A psychologist is to help athletes cope with

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Last updated: June 15, 2019

Asport psychologist is used for athletes to optimise performance andensure their overall mental well-being. With athletes being trainedphysically to their maximum, often the role that the mind plays inwinning is overlooked; this is where investing in a sportpsychologist would be beneficial as they provide an edge overcompetition. This essay will explore the specific roles a sportpsychologist can play in the development of an athlete.

Oneof the main roles of a sport psychologist is to build and increase anathlete’s self-confidence and motivation. Self-confidence is veryimportant at elite level since ability is very similar, having higherconfidence in oneself can give the edge to an athlete over theirpeers. The stronger the belief in their capabilities, the greater andmore persistent are their efforts (Bandura 1989). A sportpsychologist can help increase confidence by adopting Bandura’stheory of self-efficacy when communicating with athletes. Forexample, using social persuasion to convince the athlete mentallythey have the ability to overcome obstacles and perform well canincrease self-efficacy, and translates into better performance.Having high self-efficacy in an athlete leads to developing strongmotivation as well, meaning they are more likely to see obstacles aschallenges, and will be motivated to rise above them instead of beingcontempt with the level they are at.Teachingathletes to self-talk has been found to increase focus and motivationon the task required of them.

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The sport psychologist should encouragepositive self-talk to athletes. This can include praising oneselfafter performing successfully or words of motivation to keep going;this helps the athlete to think positively rather than being stuck ina negative state. The psychologist could implement the five-A modelin this situation, it ensures that the athletes’ intention is tomake the change and involves modifying the technique until it is anautomatic response that the athlete feels comfortable to use in highpressure situations. Teaching the athlete how to use pain asmotivation is also necessary. Helping the athlete to understand howpain is related to improvement can keep the athlete motivated to workthrough the pain instead of giving up.

Developing this positiveattitude towards it will see athletes embrace pain through hard workas they will understand that it is something that will pay off in thelong run.Anothermajor role of a sport psychologist is to help athletes cope withpressure and anxiety. The psychologist aims to help the athlete feelmore relaxed and confident, while less nervous and stressed in thecompetitive environment. If the athlete is in a confident state itmeans they believe they have the ability to perform well in thesetting. In comparison, being in a stressed and agitated statesignals to the athlete they cannot perform well which often createsself-doubt and negative imagery, which is likely to impair theirperformance. For example, a footballer who under-performs takingpenalties in a game because they experience high anxiety may begin tobelieve that they cannot perform in high stake situations even thoughthey might perform perfectly well in training. One technique thepsychologist should use in this situation is visualisation. Thisinvolves the footballer thoroughly visualising themselves performinga penalty in an important game to exertthe pressure, then teaching them relaxation techniques such as deepbreathing to control their arousal levels.

Consequently, in an actualgame they can refer back to the techniques they learnt to eliminateanxiety and perform successfully.Asport psychologist is also important in non-competitive situations.They help athletes during and returning from an injury. During aninjury the psychologist must be keeping the athlete’s motivation highand to be as stress free as possible.

Athletes might be frustratedand stressed while recovering and being in a pessimistic mind-setwould not help the athlete recover effectively. As noted before,positive self-talk is very useful in game, however it is also apsychological pain management strategy as it is found to havesignificant influence on athletes ability to cope with sportsinjuries. Adeyeye et al. (2013) studied the effect of progressiverelaxation and positive self-talk techniques in coping with pain fromsports injuries.

The athletes that were given progressive relaxationand positive self-talk as psychological therapies were found to havea greater ability to cope with sports injuries. The psychologistshould use such techniques alongside medical treatment for the mosteffective rehabilitation. Returning an athlete back to full trainingand competition requires the athlete to be completely readypsychologically. The psychologist must ensure the athlete has lowlevels of anxiety to return.

For example if a basketball player tarestheir anterior cruciate ligament while landing from a jump, theymight be worried about returning because of the trauma theyexperienced. The psychologist should incorporate specific skillstraining just before returning. In this case, the basketball playercan easily work on shooting, passing and ball handling drills whileseated in a wheel chair. This will greatly help with their motivationand get them mentally prepared for playing the game again.Additionally, this allows the athlete to interact with their peerswho can provide social support and help ease the player back into thecompetitive environment safely.

Theoverall goal of the sport psychologist is to ensure the athlete has ahealthy mental well-being and strong mental skills. Gould et al.(1987) found that 82% of coaches rated mental toughness the greatestpsychological attribute in determining wrestling success, howeveronly 9% believed that they were successful in developing this intheir athletes. This means that the psychologist must developdiscipline into the athlete for situations such as getting enoughsleep, not abusing alcohol or drugs, and this leads in to an ethicaldilemma that sport psychologists must address.Dopingmay be used by athletes because; desire to win, fear of failure, mayfeel pressured by their coach, etc. The psychologist should talkopenly about the issue of drugs to find out the reason behind it ifthe athlete is, or thinking about, doping. The most effectiveintervention is to involve the athletes’ family and coach to use assupport, however the psychologist is often bound by confidentialityto not reveal any personal information that the athlete has said.

Ifthis is so, they should help prevent doping by training athletes inself-control, or teaching them about the long-term drawbacks ofdoping such as thoughts of regret which can heavily damage theathletes’ mind throughout the years. If the athlete reveals thatthey are doping for a specific reason such as lack of confidence inthemselves to win, the psychologist should then target on working toimprove the athletes’ confidence through methods I have already goneover. Having a trustworthy relationship between the two would make iteasier for the athlete to open up to the psychologist and will bemore likely to listen and act on what they are saying.

Overall,there is still a lack of knowledge of the benefits psychology canbring in the world of sport. Coaches, managers and doctors may all beregarded higher in the eyes of the athlete and subsequently not usethe sport psychologist to their full potential. Many techniques thatthey provide can lead to better motivation, arousal regulation,coping and recovery skills amongst a wide variety of more thatpositively affects the athlete on and off the court.

In this essay Ihave explored various roles and techniques which a sport psychologistcan provide and how they are beneficial to athletes in order developand improve an athlete.

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