Overview of Sports Psychology

Overview of Sports Psychology - The Becoming Counseling

Athletes work hard to finely tune their bodies and minds to perform at a high level. It takes dedication, discipline, and focus. Experiencing the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat is all part of the job. In sports culture, there’s an intense pressure to perform in the moment of truth. Being an athlete is a high-pressure job that can take its toll — long after the cleats are hung up. Athlete counseling can help bring out their best on and off the field.


What is Sports Psychology?

Sports psychology is the study of how psychology influences athletic performance and preparation. Athletic counselors attempt to understand and improve upon the mental aspects of an athlete’s overall performance by pinpointing contributing factors. 

Athletic counselors often oversee the interplay between preparation and performance in the following areas:

  • Exercise & Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Understanding performance
  • Motivation techniques that work


Of course, this only represents a fraction of what sport psychology focuses on. The ultimate goal is to enable athletes to push their body’s and minds to perform at the highest possible level while still maintaining a healthy work/life balance.


What Does a Sports Psychologist Do?

Sports psychologists help athletes handle the intense pressure brought on by competition. This is achieved by overcoming problems with focus and motivation. Additionally, athletic counselors work with athletes to help them recover from injuries

It’s important to keep in mind that sports psychology isn’t just for elite and professional athletes. It also serves to help amateur athletes learn how to deepen their enjoyment while learning to adhere to a consistent exercise program.

The following are some of the ways in which athletic counseling provides a more enriching athletic experience — both on and off the field.


Goal Setting

Sports psychologists help athletes set attainable goals. Many professional athletes set goals for themselves that are unattainable, like beating the best athlete in the world. Lofty goals are immeasurable at best, and mentally harmful at worst. Athletes can quickly lose confidence by setting unreasonable goals. It’s far better to set smaller, calculated goals that can be reached through consistent focus and determination.



Many athletes struggle with the little voice inside their heads. That negative voice encourages failure through self-doubt. Sports psychology tackles this problem by teaching athletes the value of positive self-talk and visualization techniques. Visualization techniques enable athletes to imagine themselves in positive situations. This exercise is meant to improve confidence, which serves to silence negative reinforcement.


Blocking Out

A difficult aspect, and often unconsidered, part of being an athlete is dealing with spectators. While fans can be supportive and help boost the team’s morale, they can also be disruptive and serve to break concentration. The pressure fans put on athletes is intense, which is one reason sport psychology has developed several psychological techniques that are meant to train athletes on how to block out fans more effectively during competition.



We’ve all seen inspirational coaches in films that know just what to say to motivate the team. Occasionally, this motivation tactic can provide players with a boost in confidence that helps them overcome their disadvantage and ultimately win the game. In reality, motivating players is more complicated. Athletes are people, and different people respond differently to external stimuli. For example, some players need a more aggressive approach while others need a more inspirational one. Sports psychology focuses on learning and influencing an athlete’s competitive mentality.


Stress Management

Coaches, athletes, and others involved in athletics have to learn how to handle the immense associated pressures. An athletic counselor understands how to offer support in managing these various pressures. Stress isn’t always related to competition. Some issues stem from beyond the game. Stress from home, or even financial stress, can affect an athlete’s ability to play or a coach’s ability to coach. Stress management is different for everyone, which is why athletic counselors spend time uncovering solutions to help with individual roadblocks.


How Can Sports Counseling Help?

Competition can bring out the best (and worst) in us. Over time, this mindset can take its toll on an athlete’s mental well-being. Managing the complexity of the associated feelings can be a cause of stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Athletic performance is a complicated, high-pressure circumstance. The pressure to please fans, teammates, coaches, the people they care about, and even themselves is immense. Sports psychology serves to help athletes bring their best — on and off the field.

Athletic counseling is nuanced and requires an individual approach. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to optimize your focus, preparation, and performance. An experienced athletic counselor understands the pressures of competition and can provide valuable assistance and solutions. 

Whether you’re an athlete looking to up your game or a parent trying to help your child athlete cope with a loss, contact The Becoming Counseling to learn about how our certified athlete counselors can help you be your best.

Wes Cain, LPCA, NCC, IHC



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