect size metrics (i.e., r and SMD); hence we converted all correlational effects to SMD (i.e., Cohen’s d ) values using an online effect size calculator ( www.polyu.edu.hk/mm/effectsizefaqs/calculator/calculator.html ). We interpreted the meaningfulness of effects based on Cohen’s interpretation [ 24 ] with 0.20 as small, 0.50 as medium, 0.80 as large, and 1.30 as very large. As some psychological variables associate negatively with performance (e.g., confusion [ 25 ], cognitive anxiety [ 26 ]) whereas others associate positively (e.g., cohesion [ 23 ], mental practice [ 14 ]), we grouped meta-analyses according to whether the hypothesized effect with performance was positive or negative, and summarized the overall effects separately. By doing so, we avoided a scenario whereby the demonstrated positive and negative effects canceled one another out when combined. The effect of somatic anxiety on performance, which is hypothesized to follow an inverted-U relationship, was categorized as neutral [ 35 ]. Last, we grouped the included meta-analyses according to whether the primary studies were correlational in nature or involved an intervention and summarized these two groups of meta-analyses separately.

Study characteristics

Table 1 contains extracted data from 30 meta-analyses meeting the inclusion criteria, dating from 1983 [ 14 ] to 2021 [ 21 ]. The number of primary studies within the meta-analyses ranged from three [ 27 ] to 109 [ 28 ]. In terms of the description of participants included in the meta-analyses, 13 included participants described simply as athletes, whereas other meta-analyses identified a mix of elite athletes (e.g., professional, Olympic), recreational athletes, college-aged volunteers (many from sport science departments), younger children to adolescents, and adult exercisers. Of the 30 included meta-analyses, the majority ( n = 18) were published since 2010. The decadal breakdown of meta-analyses was 1980–1989 ( n = 1 [ 14 ]), 1990–1999 ( n = 6 [ 29 – 34 ]), 2000–2009 ( n = 5 [ 23 , 25 , 26 , 35 , 36 ]), 2010–2019 ( n = 12 [ 18 , 19 , 22 , 27 , 37 – 43 , 48 ]), and 2020–2021 ( n = 6 [ 21 , 28 , 44 – 47 ]).

As for the constructs covered, we categorized the 30 meta-analyses into the following areas: mental practice/imagery [ 14 , 29 , 30 , 42 , 46 , 47 ], anxiety [ 26 , 31 , 32 , 35 ], confidence [ 26 , 35 , 36 ], cohesion [ 18 , 19 , 23 ], goal orientation [ 22 , 44 , 48 ], mood [ 21 , 25 , 34 ], emotional intelligence [ 40 ], goal setting [ 33 ], interventions [ 37 ], mindfulness [ 27 ], music [ 28 ], neurofeedback training [ 43 ], perfectionism [ 39 ], pressure training [ 45 ], quiet eye training [ 41 ], and self-talk [ 38 ]. Multiple effects were generated from meta-analyses that included more than one construct (e.g., tension, depression, etc. [ 21 ]; anxiety and confidence [ 26 ]). In relation to whether the meta-analyses included in our review assessed the effects of a sport psychology intervention on performance or relationships between psychological constructs and performance, 13 were intervention-based, 14 were correlational, two included a mix of study types, and one included a large majority of cross-sectional studies ( Table 1 ).

A wide variety of performance outcomes across many sports was evident, such as golf putting, dart throwing, maximal strength, and juggling; or categorical outcomes such as win/loss and Olympic team selection. Given the extensive list of performance outcomes and the incomplete descriptions provided in some meta-analyses, a clear categorization or count of performance types was not possible. Sufficient to conclude, researchers utilized many performance outcomes across a wide range of team and individual sports, motor skills, and strength and aerobic tasks.

Effect size data and bias correction

To best summarize the effects, we transformed all correlations to SMD values (i.e., Cohen’s d ). Across all included meta-analyses shown in Table 2 and depicted in Fig 2 , we identified 61 effects. Having corrected for bias, effect size values were assessed for meaningfulness [ 24 ], which resulted in 15 categorized as negligible (< ±0.20), 29 as small (±0.20 to < 0.50), 13 as moderate (±0.50 to < 0.80), 2 as large (±0.80 to < 1.30), and 1 as very large (≥ 1.30).

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Object name is pone.0263408.g002.jpg

Study quality rating results and summary analyses

Following our PRISMA quality ratings, intercoder reliability coefficients were initially .83 (ML, AL), .95 (ML, PT), and .90 (AL, PT), with a mean intercoder reliability coefficient of .89. To achieve improved reliability (i.e., r mean > .90), ML and AL re-examined their ratings. As a result, intercoder reliability increased to .98 (ML, AL), .96 (ML, PT), and .92 (AL, PT); a mean intercoder reliability coefficient of .95. Final quality ratings (i.e., the mean of two coders) ranged from 13 to 25 ( M = 19.03 ± 4.15). Our median split into higher ( M = 22.83 ± 1.08, range 21.5–25, n = 15) and lower ( M = 15.47 ± 2.42, range 13–20.5, n = 15) quality groups produced significant between-group differences in quality ( F 1,28 = 115.62, p < .001); hence, the median split met our intended purpose. The higher quality group of meta-analyses were published from 2015–2021 (median 2018) and the lower quality group from 1983–2014 (median 2000). It appears that meta-analysis standards have risen over the years since the PRISMA criteria were first introduced in 2009. All data for our analyses are shown in Table 2 .

Table 3 contains summary statistics with bias-corrected values used in the analyses. The overall mean effect for sport psychology constructs hypothesized to have a positive impact on performance was of moderate magnitude ( d = 0.51, 95% CI = 0.42, 0.58, n = 36). The overall mean effect for sport psychology constructs hypothesized to have a negative impact on performance was small in magnitude ( d = -0.21, 95% CI -0.31, -0.11, n = 24). In both instances, effects were larger, although not significantly so, among meta-analyses of higher quality compared to those of lower quality. Similarly, mean effects were larger but not significantly so, where reported effects in the original studies were based on interventional rather than correlational designs. This trend only applied to hypothesized positive effects because none of the original studies in the meta-analyses related to hypothesized negative effects used interventional designs.

Note. k = number of effects, N.S. = non-significant, n/a = not applicable.

In this systematic review of meta-analyses, we synthesized the available evidence regarding effects of sport psychology interventions/constructs on sport performance. We aimed to consolidate the literature, evaluate the potential for meta-analysis quality to influence the results, and suggest recommendations for future research at both the single study and quantitative review stages. During the systematic review process, several meta-analysis characteristics came to light, such as the number of meta-analyses of sport psychology interventions (experimental designs) compared to those summarizing the effects of psychological constructs (correlation designs) on performance, the number of meta-analyses with exclusively athletes as participants, and constructs featuring in multiple meta-analyses, some of which (e.g., cohesion) produced very different effect size values. Thus, although our overall aim was to evaluate the strength of the evidence base for use of psychological interventions in sport, we also discuss the impact of these meta-analysis characteristics on the reliability of the evidence.

When seen collectively, results of our review are supportive of using sport psychology techniques to help improve performance and confirm that variations in psychological constructs relate to variations in performance. For constructs hypothesized to have a positive effect on performance, the mean effect strength was moderate ( d = 0.51) although there was substantial variation between constructs. For example, the beneficial effects on performance of task cohesion ( d = 1.00) and self-efficacy ( d = 0.82) are large, and the available evidence base for use of mindfulness interventions suggests a very large beneficial effect on performance ( d = 1.35). Conversely, some hypothetically beneficial effects (2 of 36; 5.6%) were in the negligible-to-small range (0.15–0.20) and most beneficial effects (19 of 36; 52.8%) were in the small-to-moderate range (0.22–0.49). It should be noted that in the world of sport, especially at the elite level, even a small beneficial effect on performance derived from a psychological intervention may prove the difference between success and failure and hence small effects may be of great practical value. To put the scale of the benefits into perspective, an authoritative and extensively cited review of healthy eating and physical activity interventions [ 49 ] produced an overall pooled effect size of 0.31 (compared to 0.51 for our study), suggesting sport psychology interventions designed to improve performance are generally more effective than interventions designed to promote healthy living.

Among hypothetically negative effects (e.g., ego climate, cognitive anxiety, depression), the mean detrimental effect was small ( d = -0.21) although again substantial variation among constructs was evident. Some hypothetically negative constructs (5 of 24; 20.8%) were found to actually provide benefits to performance, albeit in the negligible range (0.02–0.12) and only two constructs (8.3%), both from Lochbaum and colleagues’ POMS meta-analysis [ 21 ], were shown to negatively affect performance above a moderate level (depression: d = -0.64; total mood disturbance, which incorporates the depression subscale: d = -0.84). Readers should note that the POMS and its derivatives assess six specific mood dimensions rather than the mood construct more broadly, and therefore results should not be extrapolated to other dimensions of mood [ 50 ].

Mean effects were larger among higher quality than lower quality meta-analyses for both hypothetically positive ( d = 0.54 vs d = 0.45) and negative effects ( d = -0.25 vs d = 0.17), but in neither case were the differences significant. It is reasonable to assume that the true effects were derived from the higher quality meta-analyses, although our conclusions remain the same regardless of study quality. Overall, our findings provide a more rigorous evidence base for the use of sport psychology techniques by practitioners than was previously available, representing a significant contribution to knowledge. Moreover, our systematic scrutiny of 30 meta-analyses published between 1983 and 2021 has facilitated a series of recommendations to improve the quality of future investigations in the sport psychology area.


The development of sport psychology as an academic discipline and area of professional practice relies on using evidence and theory to guide practice. Hence, a strong evidence base for the applied work of sport psychologists is of paramount importance. Although the beneficial effects of some sport psychology techniques are small, it is important to note the larger performance benefits for other techniques, which may be extremely meaningful for applied practice. Overall, however, especially given the heterogeneity of the observed effects, it would be wise for applied practitioners to avoid overpromising the benefits of sport psychology services to clients and perhaps underdelivering as a result [ 1 ].

The results of our systematic review can be used to generate recommendations for how the profession might conduct improved research to better inform applied practice. Much of the early research in sport psychology was exploratory and potential moderating variables were not always sufficiently controlled. Terry [ 51 ] outlined this in relation to the study of mood-performance relationships, identifying that physical and skills factors will very likely exert a greater influence on performance than psychological factors. Further, type of sport (e.g., individual vs. team), duration of activity (e.g., short vs. long duration), level of competition (e.g., elite vs. recreational), and performance measure (e.g., norm-referenced vs. self-referenced) have all been implicated as potential moderators of the relationship between psychological variables and sport performance [ 51 ]. To detect the relatively subtle effects of psychological effects on performance, research designs need to be sufficiently sensitive to such potential confounds. Several specific methodological issues are worth discussing.

The first issue relates to measurement. Investigating the strength of a relationship requires the measured variables to be valid, accurate and reliable. Psychological variables in the meta-analyses we reviewed relied primarily on self-report outcome measures. The accuracy of self-report data requires detailed inner knowledge of thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Research shows that the accuracy of self-report information is subject to substantial individual differences [ 52 , 53 ]. Therefore, self-report data, at best, are an estimate of the measure. Measurement issues are especially relevant to the assessment of performance, and considerable measurement variation was evident between meta-analyses. Some performance measures were more sensitive, especially those assessing physical performance relative to what is normal for the individual performer (i.e., self-referenced performance). Hence, having multiple baseline indicators of performance increases the probability of identifying genuine performance enhancement derived from a psychological intervention [ 54 ].

A second issue relates to clarifying the rationale for how and why specific psychological variables might influence performance. A comprehensive review of prerequisites and precursors of athletic talent [ 55 ] concluded that the superiority of Olympic champions over other elite athletes is determined in part by a range of psychological variables, including high intrinsic motivation, determination, dedication, persistence, and creativity, thereby identifying performance-related variables that might benefit from a psychological intervention. Identifying variables that influence the effectiveness of interventions is a challenging but essential issue for researchers seeking to control and assess factors that might influence results [ 49 ]. A key part of this process is to use theory to propose the mechanism(s) by which an intervention might affect performance and to hypothesize how large the effect might be.

A third issue relates to the characteristics of the research participants involved. Out of convenience, it is not uncommon for researchers to use undergraduate student participants for research projects, which may bias results and restrict the generalization of findings to the population of primary interest, often elite athletes. The level of training and physical conditioning of participants will clearly influence their performance. Highly trained athletes will typically make smaller gains in performance over time than novice athletes, due to a ceiling effect (i.e., they have less room for improvement). For example, consider runner A, who takes 20 minutes to run 5km one week but 19 minutes the next week, and Runner B who takes 30 minutes one week and 25 minutes the next. If we compare the two, Runner A runs faster than Runner B on both occasions, but Runner B improved more, so whose performance was better? If we also consider Runner C, a highly trained athlete with a personal best of 14 minutes, to run 1 minute quicker the following week would almost require a world record time, which is clearly unlikely. For this runner, an improvement of a few seconds would represent an excellent performance. Evidence shows that trained, highly motivated athletes may reach performance plateaus and as such are good candidates for psychological skills training. They are less likely to make performance gains due to increased training volume and therefore the impact of psychological skills interventions may emerge more clearly. Therefore, both test-retest and cross-sectional research designs should account for individual difference variables. Further, the range of individual difference factors will be context specific; for example, individual differences in strength will be more important in a study that uses weightlifting as the performance measure than one that uses darts as the performance measure, where individual differences in skill would be more important.

A fourth factor that has not been investigated extensively relates to the variables involved in learning sport psychology techniques. Techniques such as imagery, self-talk and goal setting all require cognitive processing and as such some people will learn them faster than others [ 56 ]. Further, some people are intuitive self-taught users of, for example, mood regulation strategies such as abdominal breathing or listening to music who, if recruited to participate in a study investigating the effects of learning such techniques on performance, would respond differently to novice users. Hence, a major challenge when testing the effects of a psychological intervention is to establish suitable controls. A traditional non-treatment group offers one option, but such an approach does not consider the influence of belief effects (i.e., placebo/nocebo), which can either add or detract from the effectiveness of performance interventions [ 57 ]. If an individual believes that, an intervention will be effective, this provides a motivating effect for engagement and so performance may improve via increased effort rather than the effect of the intervention per se.

When there are positive beliefs that an intervention will work, it becomes important to distinguish belief effects from the proposed mechanism through which the intervention should be successful. Research has shown that field studies often report larger effects than laboratory studies, a finding attributed to higher motivation among participants in field studies [ 58 ]. If participants are motivated to improve, being part of an active training condition should be associated with improved performance regardless of any intervention. In a large online study of over 44,000 participants, active training in sport psychology interventions was associated with improved performance, but only marginally more than for an active control condition [ 59 ]. The study involved 4-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson narrating both the intervention and active control using motivational encouragement in both conditions. Researchers should establish not only the expected size of an effect but also to specify and assess why the intervention worked. Where researchers report performance improvement, it is fundamental to explain the proposed mechanism by which performance was enhanced and to test the extent to which the improvement can be explained by the proposed mechanism(s).


Systematic reviews are inherently limited by the quality of the primary studies included. Our review was also limited by the quality of the meta-analyses that had summarized the primary studies. We identified the following specific limitations; (1) only 12 meta-analyses summarized primary studies that were exclusively intervention-based, (2) the lack of detail regarding control groups in the intervention meta-analyses, (3) cross-sectional and correlation-based meta-analyses by definition do not test causation, and therefore provide limited direct evidence of the efficacy of interventions, (4) the extensive array of performance measures even within a single meta-analysis, (5) the absence of mechanistic explanations for the observed effects, and (6) an absence of detail across intervention-based meta-analyses regarding number of sessions, participants’ motivation to participate, level of expertise, and how the intervention was delivered. To ameliorate these concerns, we included a quality rating for all included meta-analyses. Having created higher and lower quality groups using a median split of quality ratings, we showed that effects were larger, although not significantly so, in the higher quality group of meta-analyses, all of which were published since 2015.


Journals are full of studies that investigate relationships between psychological variables and sport performance. Since 1983, researchers have utilized meta-analytic methods to summarize these single studies, and the pace is accelerating, with six relevant meta-analyses published since 2020. Unquestionably, sport psychology and performance research is fraught with limitations related to unsophisticated experimental designs. In our aggregation of the effect size values, most were small-to-moderate in meaningfulness with a handful of large values. Whether these moderate and large values could be replicated using more sophisticated research designs is unknown. We encourage use of improved research designs, at the minimum the use of control conditions. Likewise, we encourage researchers to adhere to meta-analytic guidelines such as PRISMA and for journals to insist on such adherence as a prerequisite for the acceptance of reviews. Although such guidelines can appear as a ‘painting by numbers’ approach, while reviewing the meta-analyses, we encountered difficulty in assessing and finding pertinent information for our study characteristics and quality ratings. In conclusion, much research exists in the form of quantitative reviews of studies published since 1934, almost 100 years after the very first publication about sport psychology and performance [ 2 ]. Sport psychology is now truly global in terms of academic pursuits and professional practice and the need for best practice information plus a strong evidence base for the efficacy of interventions is paramount. We should strive as a profession to research and provide best practices to athletes and the general community of those seeking performance improvements.

Supporting information

S1 checklist, acknowledgments.

We acknowledge the work of all academics since Koch in 1830 [ 2 ] for their efforts to research and promote the practice of applied sport psychology.

Funding Statement

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.

Data Availability

  • PLoS One. 2022; 17(2): e0263408.

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Reviewer #1: The paper entitled: “Sport psychology and performance meta-analyses: A systematic review of the literature” aimed to synthesize the extant literature to gain insights into the overall impact of sport psychology on athletic performance. The paper is well written and has a great and strong methodology. However, the introduction and discussion are not persuasive enough that the findings make a significant contribution to the literature and could therefore override these limitations. I include some comments below related to this summary for consideration.

1. In relation to the contribution of the study to the literature, I did not get a sense from the article that the findings revealed anything other than what we already know. Please clarified that;

2. The introduction of the paper was very descriptive, it did not situate the current study in literature or highlight what the gap in the literature is that this study is trying to address. At least, the authors should situate better the main purposes of this study;

3. The discussion is very descriptive and any statements about the contribution and conclusions of the study are not new. At least this moment. Please clarified better and justified your choices.

4. Overall, the paper has conditions for be accepted in PLOS ONE, however the authors should clarified the points above.

Reviewer #2: The submitted work presents a very interesting approach to summarize the results of systematic reviews/meta-analysis regarding sport psychology and performance. I must say that it is rare as a reviewer to find a so relevant and well developed study (particularly a review of literature) in which I can add and help so little. The authors are to be commended for the excellent work developed.

Given this, I can make 1 or 2 remarks in some sections, although I do not believe they are needed to ensure a final quality of the developed work. I believe this work can be published as it is, and my comments should only be considered if the authors feel they are noteworthy.

Lines 99 to 102. Given that several examples were presented before (e.g., journals), why the inclusion of only one book? Several examples could be given here, thus maintaining the line of reasoning presented before.

In method, why report PRISMA 2009, 2015 and 2020 guidelines? As stated in the Page et al (2020) reference used: "The PRISMA 2020 statement replaces the 2009 statement and includes new reporting guidance that reflects advances in methods to identify, select, appraise, and synthesis studies". Won't the 2020 reference be enough?

As a last remark, I wonder if a discussion (or a comment in the discussion/limitations) regarding mood, and particularly POMS, is needed. In this work and in some of the cited works (e.g., Lochbaum et al., 2021, EJIHPE) no discussion regarding the issues of POMS as an assessing tool for mood is presented. As mentioned by several researchers (e.g., Ekkekakis, 2013), POMS do not assess mood, at least not in a global domain. This do not impact directly this work, as generally only each of the six distinct states are explored. However, when interpreting figure 2 and extracting mood results, perhaps some clarification would frame the readers on this issues and respective interpretation of results.

Ekkekakis, P. (2013). The measurement of affect, mood and emotion. Cambridge University Press.

I am sorry I can not help any further with my comments. Thank you for your work.

Best regards

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Reviewer #2:  Yes:  Diogo S. Teixeira

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Author response to Decision Letter 0

13 Dec 2021

Response to Reviewers

Thank you to both reviewers for taking time to review and comment on our manuscript. We addressed all comments.

Reviewer #1: Yes

Reviewer #2: Yes

Author response: Thank you to the reviewers for their positive comments.


Reviewer #1: No

Author response: All pertinent data are found in Table 1 – 2 and in Figure 1.

Author response: Reviewer 1’s concerns have been addressed below.

Reviewer #1

The paper entitled: “Sport psychology and performance meta-analyses: A systematic review of the literature” aimed to synthesize the extant literature to gain insights into the overall impact of sport psychology on athletic performance. The paper is well written and has a great and strong methodology. However, the introduction and discussion are not persuasive enough that the findings make a significant contribution to the literature and could therefore override these limitations. I include some comments below related to this summary for consideration.

• Author response: We have amended the paper to address the three concerns below.

Comment 1. In relation to the contribution of the study to the literature, I did not get a sense from the article that the findings revealed anything other than what we already know. Please clarified that;

• Author response: We have expanded on the gap in the knowledge that we addressed on lines 115-121 on the revised manuscript.

Comment 2. The introduction of the paper was very descriptive, it did not situate the current study in literature or highlight what the gap in the literature is that this study is trying to address. At least, the authors should situate better the main purposes of this study;

• Author response: Currently, sport psychology practitioners wishing to use evidence-based strategies are faced with inconsistent evidence about the efficacy of sport psychology techniques. Our paper addresses this inconsistency by assessing the effectiveness of techniques collectively. This is explained on lines 115-121 and with some small modifications on lines 125-128.

Comment 3. The discussion is very descriptive and any statements about the contribution and conclusions of the study are not new. At least this moment. Please clarified better and justified your choices.

• Author response: As suggested, a stronger summary of the contribution of the paper is provided on lines 371-375. We would also argue that the recommendations section for improvements to future studies also represents a significant contribution to the body of knowledge. If the information provided is already well known, as the reviewer suggests, then we would question why previous investigators have not implemented it in their studies.

Comment 4. Overall, the paper has conditions for be accepted in PLOS ONE, however the authors should clarified the points above.

• Author response: We thank you for your comments, which have served to improve our paper.

Reviewer #2

The submitted work presents a very interesting approach to summarize the results of systematic reviews/meta-analysis regarding sport psychology and performance. I must say that it is rare as a reviewer to find a so relevant and well developed study (particularly a review of literature) in which I can add and help so little. The authors are to be commended for the excellent work developed.

• Author response: Many thanks for your extremely positive comments.

Comment 1. Given this, I can make 1 or 2 remarks in some sections, although I do not believe they are needed to ensure a final quality of the developed work. I believe this work can be published as it is, and my comments should only be considered if the authors feel they are noteworthy.

• Author response: As suggested, we have added some additional references to books on lines 99-104 and added them to the reference list on lines 523-524 and 527-529.

Comment 2. In method, why report PRISMA 2009, 2015 and 2020 guidelines? As stated in the Page et al (2020) reference used: "The PRISMA 2020 statement replaces the 2009 statement and includes new reporting guidance that reflects advances in methods to identify, select, appraise, and synthesis studies". Won't the 2020 reference be enough?

• Author response: As suggested, we have removed reference to the PRISMA guidelines published in 2009 and 2015.

Comment 3. As a last remark, I wonder if a discussion (or a comment in the discussion/limitations) regarding mood, and particularly POMS, is needed. In this work and in some of the cited works (e.g., Lochbaum et al., 2021, EJIHPE) no discussion regarding the issues of POMS as an assessing tool for mood is presented. As mentioned by several researchers (e.g., Ekkekakis, 2013), POMS do not assess mood, at least not in a global domain. This do not impact directly this work, as generally only each of the six distinct states are explored. However, when interpreting figure 2 and extracting mood results, perhaps some clarification would frame the readers on this issues and respective interpretation of results.

• Author response: It was not our intent to critique the construct validity of the measures used in the meta-analyses we reviewed. Nevertheless, as suggested, we have added a note that the POMS and its derivatives do not measure all aspects of the global domain of mood (see lines 364-366).

I am sorry I cannot help any further with my comments. Thank you for your work.

• Author response: We are delighted to know that you thought so highly of our paper.

Submitted filename: Response to Reviewers.docx

Decision Letter 1

19 Jan 2022


We’re pleased to inform you that your manuscript has been judged scientifically suitable for publication and will be formally accepted for publication once it meets all outstanding technical requirements.

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Acceptance letter

25 Jan 2022

Dear Dr. Lochbaum:

I'm pleased to inform you that your manuscript has been deemed suitable for publication in PLOS ONE. Congratulations! Your manuscript is now with our production department.

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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Athletes — Sports Psychology


Sports Psychology

  • Categories: Athletes Motivation Social Psychology

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Social learning theory, interactional theory, attribution theory.

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essay on sports psychology

Tess M. Kilwein PhD, ABPP

Sport and Competition

What is a sport psychologist, the field of sport psychology continues to expand..

Updated November 3, 2023 | Reviewed by Tyler Woods

  • Sport psychologists operate in a variety of settings, from youth to professional sports.
  • Sport psychologists work across the mental health and mental performance services continuum.
  • In addition to individual and team work, sport psychologists operate in and serve broader athletic systems.

What do sport psychologists do?

Sport psychologists operate in a variety of capacities, including individual sessions with athletes that may reflect traditional therapy , scheduled performance consultations, or “sideline” interventions (i.e., providing immediate feedback in a natural sport environment). Sport psychologists may also offer crisis management to individuals, teams, and/or broader sport organizations as needed. Sessions with teams, including consultations, workshops, and educational interventions, are also a function of sport psychologists, as is observing teams in their natural practice/ competition environments. Finally, sport psychologists may offer consultation to coaches and staff who work directly with athletes.

How to Identify the Right Provider

Sport psychology is a broad field that includes providers who work across the mental health and mental performance services continuum. These providers can be broadly categorized across licensed mental health providers (e.g., psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers) and Certified Mental Performance Consultants® (CMPCs), a designation given by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Clinically trained CMPCs possess both a mental health license and a CMPC. While clinically trained CMPCs or licensed mental health providers typically work with athletes at low and decreased levels of functioning and performance, CMPCs typically work with athletes that have stable, enhanced, or high functioning and performance. Education , training, license/certification, and continuing education requirements differ across provider designations.

Association for Applied Sport Psychology

Where Do Sport Psychologists Work?

While less common in traditional high school settings, sport psychologists can be increasingly found serving youth clubs and academies. More commonly, sport psychologists are hired by collegiate athletic departments—either as liaisons from university counseling centers or embedded entirely within athletics—to serve student-athlete mental health and performance needs specifically. Sport psychologists also work with professional athletes who are members of professional sport teams or the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). Those working with professional athletes may do so as internal providers of professional sports teams, or private practitioners who are hired individually by athletes. Finally, sport psychologists can also be found operating as private practitioners in medical centers/hospitals (particularly rehabilitation settings) and in non-athletic settings such as the military, creative arts, and corporations—anywhere that elite performance is relevant outside of sport.

Working With Athletes

Athletes are a unique population that benefit from tailored services because they often perform in the spotlight and/or under a microscope. Athletes experience high levels of pressure to perform and, thus, possess many strengths in navigating high-pressure systems that may be useful in other realms of life. Grit (i.e., passion and perseverance for a long-term goal) is an example of a characteristic common among elite athletes that may translate into other areas of their lives (Thomsen & Olesen, 2020).

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Typical Challenges for Athletes

Athletes face challenges related to mental health and interpersonal relationships similar to the general public. However, the unique pressures placed on athletes to perform can exacerbate existing mental health and interpersonal challenges (Reardon, 2019). In addition, athletes face challenges specific to their performance environment, including decreased athlete performance, maladaptive perfectionism , overtraining syndrome, injuries/surgery, and retirement from sport.

The Athletic System

In addition to individual and team work with athletes, sport psychologists operate in and serve broader athletic systems. These systems typically include athletic administrators, compliance officers, and coaching staff. Sport psychologists also often function as multidisciplinary members of sport performance and/or sports medicine teams. Sport performance teams may include strength and conditioning coaches, dieticians/nutritions, and sport scientists, whereas sports medicine teams are often composed of team physicians and athletic trainers. Importantly, each athletic system operates in its own way and may comprise more or less team members than described in this section.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (2022). NCAA student-athlete well-being study. Retrieved from: https://ncaaorg.s3.amazonaws.com/research/other/2020/2022RES_NCAA-SA-We…

Reardon, C. L., Hainline, B., Aron, C. M., Baron, D., Baum, A. L., Bindra, A., ... & Engebretsen, L. (2019). Mental health in elite athletes: International Olympic Committee consensus statement (2019). British Journal of Sports Medicine, 53(11), 667-699.

Thomsen, D. K., & Olesen, M. H. (2020). Elite athletes are higher on Grit than a comparison sample of non-athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2, 2-7.

Tess M. Kilwein PhD, ABPP

Tess M. Kilwein, Ph.D., ABPP, is a board-certified clinical and sport psychologist who holds space for difficult conversations about the things we don't talk about: sex, love, sports, gender, trauma, and addiction.

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Sports Psychology Essay

Sports psychology is the study of athletes’ behavior and experiences, including thought processes, emotions, and social interactions. It is focused primarily on how individuals are affected by playing sports (e. g. , coach-athlete relationships), how they manage their emotions during competition (e. g. , composure), and how participation in sport affects their lives outside of sports. Sport psychology is employed by many types of organized, competitive athletic programs at all levels. The sports an athlete chooses to play will determine the type and amount of mental health services they require.

Sport psychologists are hired by team coaches if athletes having difficulties in following game plans or meeting their expectations. Sport psychologists are also used during practices to help athletes become mentally tough and build strong character that will lead them towards success not only in sport but also in life. Sports Psychology focuses on different aspects of mental health, such as how athletes cope with competition, handle winning and losing streaks, deal with their emotions during competitions, perform under pressure, motivate themselves, solve problems more efficiently, improve concentration skills and manage pain.

Sports psychologist uses interviews to help diagnose their clients’ mental health and to suggest ways for them to deal with their problems. Sport psychologists are often sought by athletes who may be having trouble in school, work, or relationships because of their sports participation. Sport psychologists help athletes set goals, overcome fears, cope with anxiety, depression and anger, handle stress before and during competitions, as well as solve interpersonal issues within the team.

Sport Psychology is the study of how psychology affects sports, athletic performance, exercise and physical activity. Sport psychologists are interested in helping athletes use psychological principles to achieve optimal mental health and to improve performance (Begos). Sport psychologists help athletes with anxiety, concentration/focus, goal setting, motivation, arousal regulation, relaxation techniques and mental imagery. Sport Psychology research has increased significantly over the past 20 years especially when it comes to the psychological effect on elite athletes (Beard et al. 2003; Smoll & Smith, 2002).

Sport Psychology helps with athletes’ confidence through helping them predict possible outcomes, which may reduce their anxiety when they compete in an event or during training (Hanton & Connelly). Sport Psychology can also be used by coaches when they are trying to motivate their athletes (Hanton & Connelly). Sport Psychology is critical in the development of an athletes’ mental skills that are necessary for optimal performance.

Sport psychologists can help athletes work through mental blocks that prevent them from performing at their best, which may improve the athletic performance of the athlete (Begos). Sport Psychologists can conduct diagnosis on players mental health, identify behavioural problems and provide psychological skills training to players to develop both physically and mentally (Begos). Sport Psychologists also assist with injury rehabilitation by working with injured athletes in trying to decrease pain and improve their self-esteem when it comes to the injury.

Sport psychologists typically work with elite athletes who compete at national or international levels, however they can help any athlete who wants to improve their performance. Sport Psychology can benefit all athletes by helping them with achieving goals, overcoming fears and increasing concentration ability (Begos). Sport Psychology helps athletes achieve optimal mental health to reduce the risk of both physical and psychological injury as well as decrease burnout which is common amongst elite athletes as sport psychology can help keep sports enjoyable for them (Smoll & Smith, 2002).

Sport psychology is the study of the characteristics, thoughts and behaviors in performance, psychological responses to sport and sport experiences, and the relationship between sports participants and their environment. Sports psychologists apply psychological theories, concepts, and methods to improve athletes’ mental health (performance anxiety) and overall well-being; athletes’ motivation; group dynamics; communication; leadership/conflict resolution skills; interpersonal relationships; career transitions (sports retirement). ”

The most important aspect you should take from this information is that Sport Psychology is for everyone, no matter who it is or what level they are at when it comes to the sport they play. Sport Psychology is becoming more common place when it comes to many sports teams such as Soccer teams having Sport Psychologists on staff to help with issues such as communication and team dynamic. Sport Psychology has been a large part of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where Sport Psychologists have helped athletes from many sports including, but not limited to: Alpine Skiing, Cycling, Rowing, Boxing, Track and Field just to name a few.

Sport Psychology is a relatively new field when trying to compare it to other traditional psychological practices such as Psychotherapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . Sport Psychologists are often the ones helping athletes get over mental hurdles that they may face during their career which can be very rewarding for Sport Psychologists who love athletics and enjoy working with athletes.

Sport Psychologist must also take into account different factors affecting athletes’ attitudes and behaviors when interacting with them. Sport Psychologists have different concentrations when it comes to their practice, there are Sport Sport Psychologists who work with athletes in individual sports such as Track and Field or Cycling while others may specialize in Sport Sport Psychology where they focus on team performance rather than an athlete’s ability.

Sport Psychologist must also keep up the latest research and be able to help train other Sport Psychologists with different techniques and practices that can be beneficial for everyone involved especially athletes. Some of the best Sport Psychologist would be those working close to athletes, not just within a university or training center setting but those working closely with coaches as well as athletes themselves.

A supportive home life is something else that helps Sport Psychology since most athletes will come from homes with supportive parents who are Sport Psychologists themselves or have experience in Sport Psychology. Sport Psychology is not only for athletes but their coaches, family, managers and even trainers as well. Sport Psychology is becoming more widely used with the emphasis placed on mental readiness at all levels of sport. Sport Psychology can be very rewarding if you enjoy helping others with different issues they may face both physically and mentally.

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Sport Psychology Term Definition and Analysis Essay

Introduction, terms of sport psychology, the matters of contention.

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Sport Psychology is the study of the mental and rational elements that control and are influenced by contribution and performance in sport, exercise, and physical commotion, and the submission of the knowledge gained through this study to daily situations.

Sport psychology experts are concerned in how contribution in sport, exercise, and physical activity may improve individual expansion and well-being all through the life span. Sport psychologists are also concerned in assisting trainers in working with athletes as well as helping advance athletes’ inspiration.

Cohesion – whenever a team has done well and they are asked, What factors contributed to their success, someone always says, “We got along well all season.” In team sports, team cohesion is a large part of success. Team members need to have mutual respect for each other and accept the faults of teammates.

Motivation – intrinsic motivation comes from inside the athlete or individual. They do something as it makes them feel excellent, or they expand a sense of pride after completing a goal. Extrinsic motivation originates from outside, money, and awards such as trophies or awards are extrinsic. Both types of motivation are significant to consider.

Beem (2006) originally offered that greater recognition with a particular self-identity height increases the leaning for an individual to use the perceptual and emotional aspects of the particular measurement to interpret and reply to situations within other identity-based measurements. Similarly, Harter (1990) contended that the level of competence exhibited in the salient aspect of self-identity could have a pervasive impact on an individual’s self-esteem, affect, and behavior.

Thus, it would follow that a highly competent and strongly identified high school athlete might report correspondingly greater perceived competence in other non-sport attainment areas. Although no direct, experiential confirmation presently survives to maintain this contention, numerous sport studies have linked athletic identity to positive self-awareness such as stable self-concept (Goldstein, 2006), increased unreservedness (Williams, 2004), greater global self-esteem (Williams, 2004), and en hanced self-confidence and social interaction (Kornspan, 2005).

Thus, for example, soccer is a game of endurance, speed, agility, and rapidity. The soccer player who can run at the end of the match is going to have a better chance of winning, the soccer player who can kick a ball and sprint after it the fastest is gong to score more goals, the goal keeper who can shut down the defense with more blocked shots is going to keep their team in contention. The soccer Athletic Performance Program will focus on each specific skill set.

As for the issues of leadership in sports, it is necessary to mention, that a leader is someone who not only states an example for others, but more prominently pressures their field in a way which greatly precedes the study and execute of that regulation For this reason, only leaders should be proposed to receive the regarded USC Honorary Degree, which is given to “persons who have differentiated themselves through strange attainments in the professions” and “who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part.”

These nominees should project a positive, model image of what the university images as ideal, and they should be “widely known and highly regarded for attainments in their individual fields of attempt” by their colleagues. The receiver of the voluntary degree will also give the beginning speech for that year; an honor in itself. This speech is usually about present matters in the world, as it serves to send off the graduating class with high moral anticipates and anticipations of making a dissimilarity in the world.

Recent leadership theory has concentrated mainly on the performances of leaders. According to the influential leadership theory developed at Ohio State University and operationalized in the Leader Behavior explanation Questionnaire, most leader performances can be placed within two broad groups: deliberation and initiating structure . Consideration refers to behaviors that foster friendship, mutual trust, heightened respect, and interpersonal warmth between the leader and subordinates.

Initiating structure refers to behaviors that establish rules and parameters, channels of communications, technical processes, and well-defined patterns of association that facilitate group goals and objects. The therapeutic and organizational studies cited formerly lend hesitant support to the hypothesis that both deliberation and initiating arrangement performance facilitate group unity.

In a study of the leadership favorites and perceptions of 216 male sportspersons in intercollegiate basketball, track, and wrestling, found that the similarity between the two LSS versions in the autocratic behavior and positive criticism measurements affected happiness with the coach in a curvilinear fashion. When the apparent account score deviated in either course from the favored version score, members were less satisfied with their coach. Also, members were less satisfied with their coach when his or her training and instruction behavior was perceived as inadequate. Competition and cooperation are not mutually exclusive. If you have one and not the other in our communities we all fall apart.

Beem, Kate. “Righting the Balance in the Athletics-Academics Equation: Given More Pressing Concerns, Superintendents Don’t Often Get Involved in Overseeing Interscholastic Sports in Their Districts.” School Administrator 2006: 10.

Boatwright, Karyn J., and Linda Forrest. “Leadership Preferences: The Influence of Gender and Needs for Connection on Workers’ Ideal Preferences for Leadership Behaviors.” Journal of Leadership Studies 7.2 (2000): 18.

Goldstein, Jay D., and Seppo E. Iso-Ahola. “Promoting Sportsmanship in Youth Sports: Perspectives from Sport Psychology; Sport Psychology Provides Crucial Insights for Improving Behavior in Sport.” JOPERD–The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 77.7 (2006): 18.

Harter, S.. “Causes, correlates, and the functional role of global self-worth: A life-span perspective. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1990.

Jambor, Elizabeth A., and James J. Zhang. “Investigating Leadership, Gender and Coaching Level Using the Revised Leadership for Sport Scale.” Journal of Sport Behavior 20.3 (1997): 313.

Kornspan, Alan S., and Bart S. Lerner. “Graduate Education in Applied Sport Psychology: Suggestions for the Training of Sport-Psychology Consultants.” Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association 8.3 (2005): 18.

Landin, D., & Hebert, E. P. “The influence of self-talk on the performance of skilled female tennis players”. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 11, 263–282. 1999.

Messick, David M., and Roderick M. Kramer, eds. The Psychology of Leadership: New Perspectives and Research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005.

Shields, David Lyle Light, Douglas E. Gardner, Brenda Jo Light Bredemeier, and Alan Bostro. “The Relationship between Leadership Behaviors and Group Cohesion in Team Sports.” Journal of Psychology 131.2 (1997): 196-210.

Weinberg, R. S., and Gould, D. “Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D.” Human Kinetics Europe Ltd publisher. (2003).

Williams, A. Mark, and Nicola J. Hodges. Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory, and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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Essay on Sports Psychology

This context emphasizes on sports psychology in the sports arena. It briefly entails the attributions and cognitions involved in the sporting activities and their significance in sports. Meanwhile, the forum encompasses the core attribution theories, more importantly, the parameters that influence the attributions and how the attributions and cognitions are related to the sentiments and diligence. Furthermore, it also puts focus on the adjustment of the ascription formats. Lastly, this forum discusses confidence in sports .and theories which expound on how enthusiasm plays a vital role in sporting and performance occasions or situations.

Sports psychology generally refers to the utilization of the knowledge and skills attributed to psychology to evaluate and assess the enactment and welfare of the athletes. Sports psychology also is concerned with the social aspect of sports involvement and engagement. Sports psychology is specifically meant to aid the athletes and other personalities involved in the sporting activities, such as the coaches and the administration staff. In this context of sports psychology, attribution can be denoted as a mechanism by which people conjecture the roots of certain comportments. In contrast, cognition involves all the events that occur in attaining knowledge about a particular aspect.

Attributions and cognitions are crucial in sports as they motivate the athletes and remain consistent in their performances. Attribution theory in sports reflects on the athletes’ enthusiasm where the athletes can elaborate the sporting circumstances based on their intellectual insight. For instance, causal attribution is associated with such awareness. Attribution is mainly classified into three main subdivisions: stability, causality, and control. Stability is concerned with those factors that don’t change over a certain period. Perhaps causality is attributed to the internal and external factors that are determinant in an athlete’s performance. Internal causality implies the mentality of an athlete towards sporting activities.

In contrast, the external factors involve the factors which are beyond one’s control and may gradually affect the performance of the athletes if not put into account. Control is activities that the athletes can maintain to justify decent performances. The core elements of attributions include consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness. Consensus indicates that the person under consideration acts like other groups. Meanwhile, consistency is concerned with the reproducibility of the same performance levels in a continuous fashion. Lastly, distinctiveness deals with how one acts consistently, irrespective of the different situations. Attributions are generally crucial because they fulfill the expectations of future performance. These attributions create a sense of motivation and confidence and thus lead to individual goals in sporting activities. Emotions and persistence are related to attributions in a variety of ways. Emotions form the basis in the attainment of the stipulated goals. Feelings generally create motivation sense, and this leads to an incredible performance. Emotions lead to discrepancies in the performances. On the other hand, persistence is related to attributions differently. persistence implies the ability to progress with performance despite any shortcomings. This is regarded as a sign of competence on any occasion and is crucial in regulating an individual’s performance.

The transformation of attribution style can be made more effective through the paying devotion and run-through. One needs to realize their rational distortions and rehearse the reforming techniques to modify such distortions. This often transitions from a negative attribution style to a positive one. For instance, the modification of the attribution style will involve the change of learners’ perception after failing the math test to improve their performance. The leaner may transform from the negative attribution to a positive one to perform. The learner needs to embrace the score in the test and hope for a promising performance in the next one.

Confidence in sports is another important dimension in sports which is one of the significant factors influencing performance. Confidence implies the assurance that one can perform a particular task regardless of the setbacks that dominate. Triumphantly implementing any given skill helps gain self-confidence in handling certain situations. For instance, for athletes in a given championship, the state of their confidence can either tumble or diminish their performance. The aspect of confidence is arrived at by different theories. These theories include; Bandura’s self-efficacy theory, Harter’s competence motivation theory, and Vealey’s multidimensional model of sport-confidence.

Per the Banduras self-efficacy theory, self-efficacy is a psychological methodology that makes an individual have a firm belief that they can have a triumphant performance depending on their attributions. According to this theory, there are two types of expectations; Outcome expectancies and efficacy expectations. Outcome expectancies imply that a given behavior will lead automatically to a particular consequence. In contrast, efficacy expectations deal with the magnitude of effort that an individual will need to apply to ensure decent performance. According to this theory, personal efficacy is based on personal endeavors, mediated proficiencies, and vocal coaxing. According to Bandura, those individuals with greater efficacy can perform well and consistently. Thus, they will integrate more efforts, persevere longer, and improve performance in sporting activities and exercise.

Meanwhile, in Harter’s competence motivation theory, one feels motivated when one competently does a task and becomes successful. The consequently encourages the individual to often discover more tasks. Meanwhile, the approach is motivation-based in Vealey’s multidimensional model of sports confidence. It suggests that an athlete who attains success in one area of sport has a general feeling of sports confidence and expects to engage in new sporting activities and be also triumphant in the respective field of sports.

In sporting activities, it is critical to be intrinsically motivated to promote good performance levels. Intrinsic motivation implies participating in a given task for your satisfaction. This can be enhanced through competitive-oriented activities to prepare one’s mindset to have a winning mentality. This will, in turn, push players in sports to have the desire to succeed. One also needs to create a positive atmosphere for the players by making sporting activities fun by stimulating them. Lastly, one should not harass the players upon a defeat, for instance, in the case of last-minute defeat one needs to embrace such and thus ensuring good performance for the next match or tournament.

Butler, R. J. (2020).  Sports psychology in action . CRC Press.

ÇETİN, S., ADİLOĞULLARI, İ., & ŞENEL, E. The Relationship between Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence: The Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence: A Study in Elite Athletes.  International Journal of Sport Exercise and Training Sciences-IJSETS ,  7 (4), 155-162.

Thomas, O., Thrower, S. N., Lane, A., & Thomas, J. (2021). Types, sources, and debilitating factors of sport-confidence in elite early adolescent academy soccer players.  Journal of Applied Sport Psychology ,  33 (2), 192-217.

Orbach, I., Gutin, H., Hoffman, N., & Blumenstein, B. (2021). Motivation in Competitive Sport among Female Youth Athletes.  Psychology ,  12 (6), 943-958.

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