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Sport psychology involves applying parts of psychology, which is the study of the brain and how it relates to our mental processes and behaviors, to sports and athletes. One of the main areas that sports psychologists focus on is how they can help athletes achieve any goals that they might have. The main group of people that sports psychologists try to help are professional athletes. They can help non-professional athletes as well. Sports psychologists mainly focus on problems the athlete has on the field but they can also help athletes with problems that they have off the field. The field of sports psychology did not become a recognized field of study until the late twentieth century, but there were many developments prior to that time.
History[change | edit source]
European History and the Beginnings of the Field[change | edit source]
The field of sports psychology started developing at the end of the Nineteenth century in Europe. During this time sports and the body were starting to become a more important part of people’s lives. During the 1880s more and more sports were starting to be developed and were becoming a big part of the lifestyle of the people of this time period. However, as far as we know the word psychology was not used in connection with the word sport before the late 1890s. In 1899 and 1900, the phrase psychology of sport started to appear in the titles of journal articles, specifically two articles. The first one was by Balduin Groller. It was published in two parts in October and December of 1899 in the journal Die Wage under the title “Zur Psychologie des Sportes” (translated About the Psychology of Sport). The main point of this article was that there are certain parts of psychology that had not been researched at that time that could be connected to sports and physical activities. Only a few months later, in May 1900, an essay by the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin, appeared under the nearly identical title “Le Psychologie du Sport” (translated The Psychology of Sport).  The creation of these articles is important to the history of sports psychology because it is the first time that that there was a connection or link made between sports and psychology.
The first major developments to the field of sports psychology were starting to be seen in the 1870s-1880s. In 1875, Pyotr Francevich Lesgaft started to create a system of physical education. Lesgaft was a Russian scientist who studied the human body. His aim was to promote harmony between the body and soul or mind. The method Lesgaft recommended was to learn conscious control of the body. This can also be explained as being able to think about controlling the body and then actually controlling it. Then in 1884-1885, Karoly Budinsky wrote an article called “About Gymnastic Activity and the Development of Will”. The article talked about how people can help their self-control and willpower grow by making the nervous system stronger through physical exercise.  The method that Lesgaft came up with and the article that Budinsky created are an important part of sport psychology's history. They are an important part because it was the first time that someone was talking about using ideas from psychology as a way to help people in the sports world, like athletes.
Two scientists and sports fans stand at the beginning of European sport psychology: Angelo Mosso and Philippe Tissie. Angelo Mosso was an Italian who studied the human body. He was also interested in using science to study physical education, exercise, and sport. In his experiments, Mosso found that mental work causes weakness of the muscles. He also found that physical work causes weakness in mental performance. This can be connected to psychology through the fact that the mental parts of the body can influence the physical parts and vice versa. In 1894, Mosso conducted an experiment with his brother, Ugolino Mosso. In this experiment he had ten Italian Mountain soldiers climb to the top of the mountain and live in a hut for ten days. He also had them perform physical exercises. There are two parts of his results that are related to sports psychology. The first one is called the pioneer effect. The pioneer effect is when in mountain climbing, the person who is leading the group will be more fatigued than his followers.  The second is called the rivaling effect. The rivaling effect is when the soldiers, especially in periods of boredom, suddenly developed a tendency to compete with each other in their weight lifting tests.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Philippe Tissie viewed sports as a way to treat mental disorders. He published several articles between 1894 and 1909. These articles talked about how sports could help people with mental disorders. He thought that a combination of sport, gymnastics, and psychological methods could help people with mental disorders. He also thought that playing in to many sports could also cause people to have mental disorders and behavioral problems. The work of Mosso and Tissie have an important place in the history of sports psychology. Their work in important because it was the first time that people did research that studied how psychology could influence sports. Their work is also important because it was the first time people studied how sports could be used as a form of treatment for mental disorders or behavioral problems.
Other developments were also made in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. In 1896, a French doctor named Charles du Pasquier published an article that talked about how sports could help people who had depression. In 1900, Eduard Bertz stated that sports could help people maintain a healthy body and soul or mind.  Later in 1913, Toby Cohn viewed sports as a way for people to develop self-confidence, emotional stability, and goal orientation.  In 1914, Bernhard Berliner conducted the first study done in order to study the effects that sports and exercise had on the mind and psychology. In his study, he looked at children who participated in exercise and sports while at a camp. As a result of his study he found that children who participated in sports and exercise were able to increase their ability to concentrate.
The next major developments that took place in sports psychology were in Europe and happened during the 1920s. One of these developments was the opening of the first sports psychology lab in 1920. This lab was opened in Berlin, Germany by Carl Diem. The next major development also took place in 1920. This development was the opening of a psychological laboratory by Robert Werner Schulte at the Deutsche Hochschue fur Leibesubungen near Berlin. The Deutsche Hochschue fur Leigesubungen was a College for Physical Education. This lab was used to study the natural ability that people had for doing good in sports. Schulte was also believed to have made the first devices or equipment used to measure the effects psychology and sports have on each other. He also included sports psychology in his talks to students who took physical education. Then in 1921, he published his first book. This book was named Body and Mind in Sport.  He then continued to go on to write many books about the topic of sport psychology. One of these books was called Aptitude and Performance Testing in Sport. This is the most important thing that he did in the field of sports psychology. The work that Diem and Schulte did is important to the development of sports psychology. It is important because it was the first time that someone actually did research on the relationship between sports and psychology in a lab. The next major development came in 1926. This development was the first psychoanalysis of what motivated people to want to play sports. Psychoanalysis means to study the unconscious mind and its influence on behavior. This was done by Helene Deutsch. She found that playing in sports could help people who had depression and anxiety. She also found that playing in sports could help people overcome their fears.
There were also major developments to the field of sports psychology that took place in Russia. The first sports psychology experiments were being done beginning in 1925. Russian sports psychologist Petr Antonovic Rudik did research in 1925. His research was on the development of skills and on reaction times. A reaction time is how quickly someone responds to something.  In 1926, Alexander Netchayev did research on how perception, memory, imagination, and attention are influenced by sports and physical activities. Rudik's and Netchayev's work has an important place in sport psychology's history. Their work is important because it was the first time that someone did experiments to study the influence psychology has on sports.
North American History[change | edit source]
The first known mentions of sports psychology in North America came in the 1890s. During the that time, E. W. Scripture studied the reaction times of runners in his Yale laboratory. Another area that Scripture focused on in his laboratory was how athletes could benefit from the field of experimental psychology. Experimental psychology is when you use experiments and science to study the brain and the mind. He also wrote papers about how sports affected who a person was. In his papers he argued that prisoners who participated in athletic activities while in jail showed improvement in general attitude. Scripture is important to the development of sports psychology. He is important because he is credited with some of the first work done in the field in North America.
George Wells Fitz also contributed to the field of sports psychology. Fitz created what is believed to be the first physical education laboratory in North America.  In 1895, Fitz ran an experiment. This experiment focused on studying the reaction times of people. He found one thing in his results. This thing was that people who demonstrated quicker and more accurate reaction times would be better at sports.  The work that Fitz did was important to the field of sports psychology. His work was important because it is the first time in North America that someone conducted research or experiments on reaction times.
The next major development to the history of sports psychology involved an idea known as transfer of training. Transfer of training occurs when you exercise one arm or one side of the body to make it stronger and the other side also becomes stronger without having any exercise. This area was first studied by Walter Wells Davis in the late 1800s. Davis ran an experiment that involved having people lift weights with one arm and not the other. His results confirmed the theory of transfer of training.  William G. Anderson also studied this concept. In his experiments he found that people who squeezed an object on one side of the body also got stronger on the opposite side of the body.  Anderson's and Davis' work and the idea of transfer of training is important to the history of sports psychology. Their work is important because it was the first time that someone actually came up with an idea in the field.
The next major developments that happened in the field of sports psychology came from Norman Tripplett. Norman Tripplett worked at the University of Indiana as a psychologist. He conducted an experiment that focused on competition. This experiment started to connect sports and psychology. His experiment also began to combine them into one field. In 1897, Tripplett started his study. He focused on how the performance of one person is influenced by other people being around. In 1898, he wrote about his results in his article. That article was called “The Dynamogenic Factors Involved in Pace-making and Competition”. His beliefs and findings were that cyclists were more likely to cycle faster when in the presence of a pacemaker or a competitor. People were more likely to cycle faster because the presence of another person caused them to put in more effort and use energy that they were not before.  In 1898, Tripplett tried to confirm his predictions and beliefs he came up with during the cycling study by running an experiment in laboratory. This experiment consisted of people winding fishing line as fast as they could in order to move a flag around a course.  The results of this experiment confirmed the results and predictions that were found in the cycling study. The work that Triplett did is an important part in the development of sports psychology. Triplett's work is important because it was the first time that someone studied how people's performance in sports or in a competition is affected by being around other people.
The 1900s brought even more developments to the field of sports psychology. One of the first developments came from G. T. W. Patrick. In 1903, Patrick studied the psychology of American football. He focused on why the people or the citizens of the United States loved football so much.  Next in 1912, Howard wanted to discover why people became so emotional while watching sports.  Then in 1915, Karl S. Lashley and John B. Watson started a study that focused on the learning curve of people in sports. A learning curve is how people learn the skills they need to in order to succeed in sports. The sport that they focused their study on was archery. The results of their study lead them to argue that when people were participating in harder tasks, like archery, they were more likely to work harder to complete the task.  The work that Lashley and Watson did is an important development to the field of sports psychology. Their work is important because it was the first time that someone studied how athletes learn the skills they need to play the sport that they participate in.
Sportswriter Hugh S. Fullerton is involved in the next development in the history of sports psychology. Fullerton brought New York Yankees player Babe Ruth to a psychology laboratory at Columbia University. Fullerton brought Ruth there to participate in a study run by Albert Johanson and Joseph Holmes. He wanted Ruth to participate in the study because he wanted to find a reason for why Ruth hit so many home runs. He also wanted to prove to other baseball scouts whether or not other players like Ruth existed. The study that Ruth participated in was used to study sensory-motor performance. Sensory-motor performance is how things that we perceive with our senses influence our movements. The study involved measuring the power of Ruth’s swing, his reaction time, his attention, his memory, and his motor skills. The results of this study offered a reason for why Ruth hit so many home runs. His skill for hitting home runs could be because on the tests his motor skills and reflexes scored above average.  The next development that came regarded football. At Stanford University, B.C. Graves, a psychology graduate student, Walter Miles, a professor, and Glenn “Pop” Warner, a college football coach started an experiment. Their experiment studied reaction time. They ran their ran experiment so they could find the fastest way to get the offense to move together when the center hiked the ball.  This led to the use of psychology as a way to gain an advantage over your opponent in a competition.
Coleman Griffith[change | edit source]
Even though there were many developments to this field prior to this point, the most important did not come until the time of Coleman Griffith. Griffith was a professor at the University of Illinois. He is considered to be the father of sports psychology in North America. Griffith's first contribution was that he started a section in his introductory to psychology class that only athletes could take. Then in 1921, he gave the first public talk about psychology and athletics.  In 1923, he started a special course focusing on psychology and sports. It was called Psychology and Athletics.  The textbook that was used for this class was Griffith’s third book, called Psychology of Coaching. Later in 1924, Griffith began meeting with Knute Rockne, who was a football coach at Notre Dame. He met with Rockne to explore how coaching was affected by psychology.
The next major contribution that Griffith made was in 1925, when he opened the first sports psychology lab in North America. This lab was only able to stay open for six years. After the closure of the laboratory, Griffith was contacted in 1937 by Philip Wrigley. Wrigley was the owner of the Major League Baseball team the Chicago Cubs. He contacted Griffith to offer him a job. Griffith accepted the job. He called the project Experimental Laboratories of the Chicago National League Ball Club.  While with the Cubs, Griffith studied how psychological factors influenced performance. Based on the results of his research Griffith made recommendations to Wrigley. These recommendations included psychological clinics for the players, holding fielding practice, and having achievement tests to measure the athletes’ basic skills.  However, Wrigley did not follow these recommendations but was still impressed by Griffith’s work. Wrigley offered Griffith a full-time position as a sports psychologist in 1939. Griffith refused the job to stay with his family. After this Griffith did not conduct anymore major research in the area of sports psychology. Griffith was an important part of sport psychology's history. He was an important part because not only was he the first sports psychologist but he also opened the first laboratory in America that studied the relationship between sports and psychology.
Sports Psychology after Griffith: The 20th century[change | edit source]
The field of sports psychology was slow to advance during the mid-twentieth century, with only a few developments. The first occurred in the 1920s and 1930s. This development was that psychology was beginning to be discussed and taught at coaching schools. Some coaches used what they learned about sports psychology while coaching their teams. Paul Brown was head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. He began using psychological testing with his players. His tests eventually became known as the beginning of the National Football League’s tests that are used today.  During the 1940s, psychology was starting to be used as a way for athletes to improve their performance. Psychology professor Dorothy Hazeltine Yates helped a boxer try to improve his skills through psychology; the boxer then went on to have the best fights of his career.  Also during the 1940s, the psychological technique known as hypnosis was starting to be used. It was being used as a way to get athletes to relax. During the 1950s, David F. Tracy began using psychological methods to help players on the St. Louis Browns, a major league baseball team.  Today they are known as the Baltimore Orioles.
The development of sports psychology started to advance rapidly starting in the 1960s. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, sports were becoming more important to people. This caused anything that could help athletes perform better to also become more accepted. This included psychology. Four things were considered to be an important part in developing the field of sports psychology on a more well known basis. These four things were textbooks, graduate programs, associations, and journals. These four things were developed by studying certain topics within the field of sports psychology. One of the main areas that was being studied during this time period was the affect stress had on athletes and their performance. In 1960, Warren R. Johnson continued the research he started in 1949. This research was about the effect stress had on an athlete. He continued this research by creating the first textbook on the topic.  In 1961, Maxwell Howell started the first graduate school program in physical education. He did this at the University of Alberta in Canada.  The creation of associations and journals was the next development of this time period. In 1967, the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity or (NASPSPA)was created.  It was created by a group of sport psychologists led by Warren Johnson.  One of the first things that this organization did was to start publishing the "Sport Psychology Bulletin". The "Sport Psychology Bulletin" included research reports and the writings of the members of the NASPSPA.  Then in 1970, the "International Journal of Sport Psychology" was started.  During the 1970s and 1980s, there were many associations and journals that were started. These were the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology, the American Psychological Association's Division 47 of Exercise and Sport Psychology, the Sport Psychology Academy of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, the "Journal of Sports Psychology", the "Journal of Sport Science", the "Sport Psychologist", and the "Journal of Applied Sport Psychology".  The next major developments involved the United States Olympic Committee. In 1978, they started a Sports Medicine Council that included sports psychologists.  In 1985, they created the first registry or list of sports psychologists. 
Modern Sports Psychology[change | edit source]
Today there are two types of sports psychology, academic and applied. Academic sports psychology focuses on doing research about sports psychology. Applied sports psychology uses that research to teach people in the athletic field. Today there are three main areas of focus in applied sports psychology. They are what kinds of certification, education, or licenses people need to practice applied sports psychology, the need to provide a certain kind of training for people who are studying applied sports psychology, and creating new techniques or ways to help athletes while using applied sports psychology. The future of sports psychology and how it advances depends one thing. This thing is the kind of laboratory studies and research that is done in the field. Future studies should use large sample sizes or include a large number of people in the study, they should use multiple types of sports,and they should use multiple types of ways to measure an athlete's performance.  They should also use research teams from outside studies in order to create more accurate results.  Future studies should also try to expand on current ideas as to why changes in athletes' performance occur or happen while they are playing sports. 
Today the number of sports psychologists that are being used by athletes is increasing. In fact, so many athletes are being helped by sports psychologists, that some organizations are starting to limit how many coaches can be on the field during a game. Also a growing number of athletes are adding sports psychologists to a group of people that they use everyday to help them train and prepare for a game. The fact that so many athletes are using sports psychology as part of their everyday lives and training can lead us to believe that this field has a great future.
References[change | edit source]
- Green, C.D. & Benjamin, L.T. (2009). Psychology gets in the game. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Goodwin, C. J. (2009). E. W. Scripture: The application of "new psychology" methodology to athletics. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 78-97). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Davis, S. F., Huss, M. T., & Becker, A. H. (2009). Norman Triplett: Recognizing the importance of competition. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 98-115). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Kremer, John; Moran, Aidan (2008). "Swifter, higher, stronger: The history of sport psychology". The Psychologist 21 (8): 740-742.
- Dewsbury, D. A. (2009). Karl S. Lashley and John B. Watson: Early research on the acquisition of skill in archery. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 116-143). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Fuchs, A. H. (2009). Psychology and baseball: The testing of Babe Ruth. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 144-167). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Baker, David B.; Joyce, Nick (2008). "The early days of sport psychology". Monitor on Psychology 39 (7): 28.
- Green, C. D. (2009). Coleman Roberts Griffith: "Father" of North American sport psychology. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 202-229). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Baker, David, Graef, Stephen T., and Kornspan, Alan S. (2009). Paul Brown Bringing Psychological Testing to Football. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 230-252). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Kornspan, Alan S. (2009).Enhancing Performance in Sport: The use of hypnosis and other psychological techniques in the 1950s and 1960s. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 253-282). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Benjamin, L.T., and Green C.D. (2009). The “Proper” History of Sports Psychology. In C. D. Green & L. T. Benjamin (Eds.), Psychology gets in the game (pp. 283-294). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Silva, John (1984). "The Emergence of Applied Sports Psychology: Contemporary Trends - Future Issues". International Journal of Sports Psychology 15 (1): 40-51.
- Gardner, Frank; Moore, Zella (2012). "Mindfulness and Acceptance Models in Sport Psychology: A Decade of Basic and Applied Scientific Advancements". Canadian Psychology 53 (4): 309-318.