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Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications, by Richard Cox

Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications shows how concepts supported by current scientific research can be used to address issues and situations encountered everyday by physical activity specialists, coaches, athletic trainers, and athletes.

This introduction to sport and exercise psychology addresses practical issues, such as dealing with anxiety, arousal, and stress; developing coping, relaxation, motivation, and energizing strategies; understanding the effects of an audience on human performance; building team cohesion; and preventing burnout and other negative effects.

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, by Michael Otto Ph.D., Jasper A.J. Smits Ph.D

Exercise has long been touted anecdotally as an effective tool for mood improvement, but only recently has rigorous science caught up with these claims. There is now overwhelming evidence that regular exercise can help relieve low mood-from feelings of stress and anxiety to full depressive episodes.

The Psychology of Baseball, by Mike Stadler

Interesting insights into baseball.

The Dark Side of the Diamond: Gambling, Violence, Drugs and Alcoholism in the National Pastime, by Roger I. Abrams

Roger Abrams latest book discusses the vices of baseball and how they reflect American society. The Dark Side of the Diamond relates little-known parts of baseball history, presenting evidence of game-fixing and gambling dating to the mid-19th century. Cobb, Ruth, Mantle, Rose, and Bonds are both idols and flawed human beings. While baseball can teach young people resourcefulness, fortitude, teamwork and pride, it is just as likely to instruct them in violence, disparagement, cheating, and human frailty.

Sport Psychology, by Arnold LeUnes

"The LeUnes book provides a great balance between the psychological and the physical aspects of sport. This book does a great job of providing information and is easy for students to grasp. It is well suited for the mixed audiences from all disciplines that study sport performance. It's the book that others quote and the best source of current information on sport psychology." - Pamela Wuestenberg, Psychology Department, Texas State University

Kill, Bubba, kill!, by Charles Aaron "Bubba" Smith

Autobiography of NFL player Bubba Smith. Kill Bubba Kill was the chant of his college stadium fans.

The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic, by Linda Carroll, David Rosner

The well-known NFL crisis of head injuries is discussed in this book. Head injuries in the NFL contribute to a high rate of depression in retired players, suicide, as well as early onset dementia. Deaths occur at the rate of two to four a year in high school football from head/brain injuries.

The book, The Concussion Crisis states,

On playing fields across America, lives are being derailed by seemingly innocuous jolts to the head. From the peewees to the pros, concussions are reaching epidemic proportions. This book brings that hidden epidemic and its consequences out of the shadows.

As frightening as the numbers are—estimates of sports-related concussions range from 1.6 million to 3.8 million annually in the United States—they can’t begin to explain the profound impact of a hidden health problem that can strike any of us. Because the damage caused by a concussion is rarely visible to the naked eye or even on a brain scan, no one knows how many millions might be living lives devastated by an invisible injury too often shrugged off as “just a bump on the head.”

Anger Management in Sport, by Mitch Abrams

This issue affects all people involved in the sporting environment and this important topic is developed, providing strategies and interventions for overcoming excessive anger and aggression in athletes. The provocative book challenges long-held assumptions and points the way to further research and discussion.

With its accessible format and proactive approach, Anger Management in Sport is an ideal resource for practitioners at all levels of sport who work with athletes and anger, both on and off the field. The author draws on his unique background and clinical experiences creating and implementing anger management skills for a variety of populations—from high school athletes to prison inmates. His unique insight will stimulate discussion on a range of issues associated with anger in sport, including mental illness, drugs, and differences and similarities in amateur and professional athletes. Readers will understand not only how to approach an anger problem but also how to help an athlete work to manage emotions.

Sport and Violence: A Critical Examination of Sport, by Lynn Jamieson, Thomas Orr

Examines the culture of violence that permeates and surrounds sport, including the sociological causes of that violence, and what can be done to mitigate them * Features an international perspective with examples of sport violence from throughout the world * Offers a historical view on the evolution of violence in sport.

Sport and Violence takes a critical look at the culture of 'sports rage' and aggression in the sporting industry, covering ethical, historical and sociological causes and impacts. It examines international examples of sport violence, including: the father of a tennis competitor placing a drug in the drinks of her competitors; a player's neck broken after being attacked from behind by an opponent in an NHL game; hooliganism in international soccer and more.

The book not only attempts to explain how and why such violence originates, it examines its impact on society outside sport and suggests potential remedies for the problem. Its up-to-date and in-depth coverage of a controversial issue therefore makes it a valuable asset to both sports students and professionals working in sports management. By Lynn Jamieson, Professor and Former Chair, Indiana University, Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, USA and Thomas Orr, Doctoral Student, Head Coach, Indiana University Hockey Program, USA

Fighting Fans: Football Hooliganism as a World Phenomenon, by Eric Dunning, Patrick Murphy

Soccer hooliganism has long been regarded as primarily an English - or perhaps British - disease, yet in fact it has long existed as a social problem worldwide. In this volume, experts consider hooliganism in 14 countries - eight soccer-playing countries in Europe (including Ireland), two in South America, Australia, South Africa, Japan, and, in the case of North America, a chapter on general sports-related violence.

Why have problems of hooliganism from the outset become more regularly attached to soccer than to other global sports? The social roots and forms of soccer hooliganism are explored in the various countries. Do racial, religious or social class cleavages play a part in developing and fostering football violence? What part do the media play? Is hooliganism related to the degree to which soccer is central to the value-system of a country, and the length of time that it has occupied such a position?

The role of aggressive masculinity and the hypothesis that attending matches is part of a "quest for excitement" is part of the basis for this book.

Page updated: October 29, 2013

Sports and Psychology

Beneficial Effects of Sports and Exercise on Mental Health

Exercise can be, for many, an essential part of good mental health. Good physical health and mental health are closely linked. Exercise in clinical studies, is more effective than medication in treating mild to moderate depression. It is surprisingly more effective than medicine with exercise combined in both immediate benefits and in recurrence rate.

All green links on this page are off-site links from sponsors and funds are used to support the non-profit activities of the AYCNP

Brisk walking, biking, and swimming are some exercises that many have adopted into their lifestyle, which has helped to overcome both depression, and symptoms of bipolar disorder. One man who swims daily said that it is what keeps his mind out of depression, so that medication no longer was necessary. For another, brisk walking daily, was part of a package of lifestyle changes which effectively brought remission in symptoms of bipolar disorder. Another middle aged man, in addition to time outdoors, plays recreational basketball once a week. This keeps him physically fit and contributes to a positive attitude, in that basketball is both a physical and a social sport. Social isolation can be a factor in many forms of mental health disorders.

The positive, forward looking, "can accomplish anything," attitude that comes with many forms of exercise and sports is healthy both physically in terms of one's body, self-image, and body weight, which can also be beneficial in controlling depression. Excessive body weight can contribute to a poor self-image, and slow a person down physically, and be one factor in depression.

For anyone experiencing any form of mental health disorder, exercise, balanced interest in recreational sports, can be an aid in overcoming mental health disorders and difficulties.

Sports Psychology

Sport psychology is an branch of psychology, the goal of which is to help players to get on top of their game and overcome mental blocks or impediments to good performance by concentrating on the mental aspects, including mental exercises, use of the imagination, guided imagery and other techniques. There have been thousands of books written on baseball alone, hundreds which are on the subject of sports psychology, or which contain elements of sports psychology incorporated in the text. Sports psychology is a full course in many colleges. Baseball especially is, above all, a mind game, or more correctly, a mind-body game.

Categorizing sports and sports violence

Pro football (US) is generally categorized as a violent sport, along with boxing and pro-hockey. That is, the violence is inherent or deeply ingrained part of  the sport rather than incidental.
Sports Psychology - NFL: Bears Vs. Panthers. September, 2008. Chicago Bears quarterback Kyle Orton handing the ball of to running back Matt Forte. Sport Psychology Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Pro football (US) is generally categorized as a violent sport, along with boxing and pro-hockey. That is, the violence is inherent or deeply ingrained part of the sport rather
than incidental.

There are four or five ways of looking at sports. First in terms of an active a participant in a recreational activity. Second as a serious recreationist interested in physical fitness or in a certain amount of competition, the recreationist who takes it somewhat seriously. 3rd is the amateur athlete and professional athletes themselves and 4th is the spectator of professional or semi-professional sports. There are sub-categories of these groups , but it gives us the basic idea.

Also we can subcategorize sports by age groups. There are traditional sports with deep roots in the culture such as futeball (European, S. Am. soccer) and cricket (Britain, India, other countries), and in the U.S., baseball and football are part of the culture since before the Civil War and actually became known as the national pastime during and as a result of the Civil War, which helps give meaning to Willy Mays famous comment,

"Baseball is a game, yes. It is also a business. But what is most truly is is disguised combat. For all its gentility, its almost leisurely pace, baseball is violence under wraps."

There are sports whose direct purpose is violence, such as boxing, and sports that are inherently violent, such as pro football, by the nature of the sport. There are sports that have acquired violence, such as NHL hockey. Olympic hockey is much less violent and a more sportsmanlike version of the same sport.
See: Violence in Sports Abdal-Haqq, Ismat. ERIC Digest 1-89.

See: Baseball psychology and the understanding the roots of baseball:
Civil War Baseball: Baseball and the Blue and the Gray by Michael Aubrecht

Basketball and ice hockey have also become traditional in American culture. Hockey, Olympic style is somewhat graceful, NHL hockey is a considered to be a violent sport, it is the same game played a great deal differently.

There are myriads of other sports all year long for recreation and for passive viewing on sports and network channels.

Extreme Sports
Another category is extreme sports such as high speed racing, extreme skiing, bunji jumping, parachuting, as well as violent sports such as boxing, many of the martial arts, roller derby, and pro-wrestling, which, though staged, is both violent and sadistic in its nature. Pro-wrestling is available on cable and network TV three times a week in the US and other countries. The audience is generally male 7-16 years old, although adults, seniors, and some girls watch as well.

Psychological Benefits of Playing Sports

Are there any psychological benefits to sports. Yes. Sports of most types can be a balanced part of physical fitness and contribute to the healthy physical development of most children, youths or adults, both physical and mental. The sedentary lifestyle that many have adopted of passively viewing others participate in every type of activity encourages mental and physical laziness. Sports helps people to be participants, to have a healthy hobby or recreation, and to have self-esteem. Also, sports can help persons to learn to cooperate as part of a team, and feel a connection and identity with others. It can refresh a person mentally, especially if his or her job is monotonous or without physical activity.

Children, Sports, Recreation, Media Violence

Children too need to learn about nutrition and to exercise. Recreational sports can be a part of that balance. When sports become more organized and competitive, as in school team sports and leagues, such as Little League baseball, for many children it can contribute to pressure and anxiety. This can lead, in some children to depression and increased anxiety levels that detract from mental health rather than contribute to it.

Every child is different, and while some might thrive in a highly competitive atmosphere, others might find it difficult to deal with. Parents who are intent on the success of their children in league sports can put undo pressure on children and this can be unhealthy. Many have said that they ceased to enjoy playing sports after joining the Little League. What used to be fun turned into a "life and death" matter.

With that in mind a discussion of the psychology of sports can contribute to a fuller understanding in the development of a child's personality and possibly may have a indirect or even a direct link with some diagnosable psychiatric disorders.

Extreme violence of any type, when viewed regularly, can lead to and contribute to psychopathic behavior in children, teen and adults. Extreme violence can desensitize a person to violence and lead to violent acts. (Nigg, J, 2006). Rather than being a healthy outlet for violence personality traits, it becomes a vicious circle of violence that leads to aggressive personality traits or a tendency towards what might be described as anti-social behavior. When that type of behavior becomes a permanent and regular part of a youth's conduct or personality, it can be one of the factors in a diagnosable disorder such as ODD.

Shaping and Molding of a Child's Personality

Molding and shaping are psychological terms on how environmental factors or deliberate structuring and intervention can shape the personality.

"Watching Major League Baseball with our kids has become a distressing experience this year. That because ESPN is airing long commercials for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City -- a video game where players get points for assaulting and murdering women." Comment from father concerned with violent commercials on ESPN.

It is likely that excessive passion in viewing violent and action sports on television can contribute to symptoms of inattention to ADHD, in some small percentage of children, youths and adults.

Jonathan* is 11 years old, the most likely age at which boys are diagnosed with ADHD. His passion was sports and he watched ESPN 24-7. Medicine as a treatment did not help, and within 1 1-2 years experimenting with meds, his parents stopped his treatment. It is possible that the excessive time watching action and violent sports on television may have been a contributing factor to his overexcited state in school and at home, as well as his inability to concentrate and sit still.

"Tell ESPN that you want those horrific ads off the air, so you and your daughter can enjoy the game without being subjected to the promotion of violence against our daughters - and the equally abhorrent idea that our sons are expected to get their thrills by being violent." Comment from sports fan on advertising on the ESPN cable television station.

The personality of a child watching sadistically violent pro-wrestling on cable and satellite TV 2-3 times a week is being shaped in a way that, when that child is older, might more easily lend itself to personality traits associated with mental health disorders. Violence and sadism in many R-rated movies that a large percentage of children regularly view, also can be a contributing factor towards the same. In some places, (Newark, NJ) 50% or more of children by the second grade watch movies of extreme violence. Even a substantial percentage of 1st graders and kindergarteners are being exposed to extreme violence in the form of movies aired on television. This certainly can have an impact on the mental health profile of the next generation of children.
*not real name.

Educating parents and children
If a psychologist or counselor is aware of such factors, then parents can be educated in protecting children and teens from influences that can be harmful for their psychological health.

Sports Imperative: Protecting Young Brains (off-site link)
Dealing with sports head injuries with children and teens.

Sports Psychology, Baseball Psychology, Fanaticism and Superstition in Sports

What Is Superstition? (Off-site link)
"I think the reason I like baseball is that it's really the only superstitious sport. I once watched a game in a bar with a bunch of friends, only to have them decide that I wasn't allowed to go to the bathroom anymore. Because every time I did, they claimed, something bad happened to the Red Sox. That's a lot of responsibility for one person."
Urban Legends and Folklore Guide David Emery. (July 13, 2007). www.about.com Off-site link

Q. What is superstition? From Peter Kohler (Off-site link)
A. Originally the word superstition meant something like "standing still in apprehension or awe," but since has been rather watered down in its application and use. According to the writer Raymond Lamont Brown: "Superstition is a belief, or system of beliefs, by which almost religious veneration is attached to things mostly secular; a parody of religious faith in which there is belief in an occult or magic connection."

For teens and adults, passion for sports teams, fans, fanaticism, can be extreme and this has led to violence in the stands, such as with that in soccer hooliganism in South America and other continents. The thought patterns and lack of self-control associated with this fanaticism can be a factor in mental health.

May 15th - Phillies vs. Reds: "Reds pitcher Raul Sanchez hits three Phillie batters in a row, the third being Gene Conley. In a fit of rage rookie Phillie manager Gene Mauch rushes Sanchez on the mound starting a fight between the two teams. Martin gets popped in the face by Conley." Comments on sports (baseball) violence, by sports historian.

Major League Baseball and Superstition
Baseball might be described as the most superstitious of all sports. This may be because of the huge gaps of time in the action in the sport, the action taking place in long-spaced spurts, rather than more continuously as in football, and continuous in basketball and hockey. Because there are 9 players and each player, plays a small role in contribution to the whole, it takes victory out of the hands of one individual member and into the hands of a higher a flowing spirit of the whole team. In that respect, baseball as a sport, has been taken to a higher level, so that it has become for some, something of a religion, something to be followed, cared for, revered, and even prayed about. Superstition takes the control of one's life out of one's own hands and into a level that cages, walls the mind, rather than freeing it. It is never a healthy personality trait and can lead to neuroticism and when taken to the next level, psychotic traits.

Baseball Psychology Photo: Wrigly Field, Boston, 2005.

Major League Baseball and Mental Health Issues, Suicides

Some Major League Baseball players do battle with mental health issues. In the article, Athletes and Mental Illness, Major League Baseball Steps Up to the Plate, NAMI Advocate reiterates what has already been said about baseball, by Mike Stadler in The Psychology of Baseball, that it is, in fact, a mental game. The sport puts "considerable pressure" upon the players, to live up to expectations and for high performance. When a pitcher or hitter is in a slump, it can contribute to anxiety and depression.

Additionally, traveling on the road for 81 away games a year away from family, there is "too much time to reflect on or obsess about shortcomings." Isolation can occur when on the road and this can accentuate anxiousness or depression. Baseball, especially, is a sport where mental balance is essential to maintain for players, and where some players do struggle with mental health difficulties.

The site, Baseball Almanac documents an incomplete list of baseball players who have committed suicide, listing 78 former Major League Baseball Players by name who have taken their own lives since 1889. The 1960s had the highest number of suicides of any decade, with eight players taking their lives.

The decade from 2000 to 2010 recorded six players who committed suicide. The suicide rate for Major League Baseball Players from the during that time period was approximately 2.6 times that of that general male population in the United States. (The general rate of suicide for males in the United States during that last decade is approximately 17.7 per 100,000. The rate for MLB is approximately 46.3 per 100,000 - There are 30 MLB teams with 40 players each).

MLB Suicide rate

  • 46.3 per 100,000
  • Suicide Rate Male Population in United States

  • 17.7 per 100,000
  • Baseball Almanac also mentions several additional details, Harry Pulliam, the National League President from 1903 to 1909, shot himself to death in 1909 and Ron Luciano, an 11-Year American League umpire / author, committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Some fans have also killed themselves in relation to their attachment to Major League Baseball.

    The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball (Second Edition) by Jonathan Fraser Light has an entire section about baseball suicides.

    Of all major professional sports Baseball is a "mind game". It is a game of high pressure with high stakes, and the pressure can be difficult to deal with for some. Some players, such as Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals, successful overcame depression. Greinke took a break from baseball, walked away from it for one year, and was able to successfully return a year later. It is possible for pro-baseball players to overcome mental health difficulties if they put their careers in perspective and realize that baseball isn't the "only thing". Health, family and life are more important than "the game".

    Sport Psychology Issues: College and Pro Football
    ----------------------Depression, Spectators, Women as Sex Objects

  • Depression from Head Injuries - Suicides
  • Pro-Football Affect on Spectators - Increase of Crime
  • Women as Sex Objects
  • 1. Depression, head injuries, and suicides of players and former players.
    Football violence and injuries have led to depression in some players, and to some suicides of former NFL players. Depression of players resulting from losses, have also led to some suicides in pro-baseball.

    Expert Ties Ex-Players Suicide to Brain Damage Off-site link
    Head injuries from football are almost identical to that incurred by boxers. Severe depression has resulted with some players. There appears to have been at least 20 suicides that have been carried through by pro-football or former pro-football players. Head injuries by high school football players are generally more severe than those in college, possibly because teens are not fully developed physically at this stage, or because their technique has not been fully developed, or there is a lack of quality training towards some high school students by coaches. College level training being on a professional level.

    2. Effect of increase of crime on spectators
    Cornell University documents the probable correlation between college (and pro) football games and their effect on crime in their respective cities.
    Football and crime by spectators Off-site link

    3. Portrayal of women as sexual objects
    The University of Minnesota comments on the portrayal of women as objects of "passive femininity and sexuality is another aspect of the psychology of sports to be considered."
    The highly gendered world of professional football is evident in the representation of female cheerleaders, for example, the following from the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Homepage. (See bibliography).

    "In the world of professional football, females are represented in terms of images of passive femininity and sexual images, opposed to the high level of activity associated with the male players."

    Sports Violence, aggression
    ------------------------Video games and media violence

    Aggressive sports can lead to aggressive behavior. Pro football losses may have a statistical correlation with domestic or spousal abuse. Sociological studies indicate a correlation between spousal abuse and both pro football and boxing, in a study conducted in Washington D.C., and, in the case of football, Washington Redskin losses. (Wann, D.L.)

    Some violent video games might similarly contribute to unhealthy behavior or mentally disruptive thought patterns, and it can be a contributing factor in a child or teen's classification with a DMV-IV disorder.

    Video games are an extension of sports and some an extension of sports violence, in that there is a similar psychological basis for the competition and action that is inherent in pro and college level sports and video games. Some of the more popular video games are sports-based, including football, basketball, baseball, soccer, car racing, etc.

    The 1st video game was based on Ping Pong or Tennis. The first video games were actually develop through military missile technology, and from one of the minds behind the Manhattan project. The game itself developed in the 1960's did not become popular as a commercial game until the early 1970's. Realistic sports video games of all sports have become very popular today with children and adults. Some are non-violent and some are very aggressive in nature.

    Children's personalities are being shaped and molded accordingly. Instant gratification is one psychologically detrimental trait that is evident in many children who are diagnosed with ADHD.

    Summary of Sports and Video Game Violence
    There are links, both direct and more often indirect between over-indulgence in sports as a spectator and sports violence, and by extension violent video games, including video games which may be aggressive.

    In persons who have a predisposition towards certain behavioral or personality traits, sports and video game violence might contribute to some symptoms that are evident in diagnosable mental disorders. There are different personalities, strengths and weaknesses in each individual.

    Some are more sensitive, some are more resilient in their personality. Violence of any type effects each person, and each child differently. Often times, as Peter Neubauer noted, it is those who are from unstable family lives who are most affected and most at risk.

    Conclusion on Sport Psychology and Sports Violence

    To summarize, recreational sports when enjoyed in a balanced way can have physical and psychological benefits. When excessive or obsessive, as a participant or spectator, especially when considering regularly indulging in watching violent spectator sports or over-attachment to sports, excessive identification (life and death if the Yankees win or lose attitude), a person can lose some control over his or own self-efficacy and identity, and it can be one contributing factor towards thought patterns in both adults, children and teens, that might contribute to some symptoms in some mental health disorders. There are violent sports, the message of which is anti-love, winner takes all, win at all costs, us vs. them, survival of the fittest. This can dull qualities of compassion in children and adults and contribute to thought unhealthy thought patterns or personality traits which may not be healthy for an individual or society.

    Lessons of violence and aggression reinforced throughout one's entire life can lead to aggressive personality traits or inner rage. Rage is a personality trait linked with ODD, CD and bipolar disorder. Love, by contrast, is a cornerstone of good mental health and a happy family life.

    Sport Psychology References

    1. Armstrong, C., (Fall, 2010). Athletes and Mental Illness - Major League Baseball Steps Up to the Plate. NAMI Advocate - National Alliance on Mental Illness

    2. Baseball Suicides, (2010). The Baseball Almanac. bhttp://www.baseball-almanac.com/legendary/suicides_baseball.shtml

    2. Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Squad. (2007) Dallas Cowboy's Cheerleaders
    Off site link.

    3. Ismat, Abdal-Haqq, (1989) Violence in Sports ERIC Digest 1-89. http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9214/sports.htm

    4. Kohler, P. (July 13, 2007). What is Superstition. What Is Superstition? Off-site link
    www.about.comOff-site link

    5. Nigg, J. (2006). What Causes ADHD. New York: Guilford Press.

    6. Rees, I., Schnepel, K., (January 2008). College Football Games and Crime Working Paper Series. 08-01. University of Colorado, Department of Economics.
    Off site link.

    7. Schwartz, A., (January 18, 2007). New York Times. Expert Ties Ex-Players Suicide to Brain Damage. Off-site link

    8. Stadler, M. (2007). The Psychology of Baseball, Inside the Mental Game of the Major League Player.

    9. Wann, D. L., Melnick, M. J., Russell, G. W., Pease, Dale, G. (2001). Sports Fans- The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators. New York: Routledge.

    Keywords for this article: sport psychology, sports psychology, children and sports, benefits of sports, violence and sports, violence in sports, psychology of sports, extreme sports, baseball mental health, major league baseball issues, baseball suicide, baseball suicides, football depression, profootball issues, pro-football issues, football issues, football suicides

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