As a basic psychological framework, humanistic theory emphasizes a strong interest in human welfare, values, and dignity. It involves the study and understanding of the unique whole person and how people can reach a heightened sense of self through the process of self-actualization. The focus within humanism to encourage and foster people to be “all they can be” and develop a true sense of self links to a strengths-based approach in sports coaching and the defining principles of positive psychology. In the field of sport and performance psychology, positive psychology has been influential as a discipline concerned with the optimal functioning and human flourishing of performers. Since the 2000s, many sport and performance psychologists have embraced positive psychology as a theoretical basis for examining consistent and superior human performance. However, in the modern history of psychological science, positive psychology is not a new phenomenon; rather, it stems from humanism—the traditional “third wave” in psychology (after the dominance of psychoanalytic and behaviorist approaches). Sport is recognized as a potentially influential context through which people at all levels and backgrounds can thrive. The tendency to focus on performance outcomes, however—winning and losing—often overshadows the potential of sport to achieve this aspirational goal. As evidence of this view, many high-performing athletes are commenting on their distressing experiences to reach the top and the “culture of fear” they have been exposed to as they pursue their own and others’ (e.g., institutional) ambitions (e.g., medaling at the Olympic Games). Humanism concerns itself with the quality of a person’s life, which includes, but also extends beyond such objective and classifying achievements. It is a person-centered approach to understanding the individual and his or her psychological, emotional, and behavioral reality. It seeks to help people define this reality more clearly in such a way that will help them feel good and perform at a high level. Humanism has been, therefore, an important school of thought for improving the lives and experiences of people who play sport as well as those who perform in various other contexts.
Rebecca K. Dickinson, Tristan J. Coulter, and Clifford J. Mallett
Clinton Gahwiler, Lee Hill, and Valérie Grand’Maison
Since the 1970s, significant growth globally has occurred in the related fields of sport, exercise, and performance psychology. In Southern Africa, however, this growth has occurred unevenly and, other than isolated pockets of interest, there has been little teaching, research, or practice. South Africa is an exception, however, even during the years of apartheid. A number of international sport psychology pioneers in fact visited South Africa during the 1970s on sponsored trips. Virtually all 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 2010s have also seen a growing awareness in other Southern African countries, which have begun sporadically using (mainly foreign-based) sport psychology consultants. Among these countries, Botswana 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 unique challenges, including a multicultural environment and a lack of resources. In working to overcome these challenges, however, they have the potential to significantly add value to the global knowledge base of sport, exercise, and performance psychology.
Jeffrey Bond and Tony Morris
Australian sport psychology was effectively “launched” in conjunction with the establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 1981. Prior to this date, sport psychology sat within the realm of a small number of research academics in tertiary institutions and many more unqualified practitioners with backgrounds in sport, hypnotherapy, medicine, and marketing and sales. The commencement of the legitimacy of the profession in the early 1980s correlated with the co-location of the AIS Sport Psychology Department with other sports medicine and sports science disciplines. From this rather humble but significant beginning, Australian sport psychology quickly became integrated into the training and competition plans of the vast majority of Australian Olympic sports and the developing professional football, tennis, golf, and cricket codes. The rapid growth of the AIS and its team of qualified and experienced sport psychology practitioners, combined with international competition exposure, international conference presentations, reciprocal visits to international sports institutes, and Olympic training centers culminated in the inclusion of sport psychology within the auspices of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the accreditation of undergraduate and postgraduate tertiary programs in Australian universities. Applied sport psychology services are now a regular inclusion in most, if not all, Australian sports programs. An increasing emphasis on athlete and coach mental health in conjunction with the performance enhancement capability associated with sport psychology support has firmly entrenched the profession within the Australian sporting milieu.
Stiliani "Ani" Chroni and Frank Abrahamsen
The evolution in sport, exercise, and performance psychology in Europe goes back to the 1800s and spread from the east (Germany and Russia) to the west of the continent (France). Modern European sport psychology theorizing started with Wilhelm Wundt, who studied reaction times and mental processes in 1879, and Philippe Tissié, who wrote about psychological changes during cycling in 1894. However, Pierre de Coubertin was the one to put forward the first definition and promotion of sport psychology as a field of science. From there on, and despite obstacles and delays due to two world wars in Europe, sport psychology accelerated and caught up with North America. Looking back to the history of our disciplines, while sport, exercise, and performance psychology evolved and developed as distinct disciplines in Europe, sport and exercise psychology research appear to be stronger than performance psychology. The research advancements in sport and exercise psychology led to the establishment of the European sport psychology organization (FEPSAC) in the 1960s, as researchers needed an umbrella establishment that would accept the cultural and linguistic borders within the continent. From there on, education programs developed throughout Europe, and a cross-continent program of study with the collaboration of 12 academic institutions and the support of the European Commission was launched in the late 1990s. Applied sport psychology was practiced in the Soviet Union aiming to enhance the performance of their teams in the 1952 Olympics. Unfortunately, in many countries across Europe, research and practice are not comprehensively integrated to enhance sports and sportspersons, and while applied practice has room to grow, it also has challenges to tackle.
Vincent J. Granito
The history of sport, exercise, and performance psychology in North America dates back to the late 1800s. However, these professionals typically conducted research in the area of motor learning and development, with little connection to other efforts and researchers. They struggled to forge an identity with the parent disciplines of psychology and physical education. By the 1930s, sport psychology was beginning to take shape in the form of topics that would become the foundation of the field. Professionals were also starting to provide services to athletes, such as Coleman Griffith with the Chicago Cubs in 1938. The field came into its own during the 1950s and 1960s as established research labs and educational opportunities became available to students who would go on to develop further opportunities during the 1970s and 1980s. The scholarly journals were launched, professional organizations were set up, and graduate programs were created. Exercise psychology became a subdivision of the field during the 1970s fitness craze, and performance psychology developed into a specialty in the 1980s. This rich history provides a framework for the current makeup of the field and direction for the future.