Sports psychology is the specific subfield of psychology which not only deals with athlete performance, but also with supporting athletes in other elements of their lives. Concepts related to workplace psychology are also used to better understand what makes a successful athlete and
career person outside of the sporting world. Sports play an important role in many societies and can have a positive impact on fans and athletes alike. Therefore, understanding the complex sets of behaviours and interactions involved can improve the benefits of sports to society. Professor
Mei-Yen Chen is a member of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC) and also a Professor in the Graduate Institute of Sport, Leisure and Hospitality Management at the National Taiwan Normal University. Supporting athletes is the main goal of her research. ‘My aim is to collaborate
with professional sports teams and players to help enhance their abilities through the techniques or interventions developed in my research,’ she explains. While the project is still at a relatively early stage, Chen has already been impressed with some of the information provided by
athletes in interviews with the research team. ‘The most interesting aspect of our findings so far, in my opinion, is the variety of different experiences regarding athletes’ career transitions and employability,’ remarks Chen. ‘Although these vivid life experiences
are diverse, some patterns or elements could be identified and captured after analyses.’ Of course, not every athlete’s experience will be the same, but the goal is to find common patterns that can be isolated and further explored – hopefully leading to a solid set of guidelines
to help athletes. Further to this point, Chen is also meeting with counterparts in the USA to share information and promote their goals of supporting athletes. The work of Chen, her colleagues and her collaborators demonstrates that sports psychology has numerous important benefits that go
far beyond improving performance on the field. While most individuals will never personally experience the stresses, highs and lows of elite competition, they are able to live these experiences through athletes. These feelings have the power to bring people together, especially when there
is understanding of the motivations driving both athlete and spectator. Moreover, such understanding is useful for facilitating the development of healthy relationships with sports and athletes. Finally, the ability of a society to support the athletes that lay it on the line for the general
public’s entertainment will also dictate the positive impacts that the public receive from sports, and ultimately better enable athletes to continue pursuing excellence both on and off the field.
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