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Benefits and Applications of Sports Psychology

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 1454 words Published: 11th Apr 2018

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1. Introduction

Currently, sport psychologists utilize numerous interventions and techniques intended to enhance the performance of athletes in competition, one of which is the cognitive approach. (Greenspan & Feltz, 1989). Focusing on the understanding of information and the relationship between concepts will allow the sports psychologist to be able to enhance teaching, learning, knowledge, regulation and performance. (Glassman & Hadad, 2009).

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2. Skills Attainment and Performance Enhancement

Metacognitive knowledge includes knowledge about oneself as a learner and the factors that might impact performance, knowledge about strategies, and knowledge about when and why to use strategies. This component of metacognition would be used with the novice sports person. An elite sports person would not only utilise metacognitive knowledge but also metacognitive regulation through the monitoring of one’s thinking , planning activities, awareness of understanding and task performance, and evaluation of the effectiveness of monitoring processes and strategies. (Livingston, 1997)

2.1 Novice Sports Person

Fitts & Posner (1967), advise that there are 3 phases of acquiring new skills: the cognitive phase, associative phase and autonomous phase. During the cognitive phase I would discuss with the client what the mechanics of the sport were such other recognised achievements by other people in that sporting field, environment such as running track or stadium, clothing, physical attributes of how the body performs and the correct techniques, and the movement involved. I would assist the client in in forming a mental picture or as Tolman (1932) describes, a cognitive map of all of the components of the sport and the relationship between them. Practicing the new sport with guidance, corrective action and coach feedback would be used during the associative phase. This would assist the client in developing an understanding of what works for them. During the autonomous phase, the skill in the sport would be mastered and become an automatic response.

2.2 Elite Sports Person: Olympian

The overall objective is to equip the athletes with the psychological tools to maximize their chances to perform as close as possible to their potential in the Olympic Games. An elite sportsperson has either an innate ability or has achieved a high level of performance through determination, effort and practice or both. Getting into a flow mindset (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) can help athletes to consistently achieve optimal performance.

To enhance performance we would use metacognitive regulation and evaluate the effectiveness of the existent strategies. Suinn (1987) discusses techniques for performance enhancement which includes relaxation training followed by rehearsal using imagery. This type of intervention usually started with an explanation session then training in progressive muscle relaxation that allowed the sports person to alternatively tense and then relax muscles. The use of visualisation and guided imagery may help control pain, reduce anxiety levels, and develop positive attitudes as well as self-awareness. (Handegard et al, 2006). Le Van (2009) discusses how mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. The brain is also getting trained for actual performance during visualization.

3. Evaluation of Effectiveness

To determine effectiveness of the technique, in the case of the novice, I would get them to discuss and reflect on their thinking process (Bransford et al, 2000). We would work through what it means to learn, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses with specific skills, plan what’s required to accomplish a specific learning goal or activity, identifying and correcting errors, and preparing ahead for learning processes. The elite sportsperson would be required to undergo debriefing after competition, and reflection on the strategies in action. Monitoring would be used to determine the effectiveness and whether modification or relearning was required for any of the existing strategies.

4. Personal Attainment of a New Skill

As an adult I enjoy learning on an “as needed” basis and as such motivation is never a problem. I learn because something has caused me to want to know more information. My preferred style of learning is a staged approach. At first I prefer to do some reading about a particular topic or set of instructions and then have a teacher/instructor demonstrate the task or activity. I find that participating in an activity with hands-on experience helps to do problem solving and embed the knowledge. I then like to practice the task until it is mastered. I also reflect on each stage and review what I have learnt. My learning style seems to be a combination of many styles: behaviourist, such as mastering the content; cognitivist, where I can problem solve and deal with the facts, and constructivist, where I use reflection (Ertmer & Newby, 1993)

5. Conclusion

Using a cognitive approach in a learning environment, or to equip athletes with an understanding of their physical and psychological functioning, and building the ability to implement a range of strategies in competition, enables learners as well as athletes to both execute their skills and thrive under pressure as they strive to reach their performance potential. (Anderson, 2014)


Anderson, R. (2014) Faster, higher, psychologically stronger: Sport psychology at the London Olympic Games. Retrieved November 12th 2014 from Australian Psychological Society website: http://www.psychology.org.au/Content.aspx?ID=4986.

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A L., and Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row.

Ertmer, P. and Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6 (4), 50-72. Retrieved November 12th 2014, from http://uow.ico5.janison.com/ed/subjects/edgi911w/readings/ertmerp1.pdf

Fitts, P. M., & Posner, R. M. I. (1967)Human performance.Oxford, England: Brooks and Cole.

Glassman, W.E and Haddad, M (2009) Approaches to Psychology (5th Ed.) Open University Press.

Greenspan, M.J. & Feltz, D.L. (1989) Psychological Interventions With Athletes in Competitive Situations: A Review. The Sport Psychologist, 3, 219-236

Handegard, L.A., Joyner, A.B., Burke, K.L., Reimann, B. (2006) Relaxation and Guided Imagery in the Sport Rehabilitation Journal of Excellence (11) Retrieved November 11th 2014 from Zone of Excellence website: http://www.zoneofexcellence.ca./Journal/Issue11/index.html

LeVan, A.J. (2009) Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization. Retrieved November 12th 2014 from Psychology Today website: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization.

Livingston, J.A (1997) Metacognition: An Overview. Retrieved November 10th 2014 from State University of New York at Buffalo website: http://gse.buffalo.edu/fas/shuell/cep564/metacog.htm

Suinn, R. (1987). Psychological approaches to performance enhancement. In J.R. May & M.J. Asken (Eds.), Sport psychology: The psychological health of the athlete (pp. 59-76). New York: PMA Publ.

Tolman, E.C. (1932) Purposive Behaviour in Animals and Man. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts


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