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.
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 is concerned with attitudes to exercise.
Exercise psychology 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 wellbeing.
Psychophysiology – 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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