Sport and Exercise Psychology Minor

Sport and Exercise Psychology is a discipline that combines two fields of study, sport science and psychology, to study the performance of individuals in sport and exercise settings. Two main questions guide the field. First, what is the impact of sport and exercise performance on an individual’s psychology? Consider, for example, how an athlete feels after a huge win, or alternatively, a huge loss. Or, think about how an individual who completes his/her first 5K, first 10K, first half marathon feels as he/she steps across the finish line. The second question focuses on the reverse relationship, that is, the impact of one’s psychology on his/her sport and exercise performance. In this case, consider how being very anxious prior to a game or event can hurt performance or how being confident can enhance it.

The major content areas in the field of sport and exercise psychology include personality, motivation and adherence, perception and attention, leadership, group/team cohesion, and confidence and self-presentation. Considerable research has investigated how these factors influence our performance in sport and exercise settings. This research has supported the development of performance enhancement strategies designed to improve our execution in sport and exercise tasks. Some of these strategies include goal setting, imagery/visualization, attention control, distraction control, and relaxation and energizing techniques.

With the success of these interventions, sport and exercise psychology applications have expanded into other disciplines that require consistent high level performance under demanding or stressful situations including business, health, medical and military settings.

While there has been a growing interest in applying sport and exercise psychology principles to other disciplines, there has likewise been a growing interest in expanding beyond the high level performance of those in sport and exercise settings to consider their development across the lifespan. These life span issues include sport and exercise participation from childhood to old age, pain and injury experiences, athletic retirement, career planning and life satisfaction, exercise addiction, eating disorders and disordered eating, and body image.

The purpose of the minor in Sport and Exercise Psychology is to introduce students to this steadily expanding field. The 18-credit minor includes core classes that provide an overview of many of the topics identified above as well as hands on experience with key performance enhancement strategies for athlete and exercise populations. Support courses focus on key themes in sport science and psychology. The minor, one of only a handful of minors in sport and exercise psychology across the country, will prepare those interested with the necessary training to pursue graduate study in the area. The minor will also augment the education of majors from physical education, sport administration, athletic training, coaching, psychology, recreation management, as well as elementary and secondary education with an interest in coaching.