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Do not underestimate Sport Psychology

As Jamaica’s sport industry develops and the performance-driven model remains the focus, one has to be able to examine how the model will function effectively to being out the best in the programmes. 


There has been lots of talk recently that the model that track and field has used successfully over the last 15 years – home-based, home-trained, home-fed, home-managed (in most parts) is the way to go. But of course the question looms, can it work for all sporting disciplines? 

While the success has been significant for track and field with medal haul increase since the 2004 Summer Olympic Games there are so many other of the development programme which needs addressing. One Twitter follower suggested 

Wayne Jolly ‏@cool876guy2h–  In any sport following that model there are 2 issues to be resolved satisfactorily…..technical expertise and funding
Funding remains a massive issue especially with the IMF keeping an eye, but I think more and more the industry has to be keen on how the human resources are prepared and trained to execute on programmes which would see athletes compete at the highest levels with their peers. The notion does exist too, that because track and field is largely an individual sport, Jamaican athletes are more likely to succeed…what does that really say? 
The team sport is my target here as I want to make the point for the role of a Sport Psychologist to be in the respective programmes from start to finish. Let me preface by saying two things 
  • Psychologists are not for mad people 
  • Psychologists are not magicians either 

Understand the basis for my argument that the Sport Programmes have ignored the key role a Sport Psychologist can play. So here we go. The Psychologist must be maintained as part of the programme when the team is being selected. The coaches have to buy-in the value that the Psychologist will play. Coaches also should be available to be assessed as their role as facilitator for the team. 

Here is how the Sport Psychologist should be used

  • Assess the players while they are being selected 
  • Engage in personality profiling (there are just some of us who can’t or won’t mesh, even with the greatest talent in the world) 
  • Assess the goals of each player and how they see themselves as part of a team

Players primarily must see themselves in at least these three areas

  • successfully performing as part of a winning team while giving their best 
  • be motivated and have a personal desire to win
  • be able to tune out distractions 

A coach is normally technically sound, but the Psychologist can be a great asset to a team. My sources tell me that most professional teams have full time psychologists….here is why? The talent pool is wide and most people can run, hop, skip, shoot hoops, kick a ball etc, but the one who wants it more and who has the competitive edge will be the one. To get to that stage a psychologist is in the best position to assist and it is high time the industry embrace the practice. 

One observation on a few Jamaican teams – we have problems with ‘finishing’ which speaks to concentration, focus or improper physical preparation. Just maybe yoga and meditation could be integral to that programme. 

Talk to a Sport Psychologist todayImage



A sport aficionado who writes, researches and presents on everything sport. A second book is out to prove her work's reach. She reads in her spare time.

4 thoughts on “Do not underestimate Sport Psychology

  1. The dominant West Indies cricketers of the 70s/80s first had the benefit of a sports psychologist during their ‘rebel’ period with ‘Packer Cricket’ in Australia, I believe. I think the team, during its major slump years also had the same psychologist on hand for a while but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Perhaps there were too many other negative factors affecting team performance which a psychologist, in isolation, could not address?

  2. Those days have changed. The day of a coach seeing some other official as a threat is over, instead management teams are embracing a team approach with each having to work on their section as part of an overall plan. The approach then was corrective and that is not the role of a psychologist. The role is instead one which focuses on performance but without the distractions, whether they be physical, mental or otherwise

  3. Each of us knows about the term “psyche up” whether we are talking about preparing for an exam or we are facing some challenge we feel we can better prepare for by “psyching up”.
    There is also talk about the “psyche” of an athlete or a team.

    Those of us who attended St. Augustine’s College, “The Big Red Machine” in The Bahamas can remember the motivational and “psyching” done by coach and principal Leviticus “Uncle Lou” Adderley. The school still employs some psychology or motivation on a regular basis, although they do not have a psychologist on staff..

    Each of us knows an athlete who can benefit from additional motivation, encouragement, or psyching”!
    For whatever reason many federations do not see the benefit of including a sports psychologist in their program.
    Twenty six years ago at the Rome World Championships I saw both the Italian team and the USA team with small brochures on Sports Psychology for their teams.

    It is my belief that it is now high time that our federations look seriously on engaging sports psychologists and or motivational speakers in their programs.

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