By Kathryn Mellon – iNSPIRE Psychologist
Depression, anxiety and people with voices in their heads – that’s what most people associate with when they think of psychology or needing to go and speak with a psychologist. Despite society working towards removing the stigma around mental health, there is still a lot of assumed knowledge around ‘what psychology is’ and who really needs to know about it.
Psychology is explaining, predicting and influencing human behaviour.
Psychology is studying brain injuries to understand how biological processes influence the mind.
Psychology is the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.
Psychology is using research to enhance work performance in businesses.
Psychology is the study of psychological factors on performance.
What am I getting at here…
There are so many misconceptions that you only go and speak with a psychologist unless you’re depressed and can’t get out of bed. When really that is just a small sample of what psychology involves. In my current role as Head of Athlete Support for iNSPIRE Sport, I get numerous athletes, coaches and Sporting organisations telling me their athletes don’t need to see a psychologist because nothing is wrong. When in reality, their stomach is in knots before every competition, team morale is at an all time low after several losses or athletes are insisting they’re not ready to resume full training despite being cleared from injury.
Sport is a close game most of the time and it’s that extra 1% that gets you across the line on most occasions. Motivation, attitude, focus and confidence are all major components that can influence sporting performance. Learning skills based around these factors can have a significant impact on improving performance.
On the other side of sport, it is essential to remember you are not just an athlete. That is a part of your identity however you are also a son, daughter, friend, student, sibling, and those areas bring with them a diverse array of issues, challenges and commitments. Sometimes there are external factors that influence the way an athlete performs. It’s hard to expect someone who is fighting with their parents or struggling with study and staying up all night to be able to perform at their peak consistently on the sporting field. If you are struggling mentally with what is going on in your life or not feeling your best, this is going to affect other areas of your life including sport.
The key to psychology:
When we work with athletes as a coach, manager, parent or psychologist it’s important to be looking at them as a whole person. Their life outside of sport will have significant influences on how they train, perform and behave, just as skills they learn in training will serve them well in other areas of life. Motivation, attitude, focus and confidence are skills that are required way beyond the day you hang up the gloves/boots/cap for good. Developing these skills now helps them to not only become the best athlete they can be but also the best human being they can be moving forward.
A message from the author:
“The main message I want to get here, is that far too many people see psychologists as people you visit when you have anxiety, depression or other mental disorders. What I want people to understand is we can use psychology as a proactive tool in sport rather than a reactive solution.”