How Does Psychology Affect Sports Performance?

Whether you’re preparing for tomorrow’s big presentation at work or ready to dominate on the court, optimal health and peak performance go hand in hand. Mental health is as important as physical health in all facets of life, including sports. So if you’re wondering how psychology affects sports performance, the answer is simple: when the mind and body are integrated, you perform better.

The Mind Over Matter Athlete

So, exactly how does psychology affect sports performance? Psychology helps create a mind over matter athlete by assisting with goal setting and removing mental blocks. As important as it is for an athlete to train their physical body to increase endurance, strength, and speed, it is also essential for the athlete to prepare their mind for the challenges and commitment of playing sports. Pro athletes know this and prioritize psychological wellness as part of their training regimen, just as they focus on game techniques and tactile skills. When an athlete’s performance is limited by mental blocks, self-doubt, stress, negativity, or fears, mastering mind over matter is necessary.

Why Is Sports Psychology So Important?

Sports psychology, or performance coaching, helps teach and apply psychological strategies to manage an athlete’s mental health issues. These doctors of human behavior and the mind help clients recognize strengths and identify and eliminate the mental obstacles that impact sports performance and physical healing.

For athletes who want to take their sports performance to the next level, every possible advantage is needed. Obstacles can get in the way of ultimate success and even enjoyment in participating in your chosen sport. They may be even more crippling to an athlete struggling with coming back after an injury. Getting past the mental obstacles is essential to get back to “fighting form.” The power of the mind gives champions the extra edge they need to win and reach those rewards.

6 Sports Psychology Strategies for Improved Sports Performance

Athletic psychological performance enhancement strategies help players manage their mental health. Here are six key sports psychology strategies that help improve athletes’ performance, mental health, and overall wellness.

  1. Improved Focus

    When faced with distraction, athletes can “choke.” Learning ways to increase focus and concentration allows the player to receive the mental stimulus needed while ignoring events or stimulation that are not pertinent to the current situation.

  2. Increased Relaxation Under Pressure

    Athletes know the power of pressure. Whether the pressure to perform perfectly comes from coaches, parents, or themselves, learning to relax under tremendous pressure will give the athlete an advantage in the game and life.

  3. Building Self-Confidence

    Self-confidence is the cornerstone of sports psychology because it relates to all other mental skills. A player needs to examine, without judgment, their past performances, training, and abilities. When athletes see where they were compared to where they are, a player can understand that they are capable of performing well with compassion.

  4. Encouraging Positive Self-Talk

    When an athlete lacks focus, experiences too much pressure, or lacks sufficient self-confidence, negative self-talk can become a background voice in their heads. Encouraging positive self-talk is a vital component of an athlete’s mental health. The positive internal conversations we have daily have reduced anxiety, fear, depression and influence our behavior and motor skills.

  5. Setting And Achieving Goals

    An increase in the ability to focus and concentrate lends itself to the practice of goal setting and visualization. Goal setting is not creating expectations for yourself. It is the practice of planning out the athlete’s desires with small measured steps to achieve that desire. Goals need to be reevaluated often to prevent negative self-talk and additional pressure. Visualization, especially with a strong focus, helps improve performance by imaging the achievement of these goals.

  6. Aiding Injury Recovery

    There are always injuries in sports, and the road to recovery can be long and painful. Sports medicine now includes more than just treating the physical damage. An injured athlete can experience depression, anxiety, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) A sports psychologist can help the player manage these mental obstacles with cognitive-behavioral therapy or relaxation exercises. It is important that the athlete doesn’t feel the stigma of an injury, fear hurting themselves again, or become pessimistic about healing completely.

With these strategies, the answer to how psychology affects sports performance becomes clear: unwanted behaviors are eliminated, and effective behaviors are strengthened.

How To Find A Sports Psychologist

Through peak performance coaching, positive mental and behavioral interventions can help increase focus and grow strengths in any given sport. Sports psychologists work with athlete clients to optimize goal setting, mental imagery, team building, performance enhancement, and stress and time management.

If you want to find a sports psychologist, you have options. You can search the internet to find clinics and specialty psychologists and therapists or contact professional organizations like The Association for Applied Sport Psychology or Psychology Today. You can check with your insurance and get a list of providers. Another great way to find a sports psychology professional is to talk to fellow athletes and coaches and ask for references. No matter how you find a sports psychologist, be sure to check credentials and reviews.

Consider connecting with a sports psychologist to optimize your performance on the court, track, field, or pool. You’ll find that mind over matter DOES matter. Talk to a MOSH sports performance expert to learn how you will benefit from treating both your body and mind.