The History Of Sport Psychology
Unsplash / Braden Collum

Before we get into an in-depth look at how you can use sports psychology, it is important to understand just where this practice came from. It has a far longer history than you probably realize, but it has had its own ups and downs. Let’s start at the beginning. The Early Years.

The First Observations

The roots of sports psychology started back in the 19th century, when a man by the name of Norman Triplett started making his own observations about athletes and when they were performing best. In 1898, he discovered that there were cyclists who were working hard to train for races, but they also always seemed to perform at their best during the race itself compared to when they were doing so on their own. 

The Start of The Practice

It wasn’t until years later that it was actually studied, however. The man who is considered the founder of sports psychology specifically is a man by the name of Coleman R Griffith. This psychologist began studying the psychology of sports in-depth in an attempt to predict performance. 

It all started for him in 1918, when he was a graduate student. At this time, he was focusing on how to attention levels and vision played a role in predicting the way that football and basketball players performed during games. After his work in this area, he started teaching a course on the matter. It was titled “Psychology and Athletics,” officially starting what we now know as Sports Psychology when the accompanying research lab was opened to study athletic performance. 

There were a lot of conclusions that he drew through his work in this lab, but in particular, he looked into the link between learning and physical exercise. The sleep pattern of athletes. The psychological skills of football players. Mental variables that have an impact on sports player’s performance. This went on for a few years until he was unfortunately forced to close his labin 1932. 

The Great Depression, along with the loss of support from the head football coach of Illinois, forced the decision and effectively put an end to his research for a time. Before the closing of his lab, however, he published a paper that is seen as what started the movement. In it, he wrote that: “The more mind is made use of in athletic competition, the greater will be the skill of our athletes, the finer will be the contest, the higher will be the ideals of sportsmanship displayed, the longer will our games persist in our national life, and the more truly will they lead to those rich personal and social products which we ought to expect of them. 

Sport women
Unsplash / Christopher Campbell

Because of these facts, the psychologist may hope to break into the realm of athletic competition, just as he has already broken into realms of industry, commerce, medicine, education, and art.” That article led to more research as he published two textbooks on the subject, entitled Psychology of Coaching and Psychology and Athletics. 

This effectively laid the groundwork for others, especially after he took a job as a consultant for the Chicago Cubs in order to start using the ideas that he had formulated. Sports Psychology Catches On It didn’t take long, however, for other baseball teams to start gaining interest in the kinds of concepts that Griffith had discovered and written about. 

The St Louis Browns hired David F Tracy, a hypnotist, and psychologist, to bring a “scientific attitude” to their scouting and player recruitment in the 1950s. The Philadelphia Phillies picked up the game as well in the 1960s when they created a research program based around baseball players. 

Kansas City created something similar for the Royals in the 70s, with more and more teams catching on to start using something that has become a standard practice for baseball, football, and basketball teams across the globe. 

The Modern Practice Sports psychology as we know it started in large part in 1965 when a group of psychologists founded the International Society of Sport Psychology. This international group met every year to discuss their latest developments. 

A North American Society of Sport Psychology and Physical Activity followed closely on its heels and started the modern incarnation in the United States. Today, sports psychologists work with teams everywhere and in virtually any sport that you can imagine. 

A specialty journal called The Sport Psychologist was founded in 1986 and has since spread information about the latest developments and created a field that is far and away one of the most interesting. 

During the 1980s and the 1990s, there was an absolute explosion of the industry and at the moment there are now over 3,000 sports psychologists across the globe and there are now over 100 training programs available to those interested in the field. One of the most vital things about sports psychology, though, is that many of the techniques are very easy to use on your own, without having to resort to seeing a professional to find out more information about what you should be doing. 

That is why we are now going to look at the major techniques that sports psychology has discovered. These kinds of techniques are easy to use, highly effective, and some of the greatest ways of increasing performance in any sport, without having to add additional physical training to the routine.

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