It is doubtless that professional athletes deal with an absurd amount of pressure within their sport when it comes to presenting their best and achieving all the expected results. Even though, in order to do so, they must be extremely mentally prepared for the duties involved in their profession, and even more prepared when they aren't able to deliver what was expected. This is just the moment where psychology makes the difference.
Every time you watch a soccer player taking a deep breath before shooting the penalty, for example, it has to do with the psychological aspect of their respective sport. According to the American Psychological Association: “Sport psychology is a proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sports participation (...)”. This mastery has to do with aiding athletes in dealing with their emotions in a way that they can sustain their insecurities and simultaneously achieve performance levels at higher proportions. Athletes will build upon their emotional skills, and like any other one, they must practice and exercise it.
This all starts with the professional understanding of what role psychology actually plays in sport and then recognizing the importance of it, not only for their careers but also for their personal lives. Obviously, they won't make full benefit of this if these criteria aren't met, although it may take time for not only athletes, but any individual, to see that their mind goes way beyond their brains. Going back to the idea that training this sort of skill is indeed necessary, specialized psychologists will serve as a guide to the development of techniques based on strategies that aim to acquire the best results. This mentality is definitely like a sport's practice: it must be nurtured and taken care of to actually become useful as well as effective.
However, many that are still in the process of discovering themselves upon this theme face difficulty in envisioning what their mental health truly is. Being mentally healthy doesn't mean not possessing the four main negative feelings: sadness, anger, fear, together with anxiety. It is in fact to know what to do with these emotions when they come because they will come, and there is absolutely nothing humans can do to prevent them from happening. In addition, human beings have three main primitive senses, which two rely on either being paralyzed or running away from situations that are presented as frightening. Sports psychology has the ideal of making athletes clear in their minds that it is perfectly acceptable to miss a shot or commit a mistake during their competitions, although this was not intended to happen, must be at least previously considered as even the highest sports stars fail. Mental issues have been gaining so much recognition throughout the recent years that yet many significant institutions within the sport have been making numerous attempts to raise awareness for the cause, one of which is the case of Formula 1 team McLaren.
The group based in Woking, United Kingdom, has a partnership with the National Association for Mental Health Mind, a British mental health charity. This relationship has been proving to work effectively as, for example, Mclaren's main driver Lando Norris admitted last year that anxiety almost damaged his career in his second year in the motorsport category in 2020. During that time, his former team partner Carlos Sainz was performing better, and this, as well as his mistreatment of what he felt, messed up his thoughts. He highlighted how Mind really helped him with managing his emotions. Norris also advised, “please don't struggle alone”.
Being fragile emotionally doesn't represent a weaker athlete at all, in fact, it takes bravery for them, which are always being demanded at the higher levels to perform as brilliantly as possible, to admit that something may not be fine with their mind. Sports psychology is here to prepare athletes for these moments of struggle in which their confidence and emotions are vulnerable, and also boost their physical performances by making them better understand their minds.
“Home.” Mind, www.mind.org.uk/.
“Lando Norris Fala Sobre Luta Contra Ansiedade e Saúde Mental Na F1.” Ge, ge.globo.com/motor/formula-1/noticia/lando-norris-fala-sobre-luta-contra-ansiedade-e-saude-mental-na-f1.ghtml.
Larkam, Lewis. “Lando Norris Opens up about Mental Health Struggles in Debut F1 Season.” Crash, 31 Mar. 2022, www.crash.net/f1/news/948791/1/lando-norris-opens-about-mental-health-struggles-debut-f1-season.
“Sport Psychology.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/sports#:~:text=Sport psychology is a proficiency, with sports settings and organizations.
TEDxTalks. “Sport Psychology - inside the Mind of Champion Athletes: Martin Hagger at TEDxPerth.” YouTube, YouTube, 22 Jan. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG7v4y_xwzQ.