Performance Psychology: When will Australia join the party?

When you hear the words “sports psychology”, almost immediately everyone thinks of psychology for athletes. However, over the years, it has been proven that sport psychology skills are beneficial for more than just athletes. As a result, ‘sports psychology’ has been revitalised – and is known now as performance psychology. Performance psychology is defined as helping an individual apply psychological skills to help increase their performance. This can be towards sport, work or any other aspect in your life that requires you to perform.

This psychology can help individuals set goals, cope with different stressors, understand their optimal working conditions and identify their strengths. Another tool involves learning about the individuals around you and developing the ways you can work best as a team, and improve culture. However, in performance and sport psychology, Australia seems to lack a discrete platform to provide services in this area.

Who is doing it right?

The United States of America is easily the world’s highest-performing nation. They have leading entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, as well as the world’s best athletes such as Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams, to name a few. From 1896 to 2016, Team USA have won the most Olympic medals of all nations, 40% of them being gold.

There is no question that the US is producing the world’s greatest performers. So, what is it they are doing differently? There are many potential factors, such as being a bigger country or having the most money in the world. However, there is one specific area that Americans do extremely well, and that is definitively psychology. America has the best platform for psychologists, especially in the area of sport and performance. They have created organisations and associations such as the American Board of Sport Psychology and the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. Both of these organisations offer courses and certificates in sport psychology. Universities in the US are also offering master’s degrees for this specialised field. This consists of a full two years studying evidence-based approaches to how the mind works in a performance setting.  

Unfortunately, Australia doesn’t provide anything near a platform like this. The best program in Australia is a unit on sport psychology which lasts 10-14 weeks and can be used as credit points in selected degrees.

Why Australia needs to come to the party

Looking at this, Australia seems to be well behind the game on helping support the industry of sport and performance psychology. What isn’t easily noticeable is the best aspect of this area of psychology – namely, that it is not limited to just sport. It can also contribute to the optimised performance of entrepreneurs and employees. It assists professionals to be the best at what they do, through helping them cope with pressures, recover from setbacks, kick down their goals and most importantly, enjoy what they do. This is a potential reason as to why the US not only leads the world in sport, but also creates the most opportunity for businesses.

So why doesn’t Australia offer a platform like this? And if it did, could it contribute to Australia performing better as a nation? Performance psychology is a very powerful tool for an individual to have. The United States have worked that out. When will Australia?

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