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Introduction to Sport Psychology

Please read the material below and make some notes on the material that you are directed to (e.g., websites, radio programmes).

Many coaches and athletes testify to the importance of psychological factors in sport.  Examples include an athlete performing poorly because he or she lacks confidence, an athlete who fails to cope with the pressure of competition, a team of talented individuals that consistently underachieve or an individual that is devastated by a traumatic injury.  The quotes below help illustrate the role of psychological factors in sport performance:

“I didn’t think Peter could beat me.  Simple as that.  I didn’t think he was good enough over 35 frames.  I did not go into the match with the right attitude.  That is a terrible attitude to take into the final of the World Championships.  But having beaten Ronnie [O’Sullivan] in the semi, I thought I just had to turn up at the final to win.  At times I wasn’t even there.  Even when it got to 17-17, I still thought I was going to win.  When I didn’t I was shocked.  It was a painful mistake to make.”

Stephen Hendry talking about his loss to Peter Ebdon in the World Snooker Final in 2002 

“What I mean is focus…The little things we do at home we’re not doing away.  We don’t press as a team, chase down every ball. Obviously, away from home you’re more cautious but I don’t feel as a team we do that as well as at home … Little things like that add up.  I’m not saying it’s happened in every game but in some of the games I’ve been involved in we don’t do that.  The late goals we’ve conceded away from home have been a nightmare.  That’s what I mean by focus.  Maybe it’s a lack of focus.  Maybe it’s a lack of discipline.”

Shola Ameobi talking about his soccer team Newcastle United’s poor away form


Psychology can best be considered as the science of behaviour and mental processes (Bernstein et al., 1988). The aim of psychology is to explain behaviour.  By understanding why people behave the way that they do then it may be possible to change or control behaviour.  Visit the link below which will give you some basic information on psychology:

Sport Psychology

Sport psychology is a discipline in which psychology is applied to sport.  Broadly, an applied sport psychologist aims to work with athletes or teams to enhance their psychological approach.  Often these interventions are directed towards enhancing performance although sometimes a sport psychologist is called upon to deal with other issues (e.g., helping an athlete during injury rehabilitation, or to come to terms with a defeat).  By understanding what factors impact sport performance a sport psychologist can develop appropriate interventions to help athletes and teams improve.  Visiting the links below will give you some initial information on the discipline of sport psychology.

I would also recommend listening to a programme about sport psychology that was part of a series on Radio 4 about the science of sport.  A link to a page about this programme is included below.  If you scroll to the bottom of this page you will find a link that should enable you to listen to this programme (If you have any problems accessing this clip please get in touch.).

Having completed an introduction to the discipline of sport psychology in the remainder of this activity you will become aware of what a sport psychologist does, learn about the profession of sport psychology and become aware of professional practice and ethical issues in sport psychology.  

Andersen, M.B., Van Raalte, J.L., & Brewer, B.W. (2001). Sport psychology service delivery: staying ethical while keeping loose. Professional Psychology Research and Practice, 32, 2-18

Bernstein, D. A., Roy, E. J., Srull, T. K., Wickens, C. D. (1988). Psychology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Weinberg, R. S., & Williams, J. M. (2006). Integrating and Implementing a Psychological skills training program. In J. M. Williams (Ed.), Applied Sport Psychology: Personal growth to peak performance, (pp. 425-457). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill (5th Ed.).

Williams, J. M., & Straub, W. F. (2006). Sport psychology: Past, present, future. In J. M. Williams (Ed.), Applied Sport Psychology: Personal growth to peak performance, (pp. 1-14). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill (5th Ed.).


The quote from Stephen Hendry taken from The Independent, 16th April, 2003. The quote from Shola Ameobi taken from The Guardian Sport, 8th May, 2004.