The Evolution in Sports Psychology
High-level performance in sports is, of course, highly contingent upon one's physical abilities. In order to compete at the collegiate, Olympic or professional level, one must both be blessed with a certain minimum threshold of natural athletic talents and be bestowed with the dedication and patience to achieve the consistency and improvement necessary to remain at these high levels of competition. However, even given these two virtues, the aspirant athlete may find this difficult path further beset by challenges of the psychological kind. Competition at this high level requires confidence, focus, clarity, even temperament and a host of other qualities that can at times be easily accessed, at other times difficult to summon and other times still seemingly impossible to locate. It is thus that the field of sports psychology remains in a state of constant evolution. For athletes at every level, it is sometimes necessary to consult a professional with the capacity to put emotional challenges into perspective, to bring one's mental game up to par with one's physical game or to come to terms with the inherent ups and downs that come with athletic competition. The discussion here reveals that the field remains ever-changing, with the implications of effective sports psychology strategies having a direct and long-term bearing on career development.
One of the major points of evolution in the field connects to the always growing understanding of the human mind, of mood conditions and of socio-emotional processes. In addition, we are always improving our recognition of the connection between the mental and the physical dimensions of individual experience. It is for this reason, article such as that by Terry (2010) indicate, that sports psychologists have increasingly placed an emphasis on mood profiling and mood regulation as ways of helping athletes to better understand the impact of their emotions as well as to help them adapt strategies for controlling these emotions. To this...
The mood regulation process involves assessment and interpretation of mood responses, followed by prescription of evidence-based interventions that, ideally, have been pre-learnt and practiced." (Terry, p. 1)
This denotes that one of the trends which is currently favored by practicing sports psychologists relates to helping the athlete adjust his or her mental approach to the game in order to accommodate particular qualities identified by a mood profile as well as particular ways of using self-driven interventions to prevent the negative effects of mood variation. Terry refers to specific contexts in which this approach may be called for such as coping with injury and shaping training strategies according to individual capabilities and thresholds.
Future developments in the field point further in the direction of providing athletes with the internal instruments and strategies necessary to take control of their own mental processes and emotional habits. According to the text by Kumar & Shirotriya (2010), a major preoccupation of the field is referred to as Mental Game Coaching. This, the research tells, is "the segment of sports psychology that concentrates specifically on helping athletes break through the mental barriers that are keeping them from performing up to their peak potential. By focusing on the mental skills needed to be successful in any sporting competition, mental game coaching seeks to achieve the overall goal of performance improvement." (Kumar & Shirotriya, p. 155)
This demonstrates an improved understanding in the field of cognitive psychology of the individual strategies that produce the best performance results. This is largely predicated on a preexistent understanding that athletes tend, when compared to non-athletic groups, to demonstrate higher levels of confidence, optimism and positive self-perception. This, according to the study by Edwards & Edwards (2011) is part of what allows such individuals to become athletes and succeed as athletes. Simultaneously, such confidence and self-perception is often tied directly to performance and therefore suggests a reciprocal relationship. Accordingly, the article in question reports that "this research compared psychological well-being and physical self-perceptions of convenience samples of health club members, hockey players, runners, soccer players, surfers and a control group of non-sports persons. All sports groups perceived themselves…
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