Sports Psychology Every Step of the Way | Teen Ink

Sports Psychology Every Step of the Way

August 8, 2018
By rachelwells BRONZE, Amelia, Virginia
rachelwells BRONZE, Amelia, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Throughout every athlete’s career, there is always the mental side of the game. Often, young players walk around with the constant burden of thoughts roaming around in their heads. With travel leagues, recreational leagues, and school leagues, sports are held to an extremely high standard, and many kids often play all three leagues of their sport at the same time. The time, money, and effort that goes into sports puts immense pressure upon a player’s shoulders. As a result, I believe the mental side of the game is just as important as the physical side, yet the mental side is often pushed aside. Sports offer a different type of vulnerability in the mind, especially in young athletes. Traumatic events, such as injury or failure, can offset the mental balance of the game. My personal injury experience has opened my eyes to every inch of sports psychology imaginable. I know what it is like to have my heart ripped out of me as I was told I could never play the same. It is hard to put into words the extent that suffering from an injury can have on a young player’s heart, soul, and mind. For most people, their sport is the center of their lives. There is nothing like the confidence that comes with being great at a sport. When playing isn’t the same, players can feel hopeless. From hypnotherapy to simple communication, sports psychology needs to be acknowledged.

When I was younger, I started playing softball. The sport became my main source of confidence. I was a “star” pitcher and often pitched in every game I played. There are no words to describe the feeling of striking people out, pitching no hitters, and just being great at a sport. The thought of pitching for the middle school team was the sole motivation that got me through hard years of getting picked on in elementary school. After my first season of pitching a tremendous season for the middle school team, my life fell apart. I suddenly couldn’t pitch. My identity disappeared. I had no pain, so my parents thought it was all in my head. I went through hypnotherapy, tapping therapy, and visualization techniques.  It opened my mind up to a whole different side of the game, the mental side. Just when I thought it was working, I couldn’t throw overhand. This time I experienced pain in my arm. I was diagnosed with a frayed labrum and tendinitis in my rotator cuff. We dropped the idea of the issue being mental and just went to physical therapy. The exercises were like repeatedly hitting my head against a wall. While physical therapy helped a little, it didn’t fix everything.

Throughout my whole traumatic journey, I continued to play softball, but I had anxiety every time I went to practice or a game. I went from being looked up to, to being stared at in confusion. It was hard to play a game I had grown up playing and not be able to throw or play like normal. I was visually different from everyone else. Everyone noticed something was wrong, and I always felt like the elephant in the room. I went from loving to be the center of attention, to fearing attention completely. The experience ripped my confidence out of me as the ground fell beneath my feet. While I used some of the mental techniques I had previously learned to combat the new anxiety, I wish that sports psychology was more accepted when I was going through my experience.

Sports psychology is a foreign term to most people, yet the causes of the mental stress are right under their noses. From pushy parents, to mean kids, sports are becoming more hostile. Psychologists help coaches with trying to keep sports enjoyable in the long term. Many children quit playing a sport at a young age due to the constant stress and demands that go along with the sport. While a good push here and there is necessary in the shaping of a strong athlete, adults can tamper with a child’s confidence without even realizing. Sports psychology can involve many unique methods to improve the athlete’s mental health. Some methods of sports psychology, like hypnotherapy and tapping, are beneficial to everyone including people who don’t play sports. Unfortunately, because sports psychology isn’t often talked about, many times players choose to see a sports psychologist without telling the coach or teammates.

Despite the competitive intensity found in sports, players and coaches mainly focus on the physical side of the game. People tend to be completely unaware of the entire sports psychology field. Sports psychology shouldn’t be a forbidden topic in the sports world. Seeing a psychologist doesn’t have to mean an athlete is crazy. Sport psychology can exist at every level of the mind, big or small. Athletes are said to have strong minds on and off the field. Sometimes what an athlete shows on the outside isn’t what’s burning on the inside. Every baseball or softball player has gone through at least one hitting slump. The suffering of what could be weeks of strikeouts or pop ups could be a result of a simple mental block that could be fixed in as little as a day.

All athletes, young and old, are doing themselves an injustice by not taking advantage of psychological assistance. While sports psychology is common in professional sports, college athletics are becoming more involved with sports psychology as well.  If a college athletics program does not have a sports psychologist on staff, the college works with an outside counselor. From the course load to the physical strain, coaches are starting to acknowledge the high demands of playing a college sport. With the numerous hours spent playing the sport every day, there are countless opportunities for a mental block or stress. When watching a college or professional sports game, it seems players are unphased. No matter how much pressure builds throughout the game, college and professional players seem invincible. This is often due to the work of sports psychologists. The main aspect necessary for success is trust in their ability. There must be a rebuilding of trust or the erasing of the mental block to be successful. Tips and tricks for a stronger mind can be found by talking with a sports psychologist.

An athlete who experiences an injury is susceptible to psychological needs. When a person grows up playing a sport, it becomes part of their identity. Now more than ever, amateur sports are extremely competitive. There are a lot of demands on children at a very young age. With some athletes, being great at a sport can be a major portion of the player’s overall confidence. When an athlete is struggling post injury, it is important they learn to cope with the physical as well as the mental side of the issue. Keeping a positive attitude and getting over the change can be easier said than done. It is extremely hard to go from being a dependable and consistent member of a team, to a teammate who visibly struggles. An injured athlete may find it hard to talk about the issues they are going through because it may feel as if they are the only ones who are experiencing the agony of being disconnected from their sport. They think that it selfish and silly to say that the loss of the relationship with their sport is ruining their life. This, however, is a common feeling among injured athletes. Talking things out and even visualizing the body being healed are beneficial forms of sports psychology used post injury.

Overall, sports psychology is becoming more popular in athletics. While professional and college sports take advantage of sports psychology, amateur athletes should use some methods of sports psychology as well. In sports, the mind is a whole different source of power that can be tapped into for enhanced performance. It is time for coaches to start acknowledging the different benefits mental toughness brings to the table. While there are many different and complex forms of sports psychology, most methods are easy and can be done discretely. People are just too afraid to discuss the mental weaknesses they may be encountering. While sports psychology is becoming more common in college and professional athletics, I believe it is needed in amateur sports. My experience with sports psychology allows me to shed some light on the importance of sports psychology. In talking to a handful of my peers, I believe that many athletes of all different sports suffer from some sort of nervousness or anxiety when playing the sport. Young athletes have no idea how to process what their minds are going through. Coaches need to be aware and apply sports psychology in their regimen. It is never too early to strengthen the mind in the world of sports. My experience with sports psychology allows me to shed some light on the importance of sports psychology. When the mental and physical side of the game are combined, an athlete is invincible.

The author's comments:

Like many teens, sports are a huge part of my life. My softball career came to a hault after suffering from an injury that led to years of physical and mental trauma. Sports psychology is a topic that is never mentioned, yet I live in a town where sports are very important. After going through my journey, I believe the mental side of the game should be talked about in every level of play. 

Similar Articles


This article has 1 comment.

Lifesportgo said...
on Aug. 22 2018 at 10:24 am
Lifesportgo, Louisville, Kentucky
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Love the article..... there should be no stigma surrounding an athlete trying to improve his or her performance (on and off the field) by seeing a sports psychologist!