Success in any sport is the result of both physical and mental factors. What can you do from a psychological perspective that can take you to that next level of performance? This book is devoted completely to teaching you the underlying strategies for mental preparation in sport. Each chapter briefly introduces you to the most recent psychological theory, and then gives you the opportunity to apply that theory to enhance your personal sport performance. Once you have mastered these techniques, you will be well on your way to taking your performance to the next level.
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Sport psychology is a relatively young field of study. In fact, in 1965, the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) became the first professional organization devoted to the promotion of the discipline. Since that time, literally thousands of research studies, critical reviews, and meta-analyses have been published by sport psychologists around the world. This has resulted in a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the science of human behavior in the world of sports.
Unfortunately, as is normally the case in academia, this research has been made available only to other sport psychologists, as well as libraries in academic settings. I use the term "unfortunately" because this very valuable information is not easily accessible to the average person. In addition, since these publications are intended primarily for an academic audience, they are often written in psychological jargon that is difficult to interpret by anyone who does not have a degree in psychology. What is really needed is a book that translates this valuable knowledge into an applied and readable form that can be readily understood and implemented by anyone wishing to improve his or her sport performance.
The Psychology of Achieving Sports Excellence was written to address this important need. It utilizes all of the most recent research, but presents it in a user-friendly format that takes the mystery out of sport psychology. The concepts are clearly explained in everyday language that will allow the reader to take his or her sport performance to the next level. Case studies and notable examples from the world of sports are utilized to highlight the importance of the concepts being presented. In addition, every chapter provides checklists and measurement instruments that will help you develop a better understanding of yourself in the sporting environment. Of equal value, personal applications and self-assessments will challenge you to apply this important information to your own specific sporting situation. The mental preparation strategies that you will learn in this book will significantly improve your sport performance.
This book has primarily been written for the serious athlete who wants to take his or her performance to the next level. The concepts and suggestions offered throughout this text are equally applicable to recreational participants and Olympic or professional athletes. Any person who wants to improve his or her level of performance will benefit from the psychological tools and interventions provided in each chapter. As an added benefit, the information provided in this book will help you be a better teammate or fellow participant. It will give you a much greater understanding of how to provide the best possible support to your friends.
Other individuals will also find this book useful. Parents, for example, often find themselves in a "coaching" role. They are viewed as important role models for their children 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Children continually look to their parents for valuable advice. For this reason, a book of this nature is of significant value. Parents will greatly benefit from a better understanding of the psychological effects of sports participation. This book also provides them with hands-on applied knowledge that will ensure their children have a successful and enjoyable sporting experience.
Students who are taking formal courses in sport psychology will also find this book beneficial. Most standard textbooks are written in very theoretical language, with hundreds of individual research studies cited. Students often find it difficult to determine the most relevant pieces of information. To make matters worse, most classroom textbooks do not tell students how to apply the information provided. This book, on the other hand, was designed to provide only those concepts that have been clearly established over a large number of research studies. Of even greater significance, The Psychology of Achieving Sports Excellence tells you how to apply the information to your own particular sporting needs.
Coaches will also find this book to be a valuable supplemental coaching tool. In 2003, The Psychology of Coaching Team Sports was published to help coaches better understand the psychological aspects of performance. This book covers the same and even more topics, but explains the principles from an athlete's perspective. It therefore provides a valuable supplement to reinforce the coach's initial feedback. Finally, coaches can only benefit from developing a better understanding of sport psychology through an athlete's eyes.
In conclusion, The Psychology of Achieving Sports Excellence should be viewed as a worthwhile tool to help you on your road to improved performance. It is intended to provide you with a better understanding of how mental preparation strategies can improve your level of performance. Following the recommendations and strategies provided in the book will significantly improve your performance, but the book discusses only one tool for success. Remember, there is no substitute for good coaching, proper technique, and optimal conditioning. Sport psychology is often the deciding factor in sport, but only after these other conditions have been met. Also, the concepts outlined in this book must be practiced, just like your physical skills, before they become effective. So remember to build these mental preparation strategies into your yearly training program. This is most effective if your plan is developed in consultation with your coach.
How to Use This Book
The Psychology of Achieving Sports Excellence provides a relatively large amount of information. It is therefore important to remember that you don't necessarily need to start at the beginning and read each chapter in order. This applies regardless of whether you are an athlete, parent, coach, or student. Here are some brief suggestions for how each of the individuals just mentioned can best use this book.
Athletes who have reviewed the book report they have found it very effective when used like a recipe book. For example, if you are having trouble with nervousness, start by reading Chapter 4 and doing the self-assessment exercises and personal application sections. Then start practicing the interventions recommended, and you will soon experience lower competitive state anxiety. If you are having problems with your self-confidence, and all athletes do from time to time, then start by reading Chapter 2. It will help you better understand the concept and will give you some great suggestions for developing a higher self-confidence in your sporting abilities. Parents can use the book in exactly the same way. For example, once you have identified the nature of your child's concerns, just go to the corresponding chapter and work with your child to learn and practice the suggested interventions.
Coaches who are using The Psychology of Coaching Team Sports can first teach the mental training techniques in their usual order, then encourage the athlete to do his or her "homework" by reading the corresponding chapter in The Psychology of Achieving Sports Excellence. Once the athlete has completed the readings, self-assessments, and personal applications, a debriefing session between coach and athlete is highly recommended. That way, the coach can answer any questions the athlete has and ensure that the athlete has a thorough grasp of the concepts. The coach can also provide feedback and offer suggestions regarding the athlete's personal application and self-assessment exercises. Finally, the coach will find the book a valuable supplement to reinforce what he or she has taught in practice.
Students who have reviewed the book, or sections of the book, report that it really ties together the material presented in traditional college or university textbooks. They also find it very beneficial to learn how to apply the sport psychology concepts. All students reported that they would use The Psychology of Achieving Sports Excellence to summarize the material provided in traditional sport psychology textbooks. Finally, all students expressed that is was fun to read the case studies and do the self-assessment exercises and personal applications.About the Author:
Dr. Larry M. Leith is a professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto. Larry has presented and published over one hundred articles relating to sport psychology. In his earlier career as an Athletic Director, Larry coached several teams sports at the varsity level, and has also served as a sport psychology consultant to one of Canada s Olympic teams.
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