Image Credits: .
A crisp and comprehensive look at who should avail sport psychology support and why.
It's a commonly believed misconception that sport psychology support is meant for elite athletes only. When an athlete performs at the national or international level is when he should opt for sport psychology support. Fortunately, that’s not the gospel truth! This article talks about who should avail sport psychology support and delve into the ‘why’ bit of it.
Simply said, any athlete who wishes to excel at sport, who wishes to achieve personal goals, or who wishes to perform at the optimal best and enjoy the sport, can and/or should approach a sport psychology practitioner.
Having said this, there are two ways in which a sport psychologist works – curative and preventive. Curative work involves targeted interventions for an athlete’s identified psychological and emotional barriers. On the other hand, preventive work is mainly to help athlete build mental training skills that will aid in performance enhancement. Keeping this in mind, young athlete’s benefit evidently from a preventive approach.
The expectation to do well or win can exert tremendous psychological pressure on young athletes, coaches and parents as well. While competition is inevitable, too much of it can undermine many of the goals of young athletes. Many sports kids feel that achieving peak performance means that they must have a perfect performance or game. However, this mindset can hurt kids’ mental game and performance. In their pre-teens, a kid is developing not just biologically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Approaching a sport psychologist at this age is the right thing for the kid as undergoing mental training will help build career longevity, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness, and help perform better.
During adolescence, the transition from childhood to adulthood is the most important. Children are becoming more independent, and begin to look at the future in terms of career, relationships, etc. Especially in sport, this is the age where society labels it as the ‘make or break’ time. This not only undermines the athlete’s self-image but may also spike up pressure levels. The adolescent may grapple with self-image issues, building a social identity, issues surrounding body image, etc. Having these in the back of the mind aren’t necessarily conducive for high performance. If athletes have access to a sport psychologist at this stage, it helps not only in performance enhancement but personality development and overall mental wellbeing too.
If an athlete has had constant exposure to the competitive arena, anxiety and performance pressure are unavoidable. Burnout is also a predominant issue in sport. Constantly performing under pressure, in high-stake environments, etc. can take a toll on the athlete’s mental makeup. A sport psychologist, after a thorough needs analysis, will design a mental training intervention to ameliorate these problems. Building emotional intelligence and awareness, approaching anxiety in the right manner, pressure handling, goal setting, relaxation, are some of the key things that can be worked out upon to help athlete perform consistently.
The Good News
A sport psychology intervention (formally known as Psychological Skills Training) is a ‘made to fit’ program to help the athlete stay persistent and perform to his/her absolute best. An athlete doesn’t have to face psychological trouble or undergo emotional distress to approach a sport psychologist. Just as the athlete will train the body on a technical level to match up the competition, working on mental fitness will help the athlete be psychologically ready for the competition.
So, what’s holding you back?
Sanika Divekar is a sport and exercise psychologist. Former National Table Tennis athlete. She is a member of the British Psychological Societies (BPS). Her aim is to support your psychological well-being and foster personal growth through an educational and humanistic client-based approach, where your view as the choice is at the main focus of her work. Sanika's motivation to work as a sport psychologist with predominantly young athletes, has much to do with her passion in seeing them take their sporting performance to the highest level.