Applying Psychological Thinking To Sports

"Sports is by far one of the fastest growing pass times in the United
States" (Rainer 1987). Even if people don\'t take it to the professional
level, sporting events are happening in our backyards, and at all of our
local schools around the country. With the growing popularity and the
increasing competitiveness of the sports, it will take more than just a
physical advantage to compete at the highest level. This is where the
psychology of sports comes into play. In my research I will cover different
areas in which you can psychologically strengthen you mental and physical
skills to become a more skilled and competitive athlete.
Goal setting is a hugely powerful technique that can yield strong returns
in all areas of you life. At its simplest level the process of setting goals
and targets allows you to choose where you want to go in life. By knowing
what you want to achieve, you know what you have to concentrate on and
improve, and what is merely a distraction. Goal setting gives you long-term
vision, and short-term motivation. By setting goals you can achieve more,
improve performance, improve the quality of you training, increase your
motivation to achieve, increase your pride and satisfaction in your
performance, and improve your self-confidence (Bull, 1983).
Research (Bull, 1983) has shown that people who use goal-setting
effectively suffer less from stress and anxiety, concentrate better, show
more self-confidence, perform better, and are happier with their performance.
The way in which you set your goals strongly affects their effectiveness.
Before you start to set goals, you should have set the background of goal
setting by understanding your commitment to sports, understanding the level
you want to reach within the sport, knowing the skills that will have to be
acquired and the levels of performance that will be needed, and know where
this will fit into your overall life goals. The following broad guidelines
apply to setting effective goals. Positive statements, be precise, set
priorities, write goals down to avoid confusion and give them more force, and
keep operational goals small (Rainer, 1987).
"Your body is a beautifully evolved sporting machine, comprising, among
other things, muscles that can be trained to a peak of fitness and nerves
that control the muscles" (Morris 1992). The nerves are massively linked in
your brain: vast numbers of nerve cells are linked with a hugely greater
number of interconnections. Many of the pathways, however, lie within the
brain. These pathways can be effectively trained by the use of mental
techniques such as imagery and simulation.
Imagery is the process by which you can create, modify or strengthen
pathways important to the co-ordination of your muscles, by training purely
within your mind. Imagery rests on the important principle that you can
exercise these parts of you brain with imputes from our imagination rather
than from your sences: the parts of the brain that you train with imagery
experience imagined and real inputs similarly, with the real inputs being
merely more vividly experienced (Rainer 1987).
Simulation is similar to imagery in that it seeks to improve the quality
of training by teaching your brain to cope with circumstances that would not
be otherwise met until an important competition was reached. Simulation,
however, is carried out by making your physical training circumstances as
similar as possible to the "real thing"-for example by bringing in crowds of
spectators, by having performances judged, or by inviting press to a training
session (Rainer 1987).
Deciding your Commitment to your sport is possibly the most important
"Sports Psychology" decision you will make. It is important to realize that
excellence demands complete dedication: if you want to be the top athlete,
then training to be the top athlete must be the most important thing in you
life (Orlick 1994).
Self-Confidence is arguably one of the most important things you can
have. Self-confidence reflects your assessment of you own self-worth. It
will play a large part in determining your happiness through life. Sports
can be both enormously effective in improving self-worth, and highly
destructive in damaging it (Orlick 1994). Imigery, positive thinking, and
goal setting can dramatically help in ones own self-confidence.
You can help yourself to routinely apply sports psychology techniques by
getting into the