Although psychology and sports seem like two entirely different fields that can never relate, psychological factors are responsible for sports performance along with training, of course. It is seen that if an athlete’s mental health deteriorate or gets better likely their performance in sports gets worse or better respectively. In previous years, mental factors were not considered when it came to sports, but now they are well studied. Researchers even claim that this can differentiate between successful and unsuccessful athletes. Let’s see what are these factors.
Psychological factors affecting sports performance
1. Goals: This one is not just limited to sports but basically everything in life. The reason why life coaches constantly ask their clients to set personal goals is that it is what motivates a person to outperform themselves and achieve new records. If an athlete is without a goal, they are likely to not have enough motivation to propel them through a tough situation or perform to their max capacity. Because, where would one aim if they can’t even see the target? This philosophy is important to understand, as in tensed moments it is the motivation, not the training that pushes the body further. For example, if a baseball player has a goal to hit 70 home runs in a season, he will have that in his mind and constantly push himself.
2. Training and confidence: One can even say this works as a placebo effect to some extent. Here the idea is that if a person is provided with adequate training, they are likely to feel confident in their actions and won’t hesitate to take a different approach if things go downhill. Along with that pep talks are vital as well, before the game. If an athlete is constantly reminded that they are doing great, it usually results in better performance, especially in the case of fighting sports. It should also be noted that the psychological factor of being underprepared can cause severe performance issues where an athlete can even freeze during the game or match. For instance, if someone barely knows how to drive a car, they might be able to drive it, however, they’d be freaking out the entire ride. Mental training is essential for athletes to have a focused mindset.
3. Anxiety: There is rarely any person on this Earth who has not suffered or at least felt a little anxious in their life. It is true for professional athletes as well. Some newer ones feel extreme nervousness and even tremors before hitting the spotlight. Anxiety can be caused by numerous reasons like pressure to win, becoming the cause of losing, doing something stupid, and many more. If the anxiety issue isn’t resolved for an athlete, they are likely to be lost during the event or do constant overcorrections to their actions and wouldn’t be able to focus much on the actual game, which will result in poor performance resulting in further anxiety.
4. Distraction: Visual distractions are one of the main reasons why sportspersons are unable to focus on the sport, however, there are various psychological distractions as well. For example, if an athlete receives news that their family members were involved in an accident before the game, they are more likely to perform poorly as their mind is occupied by the worries. Also, positive news can sometimes alter performance as well but these are not that common.
5. Disputes: Disputes among the opposition are common and are considered a part of sports. However, a real issue arises when two or more players of the same team are having mental friction or generally despise each other due to differences in their beliefs or strategies. These disputes during the training sessions must be resolved or else they enlarge and affect the actual performance of the athletes. From cricket to soccer no sport is without these scenarios.
Physical training is of course important when it comes to sports and performance. But as we can see mental training is equally important to create a strong mindset that will enhance an athlete’s performance.