Sports psychology deals with the relationship between the physical performance and psychological factors affecting an athlete’s output on and off the field. It also draws concepts and principles from related areas of kinesiology, physiology, psychology and biomechanics. Sports psychologists help athletes in various aspects they might need support or assistance in including motivation, coping with performance anxieties, teamwork and recovering from injury.
Aside from being directly involved with athletes, sports psychologists may also interact with their coaches and family members. This means that sports psychologists take a holistic approach when dealing with their patients or clients. An athlete’s career shifts, rehabilitation due to injury or trauma and communication are all matters that a sports psychologist may deal with. Each famous sports psychologist mentioned below has in some way or the other made a name for themselves in the industry. There are many other psychologists, but those listed below are worthy of mention.
Related Reading: Accredited Sports Psychology Degree Programs
Coleman Griffith is regarded as ‘The father of sports psychology’ in the United States of America for his contributions to the field as early as 1925. He began as a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois where he conducted research that lead to works “Psychology and its relation to athletic competition” in 1925, The Psychology of Coaching in 1926 and The Psychology of Athletics in 1928. Griffith was also hired as a sports psychologist in 1938 for the Chicago Cubs which was a huge achievement. Despite his abundant and pioneering research on sports psychology Coleman Griffith’s contributions were not regarded with much significance until the 1960s. This is when the positive benefits of a sports psychologist on an athlete and/or a team were witnessed and experienced on a larger scale.
Dr. Alan Goldberg
Despite not being a licensed psychologist, Alan Goldberg has authored as many as 35 books and training programs on mental strength and toughness. He has also been the sports psychology consultant for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) men’s soccer champions in 2000 and University of Chicago Huskies amongst others. He is a frequent speaker at colleges, high schools and coaches’ clinics and his area of expertise involves aiding athletes surpass hurdles and recover from setbacks. He received his PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Alan Goldberg is the Director of his private firm concerned with performance consulting.
Dr. John F. Murray
Author, speaker, clinical psychologist and sports psychologist, Murray has been labeled “the most quoted psychologist in America”. He has worked for the NFL (National Football League) network as well as with NFL athletes which is a great accomplishment. His expertise extends to athletes of all type of sports. The Washington Post described him as “The Freud of Football” while Tennis Week titled Dr. John F. Murray “The Rodger Federer of Sports Psychologists”.
Robert M. Nideffer
Dr. Robert M. Nideffer attained his doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University in clinical and experimental psychology. He has authored seventeen books including his first work – The Inner Athlete which was published in 1976 and has written numerous articles as a result of his tremendous research. The Enhanced Performance Systems was the product of Dr. Nideffer’s hard work. The system focused on controlling emotions, minimizing distractions and harnessing focus to improve the performance of individual athletes as well as teams. His other popular works include Psyched to Win and The Ethics and Practice of Applied Sport Psychology.
Dr. Orlick founded the Zone of Excellence and has been associated with sports psychology for more than thirty years. The Zone of Excellence is a concept of ideas that helps individuals focus on the task at hand by gearing all their focus and energy. He has worked with numerous professionals including Olympic athletes, coaches, dancers and classical musicians. Dr. Terry Orlick has authored multiple books and articles and has also recorded eight audio CDs. The titles of his more popular works are In Pursuit of Excellence, Embracing Your Potential and Psyching for Sport: Mental Training for Athletes.
Gallwey has authored several books related to the field of sports psychology beginning in the 1970s. His work is regarded for the notion of the “inner game” expressed in the titles of his books – ‘The Inner Game of Tennis, The Inner Game of Golf, Inner Skiing, The Inner Game of Work and The Inner Game of Music which he wrote with Barry Green. Timothy Galley’s principles on athletes and sports have also been incorporated in areas of health, education and business. His theory deals with training geared towards brilliance. Gallwey blends concepts from eastern and western ideologies in his works. He believes that combining the training concepts of both worlds will result in a greater system of sporting excellence.