Understanding the Definition of Sports
The term “sports psychology” encompasses a wide variety of areas that are related to the study of sports. These areas include team sports, individual sports, coaching and mentoring, health and safety, and physiological sciences. Sports psychology is an academic specialty that uses advanced mental abilities and cognitive skills to investigate the psychological aspects of sporting performance and well being, development and psychological aspects of organizations and sports teams. Psychology of sport can broadly be divided into two major subspecialties: Sport and Exercise Psychology and Promotional Sports Psychology. Within these two main subsets there are also subspecialties like Sports Medicine, Counseling and Mental Health, Education and Training, Medical, and Law and Security Psychology.
A short yet accurate description of the field is the definition given by Webster’s Dictionary as the ability to understand and interpret the human behavioral patterns that underlie sport competition. For instance, the definition includes the ability to observe how competitors react to various stimuli and use that information to forecast possible outcomes of sporting events and activities. It is believed that humans react to different kinds of competition because we all have a desire to win and a competitive spirit. This desire to compete, to show off our abilities and to succeed leads to increased levels of stress and anxiety in the person and his or her surroundings. Sports competition elevates these pressures to an extreme, which in turn causes physical and psychological changes in people. Stress, anxiety and fatigue can have negative implications on performance, motivation, physical and mental health, and the identification of appropriate compensation.
Current definitions recognize seven different perspectives as relevant to the field. They are sports training, athlete development, psychology of sport and exercise, physiology and motivation, public perception and competition. The International Olympic committee adopted a point system to determine medals based on points, which was later adopted by the II Olympic games. The purpose of this system was to eliminate undue financial and personal motivation that could influence the level of performance of an individual athlete or team. This definition, along with the ideas provided by Brown, is meant to help sports enthusiasts and professionals consider whether their sport requires the application of psychological principles in order to enhance performance.
In the definition of sports, Brown recognizes the many different kinds of physical exertion that go into successful performance. He further explained that a winning athlete does not rely on his or her body alone but instead on his or her mind, spirit, and “spirit.” This definition encompasses all of the positive attributes that are required for sportspeople to succeed, including a good diet, sufficient sleep, a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, and regular social interaction. Brown also pointed out that winning requires mental preparation and application, as well as good physical conditioning.
Brown went on to note that winning requires a good sense of competitiveness and a willingness to put forth the effort required in any given competition. Although the definition of sports competition has changed over time, it has remained important in maintaining standards in sport and encouraging competitors. In recent years, some athletes have challenged the definition of what constitutes a winner, arguing that winning is merely the culmination of a particular competition. Michael Brown, however, pointed out that “winner” is not merely a label; rather it is “the accumulation of qualities that distinguish winners.” Therefore, while there may be various definitions of the word, there are certain qualities that define winners in sports: persistence, patience, and focus, to name a few.
Sports are a unique physical activity and endeavor. The complexity of the game and the natural elements that make up it make it challenging for players to master the techniques of their sport. However, with practice, determination, and hard work, any player can become a great competitor. Brown concluded his definition of sports with a quote that has stuck with sports enthusiasts: “You can count on one thing: you can only learn it by doing it.” Certainly, each person’s definition of what constitutes a sport will vary but learning about the physical demands of sports can help individuals prepare for the physical activities they plan to participate in.