Do I Need A Sports Psychologist?
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
I am a better-than-average golfer and would like to know how the field of sports psychology might improve my game. Please discuss this topic in your newspaper column.
-A reader in Florida
Sports psychologists apply psychological principles to enhance physical exercise and activity and also improve individual and team performance in sporting events.
Professionally trained sports psychologists can also help with the psychological effects of injury and poor performance in athletics and exercise.
This marriage between psychology and golf was discussed in the 1920 by golfing great, Bobby Jones, who talked about the “mental game” of golf. Professionals in golf and other sports such as tennis, basketball, football, and bowling often seek out the assistance of professionally trained sports psychologists.
Some of the specialized techniques include:
Visual imagery, sometimes referred to as mental rehearsal or visualization, is the process of creating an experience in the mind. This technique is used for rehearsing new skills, practicing and refining existing skills and even preparing psychologically for the event. It can help you lower anxiety, increase focus and self-confidence and enhance warm-up techniques.
Athletic performance is often improved by normal increases in energy and arousal. However, many motor skills, especially those fine motor skills used in such activities as putting in golf, can be greatly impaired by over-arousal.
By using such psychological techniques as relaxation exercised and stress management, over arousal can be decreased.
Other tools, such as distraction management, improved concentration and goal setting, are employed to increase the athlete's focus on desirable outcomes. Simply closing one's eyes between shots can assist in focusing on the task at hand and screening out undesirable external stimuli, such as noisy crowds.
Other psychological assistance, such as anger management, fear reduction of intrusive and unrealistic worries and reforming of negative thoughts and feelings that cause nervousness, can help athletes.
Professional athletes often need assistance with such problems as burnout and the long-term effects of intense competition. All of these can interfere with athletic performance.
Many complex variables can influence peak performance. Learning the skills to thrive under pressure and handle disappointment and defeat can often be assisted with sports psychology.
Copyright © 2006 Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D.