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Sports Psychology in the Athlete
Sport and exercise psychology is the scientific study of people and behavior in sport and exercise and the application of that information.
How would you know if you needed to see a sports and exercise psychologist?
There are several factors that would warrant a visit to the sports psychologist, but any athlete can benefit from visiting a sports psychologist (consultant). Most professional sports teams and colleges have a sports psychologist on staff to help with performance and other aspects of an athlete’s life.
Adolescents can greatly benefit from a sports psychology consultation. They face several exceptional challenges. Growth spurts, weight gains, or a lack of both; mood swings secondary to hormonal changes; and distractibility each influence skill, academic focus and emotional balance, usually resulting in some sort of instability. Student-athletes may struggle with the desire to be independent, gain respect and support, and reject dictatorial relationships (parents, coaches, and teachers). And although they may look for this independence, they tend to regress on occasion to the shelter of parents.
What conditions can affect a student-athlete’s psychology?
The reason most — if not all — colleges have a sport psychologist on staff is that academic demands increase in combination with the training load. This can become a stressful situation for those seeking excellence in both domains. Being able to have structure and balance aspects of education and training can have a great impact on keeping stress down and staying on task.
Adding to the stress, adolescents find it hard to keep up with their social circles. As they seek acceptance with friends and peers, their relationships can be impeded by rigorous training regimens that may conflict with their socialization.
When student-athletes do too much, or are trying to keep a balance with everything they do, they may develop stress which can affect performance and predispose adolescents to be injured. After any injury, big or small, student-athletes may feel their identity being threatened. Some may feel abandonment, and withdraw because they can’t do what they love anymore and they may feel they are letting down their teammates. This may lead to disappointment, frustration, anger and, inevitably, depression.
Some student-athletes may suffer from overtraining (or burnout). This may happen when student-athletes train too much without having a balance in their life. When student-athletes become obsessed about their performance, they may in fact de-condition — where, despite the amount of training, they remain unsatisfied with their performance.
The main word for performance is BALANCE
It is extremely important to expose adolescents and young children to different activities while growing up. Having kids grow up playing only soccer, or any other sport, not only limits the abilities and skill sets needed as an adult, but limits the social groups that adolescents need. Learning other sports can also benefit performance in their primary sport as well, as many sports have skills that can transfer from one sport to another (goalkeeping and basketball, lacrosse and baseball, soccer and field hockey, for example).
As kids grow up and become adolescents, they may pick and choose what they want to do, and not exclude themselves from certain groups because they are “not good at” something. Giving kids the tools they need to grow up and have confidence as an adolescent can help with those unique challenges that they face.
If increasing performance in a young athlete is the only goal, then it would always benefit to have a sports psychologist consult to ensure that nutrition, psyche, social and academic interests are not hindering performance.
Washington Youth Soccer • 500 S. 336th St. Suite 100 • Federal Way, WA 98003
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