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Sport and exercise psychology in the real world

By Alan S. Kornspan


Academic Athletic Counselor

  • How can sport psychology be helpful for athletic counselors? There are many ways in which sport psychology ideas can be helpful for those working with high school and college student-athletes. Communicating positively with the student-athletes you are working with is crucial. Let them know that you understand and can empathize with the stress they may be experiencing. Help them remain positive and focused. Teach them how to set daily and weekly academic goals.
  • Help the athletes that you are working with develop their own personal vision and mission for where they want to go and explore the wide variety of career options available to them. Help them avoid a foreclosed identity or an overly exclusive athletic identity. Allow them to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for their decisions. Focus on helping the student-athletes you work with develop an internal locus of control. 
  • While working with student-athletes, it is likely that you will hear about their personal issues, career concerns, and academic concerns. It is important for you to be aware of any mental health issues that student-athletes may be dealing with and refer them to a campus mental health professional if necessary. You will be more prepared to make necessary referrals if you develop an excellent working relationship with a local sport psychologist or other psychologists and counselors. 
  • Make sure to focus your work not only on making sure the athletes that you are working with stay eligible to compete in their sport, but on teaching them important life skills.

Fitness Professional

  • Do you often see the fitness facility that you work for become very crowded at the beginning of a new year? After a few months is the facility a lot less crowded? Have many of the individuals not renewed their memberships? Ideas from sport and exercise psychology can help people incorporate daily physical activity into their lives.
  • Apply the stages of change theory in your work with exercisers. Determine what stage of change your client is in and try to match the interventions that you are using to that stage. 
  • Help the clients that you are working with set realistic goals. Keep them focused on daily and weekly goals that emphasize the process of making physical activity a fun and enjoyable daily habit. 
  • Emphasize the importance of fun. Help your clients find activities that they enjoy. 
  • While working with your clients, provide social support and help them overcome barriers to daily exercise. Provide support to your clients to help them change their behavior. Help them understand how to manage their time in order to incorporate daily physical activity. 

Athlete

  • Do you want to reach your highest level of athletic performance? Do you dream of becoming an all-star or a champion? Mental training is an important part of the process of becoming a champion. It is important not only to train technically, tactically, and physically for your sport, but also to train mentally.
  • To train mentally, use a psychological skills training approach. Determine where you are athletically, where you want to go, and how you are going to achieve your goals. 
  • Use goal setting after you have assessed your technical, tactical, physical, and mental abilities. It is important to set daily short-term goals. This will allow you to focus on getting better each day. When setting goals, try to use performance and process goals (see chapter 3). Outcome goals, such as setting a goal to win a game, are not as effective because they are not under your control. 
  • Once you have assessed your skills and identified your goals, incorporate the use of mental skills into your routine to help achieve a high level of performance. 
  • With the use of goal setting, develop a plan to improve technically, tactically, physically, and mentally in your sport. Focus on putting in the effort day in and day out to achieve your goals. 
  • In practice begin to develop and use both physical and mental routines. Try to develop these routines in practice so that in competition, when you are faced with distractions, your routines can help you stay focused on the process of performance. 
  • After learning mental skills in practice, try to use skills such as visualization, self-talk, concentration, and relaxation in competition. 
  • Continue to self-monitor your goals and practice incorporating mental training along with your physical, technical, and tactical training throughout your athletic career. 

This is an excerpt from Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

 




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