Sports Psychology

Study sports psychology online. Develop your skills and understanding of psychological principles for use in sports. The course covers motivation, team dynamics as well as psychological traits of successful athletes.

Course CodeBPS106
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Sports Psychology Training Course - Study by Distance Learning

  • A person’s psychology or state of mind can have a significant effect upon their sporting performance.
  • The selection of competitors for elite sport is influenced by an assessment of their individual psychology, as well as other factors such as recent performance and fitness.

A knowledge of Sports Psychology can benefit both athletes, and sports professionals who are supporting the athletes.

This course may benefit a whole range of different professionals, from Fitness leaders to personal trainers and aerobic instructors who may use knowledge of sports psychology to better motivate their clients.

Other professionals may include:

  • Athletic Trainer – the athletic trainer will usually work with a specific team, providing care for athletic injuries. They may also design and monitor rehabilitation programmes.
  • Coach – a coach is an organizational leader of a specific team/athlete. They may manage team affairs e.g. Travel, recruiting etc., as well as having a role of teaching the athlete(s) in specific skills and strategies.
  • Physical Therapist/Physiotherapist – works in a clinic or for a specific team. They will provide long and acute care for sports related injuries. They will also design and monitor rehabilitation programmes.
  • Psychologist – sometimes a counselling or clinical psychologist may need to become involved with an athlete or athletes. For example, they may provide individual or group therapy in a range of behavioural and emotional issues. They may provide support for sportsmen/women who have eating disorders for example. They may work in a private or public clinic.
  • Performance Enhancement Consultants (also known as sports psychology consultants or mental coaches) – are usually trained in sports psychology but are not licensed psychologists or counsellors. They may provide group or individual consultations relating to performance-related issues.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Performance Psychology
    • Exercise Psychology
    • Environmental Influences
    • Aspects of Sports Psychology
    • Applying Sports Psychology.
  2. Psychological Traits of Successful Athletes
    • Personality Inventory Determining a personality type
    • Cognitive Techniques
  3. Anxiety and Arousal
    • Understanding and Dealing with Anxiety
    • Physiology of Anxiety
    • Arousal
    • Maximising Psychological State
    • Focusing (or Centering).
  4. Motivation
    • Motivation as an internal impulse that causes increasingly energetic action in a particular direction.
    • Basic Principles of Motivation
    • Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
    • Factors Affecting Motivation
    • Movitation for fun
    • Slimming for fun.
  5. Aggression
    • Mental Rehearsal
    • Error Parking
    • Using Self Consciousness
    • Using Word Association
    • Anger and Conflict
    • Measuring Aggression
    • Simulated Practice, e-Event Procedure,
    • Reliving Success, Positive,
    • Conflict Handling Techniques.
  6. Leadership and Coaching
    • Role of a Coach
    • How to Get Attention
    • Questioning
    • Punishment.
  7. Team Dynamics
    • Group cohesion
    • Forming, Storming,Norming,Performing
    • Traits of an Effective Team,
    • Suitable membership
    • Appropriate Leadership
    • Commitment to the Team
    • Concern for Achieving
    • Effective Work Methods, Well Organised Team Procedures
    • Ability To Take Criticism
    • Creative Strength
    • Positive Relationships, Positive Environment.
  8. Special Groups
    • Understanding Stress
    • Post Game/Season Evaluation
    • Gender Differences, Elite Female Athletes
    • Special Considerations with Female Athletes
    • Disabled Persons. Children, Readiness
    • Dropping out.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the nature and scope of Sports Psychology
  • Identify psychological traits found in successful athletes.
  • Explain effects of state of mind on athletic performance.
  • Recommend ways of maintaining or increasing motivation in an athlete.
  • Differentiate between positive and negative application of aggressive emotions in sport.
  • Discuss the role of leadership in sports coaching.
  • Explain the impact on performance of psychological interactions within a sporting team.
  • Describe variations in the sports psychology of different demographic groups.

What You Will Do

  • Read articles (magazines, newspapers), watch interviews on TV/Radio, etc. with elite athletes/coaches/sports persons. Try to find out what techniques they use to stay motivated, to reduce stress and tension, to remain focussed, to prepare for a competition, etc.
  • How do successful athletes cope with failure, error or poor performance in a major competition? Give an example of an acute stressor because of one of the above in sport, and describe the techniques you recommend for an effective coping strategy.
  • Discuss the difference in coping with sports related stress for the athlete and
    • the non elite sportsperson. Include examples of their ability to handle fatigue,
    • pain, competitive situations, and performance failure.
  • What can a coach do to reduce or eliminate learned helplessness? Discuss the potential harm caused by this?
  • Talk to one or more athletes to find out what psyching techniques they use to help improve their performance. Have they tried other techniques? If so, why did they stop using them?
  • Think about two or three different activities (sporting, or otherwise) that you undertook recently but were not keen to do, or that you felt would be beyond your capabilities. How were you motivated to complete the activity – was the motivation intrinsic or extrinsic? Did you use different motivating techniques to accomplish each activity? How did you feel once you had accomplished each activity? Would you use the same motivating technique(s) in the future? Also speak to someone else, and ask them the same questions.
  • Watch a range of altercations (such as a fight or collision between players) or aggressive behaviour in sporting events, such as in team sports like football or basketball, or in direct competition between two or more individual competitors such as in tennis, fencing, car racing, or distance running. What events have led up to the altercation/s or fight or aggressive behaviour? What form of behaviour did the aggression take? Who was it directed at? How many people were involved? How did it stop? What penalties, if any, where applied (e.g. fines, frees, time outs, lost points, etc.)?
  • Speak to a coach to find out what role they play in organising and training their athletes.
    • Speak to a coach who trains children. Find out how their role differs to when they are training adults. What techniques do they use for gaining attention and motivating the children?
  • Discuss the development of a team with someone who has been a member of a sporting team (school, amateur or professional) for more than one season. Ask about their ups and downs and the reasons they think contributed to high points and low points.
  • Explore reasons to see whether any situations or patterns relate to things you have studied in this lesson.

Aspects of Sports Psychology

Personality Psychology is concerned with the role of personality on performance. Different personality types will be inclined to react differently in any given sporting or exercise situation. At an elite level of performance, personality characteristics have been found to relate to a higher level of performance. Some of these traits include positive pre-competitive affect, concentration; confidence; emotional control; emotional stability; commitment and self discipline. 

Cognitive Psychology
Cognition is concerned with the way in which thoughts occur and are processed. It suggests that by understanding the thought processes of an athlete it becomes possible to identify strengths and weaknesses that impact on sporting performance or exercise participation. Cognitive interventions aim to change distorted, negative and self-defeating cognitions to more realistic, positive, and self-affirming ones. In Sports Psychology cognitive interventions include imagery and visualisations; thought stopping; positive affirmations; hypnosis; self-talk and cognitive re-structuring. 

Exercise Psychology
Exercise Psychology is concerned with attitudes to exercise. It examines the cognition, emotions, and behaviours that are related to physical exercise, and aims to promote, explain, maintain, and enhance people’s participation in fitness. Many people are not interested in competitive sport; but may be motivated to exercise in order to maintain general health and well-being. 

Psychology can affect the physiology of a person.  Physiology refers to physical processes in the body such as digestion, circulation of blood, removal of waste products (excretion), etc. We have known for a long time that thought can manifest itself by changing physical conditions in the body. In the extreme, this is what shock is. If a person worries a lot, they can develop aches and pains, they can tire easier, and their skin may become blemished. Worry or stress will cause blood vessels to narrow, and with reduced blood flow, all parts of the body are being serviced poorly. Waste products are not removed as readily, and nutrients are not delivered as readily. With stress, muscles tighten, and that can put abnormal pressure on bones or tissues. These are very general and simple examples of psychophysiology.

In Sports Psychology, if athletes can gain better control of their physiological functioning, their performance will improve. An example of this type on intervention is biofeedback. In this technique physiological processes are monitored and the information is “fed back” to the athlete. Athletes can learn to gain some control of their physiology through use of the feed back. Another example of this technique is using relaxation strategies to create an optimal level of arousal.

  • Educational Psychology – studies the way in which skills, attitudes etc. are learnt. An educational sport psychologist will apply an understanding of learning processes to help an athlete better learn and retain skills, knowledge, techniques and/or attitudes that will enhance their performance. When applying an intervention, a sports psychologist will need to educate the athlete to learn the skills needed to address the issues. 
  • Social Psychology – the interaction between individuals or groups of individuals can have a significant impact upon sporting performance or exercise participation. Even just having other people around can have an effect - social facilitation is a term that describes how the presence of others can enhance performance. Social pressure can also affect performance - it may not be “cool” to play football or exercise; but it may be socially desirable to be a “skate boarder” within a certain social group. Peer group pressure, media and other cultural influences can impact heavily on participation and on performance, in a wide variety of physical activities.
  • Developmental Psychology – this is the study of the way in which people develop and change over time. There are two broad concepts here: one that development is a continuous process, the other that it involves continuous change. Either way, there are applications to sport and exercise psychology.
  • Clinical Psychology – Clinical sport psychologists apply research findings, interacting one on one with an athlete, helping them deal with problems and in doing so, improve their potential performance. Through a clinical psychology session, athletes may be able to address problems outside of the sporting realm that may be having an effect on their sporting performance, such as relationships, financial worry, grief etc.

Learn to maximise psychological state

It has been suggested that an effective plan to prepare mentally for competitions should include the following – 

  • Using a pre-competition routine. Use imagery prior to the competition to get a positive vision of the competition and see yourself attaining goals.
  • Use a competition plan, for example, use visualisation to see yourself accomplishing goals. 
  • Control distractions, avoid diversions by other people, listen to music and so on.
  • Feedback and evaluate your past performances to help you prepare the next performance.


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Jacinda Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psycholo
Tracey Jones

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE. Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc. 25 years industry experience in writing,
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