Sport Psychology


To fully understand sport psychology, we must ask ourselves two very
important questions, first, what is sport psychology and second, who is it for?
Put in the most sim-ple way, sport psychology can be an example of
psychological knowledge, principles, or methods applied to the world of sport.
"Two psychologists, Bunker and Maguire, say sport psychology is not for
psychologists, but is for sport and its participants." (Murphy & White, 1978:2)
However, it can be argued that sport psychology, can be for psycho-logy, just
as it can be for sports scientists, managers, teachers, administrators, coaches
and last but by no means least, the athletes themselves.
It is sport psychology that has stood apart from the discipline of
psychology as a whole. "Its history is different, its concerns are often
different, its centres of learning and teaching are often different, and its
professional training is different." (Garfield, 1984:34) Yet despite this, sport
psychology remains permanently bonded to psychology through its common interest
in the fundamental principles of psychology, human behavior, and experience.
No one can deny the significant role which sport and recreation plays in
every cul-ture and society across the globe. In the western and eastern worlds
alike, sport and lei-sure continue to support huge industries and take up
massive amounts of individual time, effort, money, energy, and emotion. Within
the media, competitive sport has gotten enor-mous attention and despite this,
the public\'s appetite for more sport never is stated. "It has been estimated
that around two thirds of all newspaper readers in Great Britain first turn to
the sports pages when they pick up their daily paper." (Butt, 1987:65) When one
con-siders the number of people who actually engage in sport or even take
regular exercise, then the significance of sport to all our lives cannot be
denied.
A common problem with sport psychology research lies in its somewhat
myopic or short-sighted appreciation of present day accumulated psychological
knowledge. As we look into sport psychology, we are confronted by a landscape
of knowledge which rises and falls often suddenly and dramatically. "At certain
times, massive peaks of understand-ing rise up before out eyes yet at other
times, huge tracts of psychology remain untouched to the horizon." (Garfield,
1984:6)
Around the 1960\'s, scientific traditions, institutions, and publications
which pros-per to this day first came into being, and it was this era which
truly marked the structural genesis of modern day sport psychology. However,
there are many untouched aspects of sport psychology today. In order for us to
determine whether psychology plays a signi-ficant role in the mind of a young
athlete, we must look at the uses and techniques of sport psychology.
Sport psychologists over the years have maintained a keen interest in
psychological profiling and have been naturally drawn to the quantification of
personality variables. As sport itself revolves aroung the measurement and
reward of individual differences in per-formances, it is no surprise that
scientists quantify psychological differences rather than sporting differences.
"The research is often looked at in terms of three primary areas, the search for
the winning profile, a comparison between athletes and non-athletes, and diffe
-ences in the personalities of athletes either competing in different sports or
playing in different positions." (Butt, 1987:97)
Any discussion of personality traits in sports could not ignore one
particular trait which has occupied more time than any other, competitive
anxiety. Helping athletes deal with pressure has become the bread and butter of
many sport psychologists. "The prob-lem of anxiety is dealt with with two
areas of research: test anxiety and achievement moti-vation." (Hackfort &
Spielberger, 1989:247) Presently, the test scale which enjoys the greatest
popularity is the second version of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory or
CSAI-2. It is this test that psychologists measure the level of anxiety of an
athlete. It consists of questions in which each have four levels of severity
with four being the highest level. The CSAI-2 has been the basis for many other
modern day anxiety questionaires. "There remain so many fundamental questions
which have yet to be resolved that attempts to quantify concepts such as anxiety,
when we are still not sure just what this term actually means, can seem rather
premature at times, but the development of research instruments has nevertheless
proceeded rapidly." (Wolff, 1993:22)
Achievement motivation, competitiveness, and self-confidence together
with competition anxiety seem to form the cluster of core psychological
constructs which would seem to be most relevent to our understanding of sport
performance. With regard to achievement motivation and competitiveness, recent
advances have been predicated upon the interest originally stimulated by the
Atkinson model of achievement motivation. "Atkinson\'s nAch or the need to
achieve was taken to be a composite of