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date: 18 January 2019

History of Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology in Southern Africa

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.

The past five decades have seen significant growth in the related fields of sport, exercise, and performance psychology. This growth, however, has not occurred evenly throughout the world, and Southern Africa is one region that has seen slower development in these fields. Other than isolated pockets of interest, there has been little teaching, research, or practice.

South Africa is an exception, however, which even during the apartheid era had some university-based researchers who engaged with the international community. In fact, quite a few international sport psychology pioneers visited South Africa during the 1970’s on sponsored trips. Virtually all of this activity took place in the economically advantaged sectors of the country, and it is only since the end of apartheid in 1994 that applied services have been extended to the economically disadvantaged areas, through both government and private funding.

The past few years have also seen a gradually growing awareness in other Southern African countries, who have started sporadically using (mainly foreign-based) sport psychology consultants. Botswana, however, is currently leading the way in developing locally based expertise.

Throughout the Southern African region, sport, exercise, and performance psychology remain organizationally underdeveloped and unregulated. Local researchers and practitioners in the field face some unique challenges, including the multi-cultural environment. In striving to overcome these however, they have the potential to add significantly to the global knowledge-base of sport, exercise, and performance psychology.