The Effect Sports Psychology Has On A Young Athlete


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To fully understand sport psychology, we must ask ourselves two very important questions, first, what is sport psychology and second, who is it for Put in the most simple way, sport psychology can be an example of psychological knowledge, principles, or methods applied to the world of sport. “Two psychologists, Bunker and Maguire, say sport psychology is not for psychologists, but is for sport and its participants.” Murphy first, goal setting focuses attention, second, it mobilizes effort in proportion to the demands of the tasks, third, it enhances persistence, and finally, they encourage the individual to develop strategies for achieving their goals.” Wolff, 1993:146

Another goal setting procedure is the widespread use of the acronym SCAMP as a way of teaching athletes simple goal setting procedures…..

….Specify exactly how much you want to improve and how you can measure it. Set goals that are challenging but have possibility. Set goals that are attainable. Set multiple goals to increase probability of attainment. Set goals that relate to you, ones that are personal. Over recent years, considerable attention has been paid to the development of 11 theories and models dealing with participation motivation in sports. “The work deliberately focuses on young athletes and highlights the significance of intrinsic motivators in maximizing an individual’s long term commitment to sport.” Butt, 1987:215 At the same time, the dangers associated with either parents or coaches emphasizing extrinsic rewards are openly acknowledged. In brief, the history of research on work motivation has shown a gradual shift from traditional content models of work motivation which strived to list or classify motivators, and towards an appreciation of the complexities of the process of motivation. “The complexities of the process of motivation are exemplified by the various expectancy-value models which describe personal and environmental variables play their part in determining the relationship between effort, performance, rewards, and satisfaction.” Garfield, 1984:34

The argument advanced by Porter and Lawler is that motivation is related to performance, to reward and to satisfaction in a definable way. “Three principle components are taken to determine motivation, namely expectancy, instrumentality, and valence.” Butt, 1987:86 Our motivation will depend first, upon our belief that we are capable of influencing our performance through increasing effort. Second, our knowledge that an increase in performance will result in more awards. Finally, it will depend on the value which we place on the reward that we expect to receive. This is represented in the model below.

One important feature of this model is the emphasis it places on feedback. “Accordingly in the context of coaching the model has considerable practical utility for identifying and dealing with management problems effectively.” Butt, 1987: 87 The model also has great learning value for considering the interaction between a number of cognitive and environmental factors in determining satisfaction and future effort. However, the complexity of the model also means that it is difficult to develop a research project which is able to look at each component systematically or to take into account all other possible intervening factors, for example, attributional style. “Once more, occupational psychology may present genuine opportunities for understanding and there is a need to ensure that an awareness of the many faces of sport, both amateur and professional, voluntary and compulsory, are kept very much to the fore in any further discussion of sport motivation.” Garfield, 1984:38

Using a very basic expectancy-value model to frame discussion, a preliminary study by Kremer and Robinson 1992 considered the attitudes and motivations of professional apprentice soccer players that were from Northern Ireland who had travelled to join English and Scottish teams, often to return to Ireland after being rejected there. “Contrary to predictions based on intrinsic motivation models, these platers did not return disenchanted and lost to the game, but almost invariably they slotted comfortably into life in the Irish League, often older and wiser as to their potential but still continuing to take a very active part in the game which they continued to enjoy.” Butt, 1987:88 Clearly the reward structure which motivated these young professional athletes was very different from that which is described in relation to participation rates and drop-outs amongst young, amateur athletes. Once more, occupational psychology may present genuine opportunities for understanding and there is a need to ensure that a knowledge and awareness of the many faces of sport, both amateur and professional, voluntary and compulsory, are kept very much to the front in any future discussion of sport motivation. From this research that has been done over some four years, one can understand that psychology does play a significant part in sport and in the minds of athletes, especially at a young age. Sport psychology ranges from judging an athlete’s personality all the way to his her coach. We see the many methods and techniques used by psychologists to keep an athlete in the right frame of mind to participate in sports. We have seen methods dealing with the cognitive side of sport psychology such as imagery and visualization to handle stress in sports. We have seen methods of clinical psychology such as relaxation techniques to release pre-game tensions and anxiety. We have seen methods of social psychology dealing with harmful aggression of athletes. We also have seen methods of occupational psychology in which the coaches of athletes get involved in psychology and motivation models come into play for coaches to use in order to motivate their athletes.

We can see that psychologists have not ignored psychology in the world of sport, something that cannot be ignored with the growing number in athletic participation by young people. “With each new year comes an increase in new developments dealing with sport psychology.” Murphy & White, 1978:9 However, there is still much work to be done in sport psychology. There are still many unresolved questions and even some new questions and even some new questions that have arisen over the years dealing with sport psychology. Take anxiety for instance. Psychologists have found ways to reduce anxiety but not eliminate it. Maybe there is no way to eliminate it since everyone has it. Another example is aggression. Wherever there are sports, there is aggression. Psychologists have stated that sports are a way for people to release their aggression. However, they still have not been able to fully eliminate the violence in sports. Psychologists are also working on new methods for motivating athletes because some athletes are harder to motivate that others. Even though there are these unresolved issues in sport psychology, the future of psychology in sports, especially youth sports, looks to be on a very progressive track with many new discoveries.

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