13 new pieces of sports psychology research

Every sports psychology conference offers researchers the opportunity to share the research they’ve been working on. At the AASP (Association of Applied Sports Psychology) conference I went to lots of lectures and looked at all the posters on display. Most of the work is yet to be published so this is a chance to see what has been discovered recently. Some of it is blindingly obvious but other pieces do a little bit better at capturing the imagination….

  1. Male and female professional runners retire for different reasons. Once retired the men carry on competing, women run just for fun.
  1. Using mindfulness can help your athletic performance.
  1. How you view your ability impacts on the goals you set yourself. If you think your ability is fixed and uncontrollable you’ll set less challenging goals.
  1. Identifying as an athlete can make dealing with injuries harder and slow up your rehabilitation.
  1. Motivational self-talk can help you overcome ‘the yips’.
  1. During training for a marathon runners stay motivated, grow in confidence, but also develop anxiety.
  1. The best way to reduce your stress levels is to exercise.
  1. The higher your sporting level, the higher your levels of grit.
  1. Holding back effort (self-handicapping) is used by athletes to protect themselves from failing in their eyes, and in the eyes of others.
  1. 5% of competitive and recreational runners are addicted to exercise and those with the biggest risk of addiction are those who are more competitive, who run more days and more miles and prefer racing half marathon and marathon distances.
  1. If coaches ban alcohol use in their team the team will still use it. It they talk negatively about its impact the coach will be a lot more effective at stopping athletes drinking.
  1. Giving athletes more control over their own training gives them a more active role in learning and can increase their motivation to improve. A successful way to do this is for coaches to only to give athletes feedback when they ask for it and when they do, rather than hiding negative comments between positive ones, they offer ‘what was good, what could be better, how could it be better?’
  1. Coaches can get burnout just like athletes and this is most likely to happen when the coach is motivated by external factors (money, position, status), they think they have a high workload, when they do not get enough recovery and when they feel they have a high work-home interference.

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