Published on 12 November 2021

What Is Sports Psychology?

Sports Psychology what-is-sports-psychology
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Waking up at 5 am to head out in the dark in the cold for that 10km training run and knowing that your team Is behind you and requires you to score in the last few minutes requires single-minded motivation and mental toughness. 

For an athlete to have a tough and healthy mind, a sport psychologist considers the athlete's feelings and thoughts and helps him deal with them. This blog will concentrate on the key concepts of sports psychology and help you understand what sports psychology is? And how does it optimize an athlete's performance? (Petróczi, A., Norman, P. and Brueckner, S., 2017)

What Is Sports Psychology?

You must be wondering if Sports psychology is real, It studies how psychological factors like anxiety, panic attack, or other mental illnesses influence sports: athlete's performance, exercise, and physical activities. Sport psychology going under pressure gets analyses these factors and helps the performer deal with them and improve their performance and mental well-being so that the athlete is always on the top of his game and is not bothered by such factors—that is how sports psychology can be defined as Sport Psychologist.

Or, as Meijer, a sports psychologist, said in 2019, "sports psychology is about understanding the performance, mental processes, and well-being of people in sporting settings, taking into account psychological theory methods."


We all know about Milkha Singh's "The Flying Sikh" and his story; he had to face several traumatic events like the separation of India and Pakistan, the deaths of family members, losing his home, and many more. His biopic film "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" is one of the perfect examples of sports psychology. The movie portrayed that during the separation of India and Pakistan, Milkha suffered from significant trauma, and this trauma came back to haunt him in his prime days of racing. Whenever Milkha used to hear the phrase "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag," which means "Run Milkha Run," it used to trigger his dark memories and give him flashbacks of the horrific events of the separation.

What Milkha was going through was PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), caused when suffering through any traumatic event; some situations can trigger that feeling of fear, shock, loss, horror, or helplessness. However, PTSD is not deadly and can be treated with the help of a sports psychologist. A sports psychologist helps an athlete accept his thoughts and feelings and gives him the support to deal with them and though; in the movie, Milkha treats his condition by himself, but it is suggested to seek professional help if needed.

Facts Of Sports Psychology

Sports psychology is not just one theory, but it's a combination of several overlapping concepts that attempt to understand what it takes to make a successful and healthy athlete. These are some of the factors that are widely studied in sports psychology. (Guo, J., Liu, S. and Liu, X., 2018)


Settings goals for an athlete is one of the significant factors that help him grow and focus on the practical activities, increase their commitment to the sport and energize themselves. A well-constructed goal plan can offer a hand to keep the performer motivated and on track. A swimmer can set a goal to complete a 100meter sprint in minus 4 seconds from his previous set time. When an athlete cannot set specific goals or cannot achieve those goals and takes it as a setback, that's when a sports psychologist can come to help him set his goals and achieve them. Which eventually makes him a better swimmer.


"It's not who we are that holds us back; it's who we think we're not" was quoted by Michael Nolan, a Gaelic footballer which means. It's the lack of confidence that blocks our potential and growth. Confidence plays one of the most prominent roles in an athlete's performance; a performer can be full of potential and talent but lacking confidence brings that to nothing. A sports psychologist helps athletes boost their confidence and tries to understand the root of their issues. Dealing with it from the core is the motive of a sports psychologist and provides tools to help with it; some of the tools may have been used by us, too, like self-talk to motivate ourselves.

Anxiety And Arousal

Under extreme pressure situations when the last minutes of the game are about to go out and when your entire team depends on your actions which will be responsible for the team win or lose, athletes tend to thrive in such situations and, how is that possible? Not everyone is born with the ability to deal with such pressure during a game, and it is developed over the period by training your mind. What role does a sports psychologist play? The process of developing such skills is not a piece of cake, and athletes take a massive toll on themselves during this process. This stress can cause problems like anxiety or panic attacks, and to treat such issues, a professional sports psychologist is also hired sometimes.


Motivation can be defined as the energy that maintains and sustains and channels the behaviors over a period. Motivation impacts an athlete's professional life and personal life, which helps him improve performance and be at the top of their game. Motivation can be lost easily by some performers due to any failure, setback, or injury, which is normal, but when the athlete is not able to get back on track, that is an issue. A sports psychologist is brought in to help the athlete with their fear of getting injured again and anxiety.

There are many more factors that influence and are studied by sports psychology. This was just a tiny preview of the big picture.

The Final Round

Sports psychology is not widely accepted in today's world, and as a result, the mental well-being of an athlete is given priority. People finally understand that mental fitness is just as necessary as the physical fitness of an athlete. Sports psychology continues to grow as more athletes is not being open about it, and people are approaching it with an open mind. However, this must always be remembered that sports are just games and to be played for fun. A sports psychologist in 2012, namely Aidan Moran, said that sports are played by the body and won by the mind. (Bargh, J.A., 1996)