Modern sports psychology and how it's changed sport in the UK

Sport has been revolutionised by many different strands of science and that is certainly the case where psychology is concerned.

Tapping into the power of the mind has become increasingly prominent in sport, with clubs and organisations eager to try and maximise the performance of their athletes.

Modern sport is certainly a pressurised environment, with factors such as scrutiny from the media and fan demands sometimes taking a big toll on competitors.

Mistakes can also be a major issue for athletes, particularly when their performances can affect punters’ chances of winning on live betting markets or negatively impact the finances of clubs.

Read on as we take a look at the origins of sports psychology and assess how it has changed sport in the United Kingdom.

The rise of sports psychology

Psychology has long been known to be a factor in sport, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that the subject was researched in any depth.

However, that work laid the foundations for countries such as Russia and the United States to throw proper resources at studies around 30 years later.

The UK followed suit during the 1960s, with the newly-formed British Society of Sports Psychology driving big advances in the research.

Now part of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) organisation, the Psychology division is widely renowned as a leader in its field.

O’Sullivan highlights sports psychology’s importance

Snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan has been a shining example of the importance of sports psychology with regards to performance.

The five-time world champion is supremely talented, but his health and wellbeing have suffered as he struggles to cope with depression and the demands placed on him by the sport.

His decision to consult Dr Steve Peters, who had worked with the British cycling squad at the 2008 Olympics, helped him ease what he once described as ‘a treadmill of turmoil’.

Although his moods can still fluctuate massively, O’Sullivan’s career has undoubtedly been elongated as a result of him embracing the power of sports psychology.

Football embracing a new way of thinking

Andy Hill has spent the past five years working as a sports psychologist with the players, coaches and staff at Championship club Blackburn Rovers.

He says that improving a coach’s ability to shape behaviour is important, helping the players become more consistent performers and have better relationships with their coaches.

Hill also spends time working on team dynamics, improving communication and building up a ‘common goal’ ethic amongst the playing squad.

His efforts have clearly had a positive impact on the club, with Rovers currently challenging for a return to the Premier League after an eight-year absence.