Improving Sporting Abilities

Only five sports have been contested at every summer Olympic Games since 1896: Athletics, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics and Swimming. In 2012 there were 26 sports contested, and in 2016 there was 28, and 33 are scheduled for 2020.

Here is an alphabetical list of some of them, which I assume most of you have never heard of or seen.  It would interesting to do a quiz with you to discover how many of these sport types you have at least heard of or have been a spectator at, never mind participate:



In the paralympics there are ten different sport classes for athletes with physical impairment, numbered 1-10. A lower number indicates a more severe activity limitation than a higher number.

Over 800 sports are played around the world. According to the World Sports Encyclopaedia (2003), there are 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games.

What is the point of all of this?

I want to raise your awareness of the massive scope of participation in sport across the world. Playing sport or games is a fundamental characteristic of being human.  Someone phrased it in Latin:  Homo Ludens (playing man). Can you imagine all the different playing fields or facilities, designs, construction, improvement and provision of clothing and equipment involved?  From pre-school, through primary school to high school, university and then professional athletes, sport is a massive industry. Successful athletes are some of the richest people on the planet.  Do you see the career possibilities?  Or, you might know of a family member, a friend or an acquaintance you may want to counsel to pursue their sporting interest.

Only in the last few decades sport psychology entered the world of sport. Sport psychology is a proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sports participation, and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations.

The Benefits of Sports Psychology for Athletes

  • Improve focus and deal with distractions. …
  • Grow confidence in athletes who have doubts. …
  • Develop coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors. …
  • Find the right zone of intensity for his/her sport. …
  • Help teams develop communication skills and cohesion.

What skills do sports psychologists need?

  • An interest in sport.
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Active listening and reflection skills.
  • Patience and the ability to motivate others.
  • Flexibility in order to work in a range of settings with different clients.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Decision-making ability.

Sports psychology plays a very important role in controlling the emotions of sportspersons during practice as well as competition. Sports psychology plays a vital role at such juncture. It helps in balancing the arousal of emotions which further improves the performance of athletes in any sport code.

There are a few South African universities that offer an Honours degree in sport psychology, among others NMMU and UNISA, Some private institutions offer short courses of 5 weeks.

Now to your assignment: The chapter was written by Aidan Moran (an Irish name). Read as much as you can and then write:

1. An introduction of your own, a family member, a friend’s experience of competitive sport or the reasons for the absence thereof.

2. Write a few paragraphs on your understanding of “mental side of sport.”

3 Why do athletes lose concentration?

4. How do sport psychologists or coaches train concentration skills in athletes?  There are five topics in this area. Summarise all five or describe three in more detail

5. Conclude your assignment with your insights gained about the world of sport and the present or future role of psychology.

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