So here is part of a wiki about sports psychology.
Common areas of study
Listed below are broad areas of research in the field. This is not a complete list of all topics, but rather, an overview of the types of issues and concepts sport psychologists study.
One common area of study within sport psychology is the relationship between personality and performance. This research focuses on specific personality characteristics and how they are related to performance or other psychological variables.
Mental toughness is not a psychological edge that helps one perform at a high level consistently. Mentally tough athletes exhibit four characteristics: a strong self-belief (confidence) in their ability to perform well, an internal motivation to be successful, the ability to focus one’s thoughts and feelings without distraction, and composure under pressure.Self-efficacy is a belief that one can successfully perform a specific task. In sport, self-efficacy has been conceptualized as sport-confidence. However, efficacy beliefs are specific to a certain task (e.g., I believe I can successfully make both free throws), whereas confidence is a more general feeling (e.g., I believe I will have a good game today). Arousal refers to one's physiological and cognitive activation. While many researchers have explored the relationship between arousal and performance, one unifying theory has not yet been developed. However, research does suggest perception of arousal (i.e., as either good or bad) is related to performance.Motivation can be defined broadly as the will to perform a given task. People who play or perform for internal reasons, such as enjoyment and satisfaction, are said to be intrinsically motivated, while people who play for external reasons, such as money or attention from others, are extrinsically motivated.
Youth sport refers to organized sports programs for children less than 18 years old. Researchers in this area focus on the benefits or drawbacks of youth sport participation and how parents impact their children’s experiences of sporting activities. In this day and age, more and more youth are being influenced by what they see on TV from their sport idols. For that reason it is not rare to see a seven year old play acting in a game of soccer because they are being socially influenced by what they are seeing on TV.
Life skills refer to the mental, emotional, behavioral, and social skills and resources developed through sport participation. Research in this area focuses on how life skills are developed and transferred from sports to other areas in life (e.g., from tennis to school) and on program development and implementation.Burnout in sport is typically characterized as having three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a reduced sense of accomplishment. Athletes who experience burnout may have different contributing factors, but the more frequent reasons include perfectionism, boredom, injuries, excessive pressure, and overtraining. Burnout is studied in many different athletic populations (e.g., coaches), but it is a major problem in youth sports and contributes to withdrawal from sport. Parenting in youth sport is necessary and critical for young athletes. Research on parenting explores behaviors that contribute to or hinder children’s participation. For example, research suggests children want their parents to provide support and become involved, but not give technical advice unless they are well-versed in the sport. Excessive demands from parents may also contribute to burnout.
While sport psychologists primarily work with athletes and focus their research on improving athletic performance, coaches are another population where intervention can take place. Researchers in this area focus on the kinds of things coaches can say or do to improve their coaching technique and their athletes' performance.
Motivational climate refers to the situational and environmental factors that influence individuals' goals. The two major types of motivational climates coaches can create are task-oriented and ego-oriented. While winning is the overall goal of sports competitions regardless of the motivational climate, a task-orientation emphasizes building skill, improvement, giving complete effort, and mastering the task at hand (i.e., self-referenced goals), while an ego-orientation emphasizes demonstrating superior ability, competition, and does not promote effort or individual improvement (i.e., other-referenced goals). Effective coaching practices explore the best ways coaches can lead and teach their athletes. For examples, researchers may study the most effective methods for giving feedback, rewarding and reinforcing behavior, communicating, and avoiding self-fulfilling prophecies in their athletes.
Coaches have become more open to the idea of having a good professional athlete -coach relationship. This relationship will be the basis for an effective performance setting.
Sport psychologists may do consulting work or conduct research with entire teams. This research focuses on team tendencies, issues, and beliefs at the group level, not at the individual level.
Team cohesion can be defined as a group's tendency to stick together while pursuing its objectives. Team cohesion has two components: social cohesion (how well teammates like one another) and task cohesion (how well teammates work together to achieve their goal). Collective efficacy is a team's shared belief that they can or cannot accomplish a given task. In other words, this is the team's belief about the level of competency they have to perform a task. It is important to note that collective efficacy is an overall shared belief amongst team members and not merely the sum of individual self-efficacy beliefs. Leadership can be thought of as a behavioral process that influences team members towards achieving a common goal. Leadership in sports is pertinent because there are always leaders on a team (i.e., team captains, coaches, trainers). Research on leadership studies characteristics of effective leaders and leadership development.
Recently many studies have been influenced by an evolutionary psychology perspective. This includes studies on testosterone changes in sports which at least for males are similar to those in status conflicts in non-human primates with testosterone levels increasing and decreasing as an individual's status changes. A decreased testosterone level may decrease dominant and competitive behaviors which when the status conflicts involved fighting may have been important for preventing physical injury to the loser as further competition is avoided. Testosterone levels also increase before sports competitions, in particular if the event is perceived as real challenge as compared to not being important. Testosterone may also be involved in the home advantage effect which has similarities to animal defense of their home territory. In some sports there is a marked overrepresentation of left-handedness which has similarities to left-handed likely having an advantage in close combat which may have evolutionary explanations. Simply wearing red clothing has been found to give a significant advantage in sports competitions which may be because red color psychology links red with health, anger, and dominance. See the articles on home advantage, handedness, and color psychology for more details.
Commonly used techniques
Below are five of the more common techniques or skills sport psychologists teach to athletes for improving their performance.
Arousal regulation refers to entering into and maintaining an optimal level of cognitive and physiological activation in order to maximize performance. This may include relaxation if one becomes too anxious through methods such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation, or the use of energizing techniques (e.g., listening to music, energizing cues) if one is not alert enough. The use of meditation and specifically, mindfulness, is a growing practice in the field of arousal recognition. The Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment (MAC) Theory is the most common form of mindfulness in sport and was formed in 2001. The aim of ACT is to maximize human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life. It includes specific protocol that involve meditation and acceptance practices on a regular basis as well as before and during competition. These protocol have been tested various times using NCAA men's and women's basketball players. In a study done by Frank L. Gardner, an NCAA women's basketball player increased her personal satisfaction in her performances from 2.4 out of 10 to 9.2 out of 10 after performing the specific MAC protocol for several weeks. Also, the effect of mental barriers on her game decreased from 8 out of 8 to 2.2 out of 8 during that same time period as a result of the MAC protocol. Another study of the MAC protocol performed by Frank Gardner and Zella Moore on an adolescent competitive diver showed that when the MAC protocol is tailored to a specific population, it has the potential to provide performance enhancement. In this case, the vocabulary and examples in the protocol were tailored to be more practical for a 12 year old. After performed the MAC protocol for several weeks, the diver showed between a 13 to 14 percent increase in his diving scores. This finding is important because previously the majority of tests performed using the MAC protocol had been on world class athletes.
Goal setting is the process of systematically planning ways to achieve specific accomplishments within a certain amount of time. Research suggests that goals should be specific, measurable, difficult but attainable, time-based, written down, and a combination of short-term and long-term goals. A meta-analysis of goal setting in sport suggests that when compared to setting no goals or "do your best" goals, setting the above types of goals is an effective method for improving performance. According to Dr. Eva V. Monsma, short term goals should be used to help achieve long term goals. Dr. Monsma also states that it is important to "set goals in positive terms by focusing on behaviors that should be present rather than those that should be absent."  Each long term goal should also have a series of short term goals that progress in difficulty. For instance, short term goals should progress from those that are easy to achieve to those that are more challenging. Having challenging short term goals will remove the repetitiveness of easy goals and will give one an edge when striving for their long term goals.
Imagery (or motor imagery) can be defined as using multiple senses to create or recreate experiences in one's mind. Additionally, the more vivid images are, the more likely they are to be interpreted by the brain as identical to the actual event, which increases the effectiveness of mental practice with imagery. Good imagery, therefore, attempts to create as lifelike an image as possible through the use of multiple senses (e.g., sight, smell, kinesthetic), proper timing, perspective, and accurate portrayal of the task. Both anecdotal evidence from athletes and research findings suggest imagery is an effective tool to enhance performance and psychological states relevant to performance (e.g., confidence). This is a concept commonly used by coaches and athletes the day before an event.
Preperformance routines refer to the actions and behaviors athletes use to prepare for a game or performance. This includes pregame routines, warm up routines, and actions an athlete will regularly do, mentally and physically, before they execute the performance. Frequently, these will incorporate other commonly used techniques, such as imagery or self-talk. Examples would be visualizations done by skiers, dribbling by basketball players at the foul line, and preshot routines golfers or baseball players use prior to a shot or pitch. These routines help to develop consistency and predictability for the player. This allows the muscles and mind to develop better motor control.
Self-talk refers to the thoughts and words athletes and performers say to themselves, usually in their minds. Self-talk phrases (or cues) are used to direct attention towards a particular thing in order to improve focus or are used alongside other techniques to facilitate their effectiveness. For example, a softball player may think "release point" when at bat to direct her attention to the point where the pitcher releases the ball, while a golfer may say "smooth stroke" before putting to stay relaxed. Research suggests either positive or negative self-talk may improve performance, suggesting the effectiveness of self-talk phrases depends on how the phrase is interpreted by the individual. The use of words in sport has been widely used. The ability to bombard the unconscious mind with one single positive phrase, is one of the most effective and easy to use psychological skills available to any athlete..
Exercise psychology can be defined as the study of psychological issues and theories related to exercise. Exercise psychology is a sub-discipline within the field of psychology and is typically grouped with sport psychology. For example, Division 47 of the APA is for exercise and sport psychology, not just one or the other, while organizations like AASP encompass both exercise and sport psychology.
The link between exercise and psychology has long been recognized. In 1899, William James discussed the importance of exercise, writing it was needed to "furnish the background of sanity, serenity...and make us good-humored and easy of approach." Other researchers noted the connection between exercise and depression, concluding a moderate amount of exercise was more helpful than no exercise in symptom improvement.
As a sub-discipline, the amount of research in exercise psychology increased in the 1950s and 1960s, leading to several presentations at the second gathering of the International Society of Sport Psychology in 1968. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, William Morgan wrote several pieces on the relationship between exercise and various topics, such as mood, anxiety, and adherence to exercise programs. Morgan also went on to found APA Division 47 in 1986.
As an interdisciplinary subject, exercise psychology draws on several different scientific fields, ranging from psychology to physiology to neuroscience. Major topics of study are the relationship between exercise and mental health (e.g., stress, affect, self-esteem), interventions that promote physical activity, exploring exercise patterns in different populations (e.g., the elderly, the obese), theories of behavior change, and problems associated with exercise (e.g., injury, eating disorders, exercise addiction).
Recent evidence also suggests that besides mental health and well-being, sport practice can improve general cognitive abilities. When requiring sufficient cognitive demands, physical activity seems to be an optimal way to improve cognition, possibly more efficiently than cognitive training or physical exercise alone.