Understanding Sport Psychology

by Nupur Kaul 
May 18, 2021
Understanding Sport Psychology

In the world that we live in today, Mental Health is finally getting the attention it requires and deserves. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “mental well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Given this, it can be established that mental health plays an important role an individual’s career as well. This is also the case with athletes who have, or want to, build their careers in sports.

Sport Psychology is a subject that studies how psychological factors, like emotional intelligence, motivation, self-confidence, etc., affect the performance of athletes, and how involvement in sport and exercise affects their psychological and physical aspects in a mutually reciprocal nature. The basic work of a sport psychologist is to introduce cognitive and behavioural techniques to athletes, in order to improve their performance in sports. Moreover, additional focus may involve working with coaches and parents, on topics like injury, rehabilitation, team building, career transitions, and more.

“So what process does a Sport Psychologist follow and what is their work schedule like?”, we asked this question to Nupur Kaul, who is our practicing sport psychology consultant. And this is what she had to say about it:

“As a sports psychologist, you will not have the regular timings of a 9am-5pm job. Watching your athlete during their training gives the sports psychologist massive amounts of data regarding what goes on in their mind, and how they behave on the field or court. Watching my athletes at 6 am on the field and 3 pm on the tennis court is part of my daily routine. Generally, I prefer working with my athletes for a minimum of 5 sessions. It is important to emphasise that developing an athlete’s mental skills is a process and cannot be enhanced overnight. The sessions are once a week for an hour, and the athletes stay in touch with me during the week as well.

The first session involves a comprehensive case-history taking wherein, I understand the needs and aspirations of the athlete, what their goals are, and what they aspire to achieve from life and the sport. The first session is very important for deciding what the future sessions will entail and creating a path for the future sessions. The next few sessions include goal-setting, building self-confidence, and increasing intrinsic motivation to enhance the performance of an athlete.”

Modern sport psychology is a diverse and increasingly growing discipline. Let us take a look at a few topics of interest in this field:

1. Goal Setting

Goal setting is the process of systematically planning ways to achieve specific accomplishments and tasks within a certain amount of time. As Nupur mentions, an athlete’s goals are one of the first things that a Sport Psychologist tries to figure out. Goal Setting is focused on helping athletes mentally prepare for a performance or competition.

2. Arousal Regulation

Arousal regulation means entering into and maintaining an ideal level of cognitive and physiological activation in order to make the most of performance. If an athlete is too nervous or stressed, relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, and calming positive self-talk can be employed to regulate their arousal level. On the other hand, if an athlete is not alert enough, then energizing techniques such as listening to motivational music and using energizing cues can be applied to increase their arousal level.

3. Motivation

Sport psychologists also work with professional athletes and coaches to improve performance and motivation. An important subject in sports psychology is the study of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivators are exterior rewards, such as trophies, medals, cash prizes, etc. Intrinsic motivators arise from within the athlete, such as their desire to win or the pride that comes from executing a skill.

4. Team-Building

Sport psychologists work with coaches and athletes to help them develop a sense of comradery and assist them in working together efficiently and effectively. It is important that every player on the team knows their worth and the value they add to the team.

5. Self-confidence

Self-confidence is the belief an athlete has on their own abilities. To be a great athlete, one must be confident and believe that they are great athletes. If an athlete is high in self-confidence, they will be more likely to persist in completing a task.

Reach out to us at contact@psychline.in or WhatsApp us at +91 9993054009 to learn more about consulting with our Sport Psychologist, or participating in Sport Psychology workshops.

Nupur Kaul (Sport and Exercise Psychologist)
Shashank Rai (Sport Psychology Intern, PsychLine.in)