The elements of Athletic Performance and the impact of Psychology.

The area of psychology has become increasingly popular in recent years, most notably with regard to the area of performance. In sport, typically four key hypothetical aspects of performance are denoted (see figure 1.1):

  • Physical
  • Technical
  • Tactical  
  • Psychological

1.1 Four Aspects of Performance

In reviewing the above four areas of performance, physical aspects are attributed to areas of fitness, conditioning, strength, endurance and nutrition, to name a few. This crucial area of performance is a vital process in executing and elevating holistic performance in specified fields in sport. Technical aspects represent the proficiency in which individuals can execute such fundamental skills that are required to enhance performance in chosen fields. This process involves the core foundations of practical skill acquisition, ability and agility. In tactical quadrants, strategic approaches, methods and skills are applied to practice to elicit actions to gain a specific goal, outcome or effectiveness to performance within specialist sporting groups. The fourth aspect of performance, one notably described as “familiar yet mysterious”, is psychology. This area of performance works with the psychological components of behaviour, cognition, emotion, experience and basic human functionality with regard to performance.

While all four are recognized disciplines within performance, the magnitude of their existence is somewhat varient. In comparing applications to practice, significant emphasis is rightly placed on physical components of enhancing performance. In reviewing the other above aspects of performance, for instance psychological practices, it is only in recent years that this application is now beginning to flourish as an academic discipline, profession and practice with regard to all areas of performance.

Need for Psychology in Performance?

“To break through your performance, you’ve got to break through your psychology”

  • Jensen Siaw

Psychology is the science of the mind and behaviour. This multifaceted discipline is immersed in the workings of human development, biological ascendancies, clinical, health, sport, social and environmental influences that impact the way in which we think, feel, act, or behave. Psychology in sport can be defined as the application of psychological theory and practice to understand the performance, mental processes, emotions and well-being of individuals involved in specialist sporting fields (Moran & Toner, 2017).

Psychological states can change from moment to moment and such unpredictabilities are a common feature in performance. To assess and aim to control such unpredictabilities, we must learn to generate a richer, deeper understanding of the psychology of our being. When we assess the elite individual, we identify the extremities of their preparations across all domains of self and performance, particularly with reference to functionality, development and measures of control. While the elite athlete is believed to have excellent technical and talent in their ability, it is often the “space between the ears”, that “head edge”, that makes the difference in succeeding or in failure. Psychology in sporting contexts has been theorized as “the science of success” as it simple studies “what successful people do” well, their approaches, and the application of techniques and methods utilized for practice.

A study conducted by Eckert (1989) identified that the combining of physical and psychological practices in a specialized sporting context (basketball), proved to significantly enhance the acquisition of successfully executing a skill (free throw), as opposed to working with singular practices of the physical and/or psychological components of performance. The combination of equally working with holistic measures of performance significantly enhanced the individual’s optimization to execute the desired outcome or result in performance.

Daniel Amerland identified that “without the mind the body is not capable of delivering an average performance”. With this being said, the reversal of this quote must too illustrated, as without the body the mind is solely incapable of delivering any form of performance.

To optimize potential and maximize performance, an equal approach to practice must be utilized.

Thank you for reading.

  • Michelle

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