The Psychology of Performance in Sports

Imagine a quarterback who spent most of his non-playing hours doing only his physical exercises and routines, believing that his strength and agility would be more than enough to win the match. Come playtime, he found himself in a situation where he needed to decide within seconds and his decision would make or break the team. He could either run for it or pass it to another. Because of his physical training and knowing that he is in excellent shape, he could have opted for the former. And in the event that his opponent is better-conditioned than himself, then his decision could have led his team to lose.

This is not to say that the athlete did not exercise his cognitive function. But since he focused on honing his physical attributes, his capacity to make better decisions based on the uniqueness of the actual situation is limited. Physical conditioning is not enough to deal with varied situations that call for excellent situation appraisal and decision-making. A good athlete should be able to quickly assess the situation, appraise his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, make sound judgment and carry out necessary actions while under a lot of competitive stress. He should be confident enough, should be able to apply appropriate techniques that a particular situation calls for, and should be able to cope under a lot of pressure which is an intrinsic part of sports. These are the marks of a good athlete and much relies on the quality of training provided.

This is where the application of cognitive psychology comes in. Most of the professional coaches and those involved in sports psychology nowadays use theories from&nbsp.cognitive science to elicit powerful performances from the athletes by providing rigorous mental and physical training, staging simulated plays in preparation for the real thing. The effectiveness of this application, however, is not without a scientific basis.