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Sports Psychology and Exercise Psychology: An Overview 


What is Exercise and Sports Psychology? 

sports psychologyExercise and sports psychology are the scientific study of people and their behaviors in sports and exercise contexts and the practical applications of that knowledge.  Specialists in exercise and sports psychology, identify principles and guidelines that professionals can use to help adults and children participate in and benefit from sports and exercise activities. 

Most people study exercise and sports psychology with two objectives in mind: (a) to understand how psychological factors affect an individual’s physical performance and (b) to understand how proper participation in sports and exercise effects a person’s psychological development, health, and well-being.  They pursued this study by asking questions such as:  

Objective (a): Understand the effects of psychological factors on physical or motor performance.

How does anxiety affect a basketball player’s accuracy in free-throw shooting?

How does a coach’s reinforcement and punishment influence the team's cohesion?

Does imagery training facilitate the recovery process in injured athletes and exercisers?

Objective (b): Understand the effects of participating in physical activity on psychological development, health, and well-being.

Does running reduce anxiety and depression?

Do young athletes learn to be overly aggressive from participating youth sports?

Does participation in daily physical education classes improve a child's self-esteem?

Sports psychology applies to a broad population base.  Although some professionals use it to help elite athletes achieve peak performance, many others are concerned more with children, the physically and mentally disabled, seniors, and average participants.  Recently, more and more, specialists in sports psychology have focused on the psychological factors involved in exercise, developing strategies to encourage sedentary people to exercise and are assessing the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for depression.  To reflect this broadening of interest, the field is now called exercise and sports psychology, with some individuals starting to focus only on the exercise aspects of the field. 

Information provided by Weinberg and Gould’s  Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology

Webpage by Paul Susic  Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist   (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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