Can Psychology Reduce Stress on Athletes? Benefits of a sports Psychologist

Pre-professional dancers at Orlando Ballet School are getting injured more frequently at a young age due to high levels of stress and pressure put on them. According to Ronald Smith, a University of Washington Psychology Professor, the injury rate of ballet dancers has increased dramatically to over 61 percent injured during an eight-month period. Teachers and coaches of the dancers should be alarmed at this rate and focus on trying to find a solution. This a serious issue due to these young dancers developing injuries that could end their dance career at such a young age and will prevent them from reaching their goals in the sport in the future. Professional dancers are lucky if they make it to 40 in their career before having to retire and find something new to do with their life, but most don’t even make it that far due to getting sidelined along the way from injury. Within the past year there have been six surgeries, three stress fractures, and countless cases of tendonitis, sprained ankles, and bruised bones between the dancers at Orlando Ballet School. By finding a way to reduce the stress on these dancers, many of these injuries would become avoidable and save their future careers.

By finding a way to reduce the stress on these dancers, many of these injuries would become avoidable and save their future careers.

There have been many solutions to this issue that have been suggested before, but most have not had success. One of these would be preventing kids from training too hard too fast. According to Dr. Jordan Metzel, co-author of “The Young Athlete: A Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide for Parents”, high-level of competition for young kids is not a good thing for them (Stenson, 2004). This may seem like a good solution, but when you have a talented student or athlete who has big aspirations, this would be detrimental for them when trying to achieve their goals. Overcoming obstacles is also crucial when building self-esteem for children and when you don’t push the athletes they never achieve these goals (Taylor, 2016). When these athletes grow up they will not have any idea how to deal with hardships and challenges (Taylor, 2016). By pushing an athlete to reach their full potential or go beyond that it will help set them up for their future and provide them the confidence to achieve any goal.

Overcoming obstacles is also crucial when building self-esteem for children and when you don’t push the athletes they never achieve these goals (Taylor, 2016).

Another suggested solution to reduce athletes stress has been to reduce stress and anxiety by mixing in yoga. Yoga targets the cognitive, emotional, and physical aspects of stress and help promote clear thinking, and is known to do this through its ability to lessen the proteins that cause inflammation, according to a study published by the University of California, Los Angeles researchers (Gregoire, 2013). These benefits would be a great option for the average person who is not working their bodies six to eight hours a day, but for a dancer the extra physical activity would be hard on the dancer’s bodies. These young athletes already train more than six hours a day and the additional physical activity would lead to even more overuse injuries. It becomes especially hazardous when this extra activity is introduced on the dancers one day off, Sunday. Athletes should take at least one day off per week to recover physically and mentally (Khan, 1995).

The best option for the teachers at Orlando Ballet School to helping the dancers at lower their stress levels and in turn, reducing injuries, would be to provide a sports psychologist for the athletes to go to improve the athlete’s mental health and to help them deal with the stress or pressure. This would be provided by the coach or teacher and if they are unable the parents should bring their athlete to them on their own. Many times, the athlete cannot place where their stress started and by talking to a professional about these stressors they be able to get to the bottom of it and avoid the injuries (Moffett, n.d.). By adding a small extra cost to the student’s tuition, the coaches and teachers could find a very qualified psychologist to meet with the athletes one on one each week (“Sports Psychology Helps Professional and Amateur Athletes”, 2017). Sport psychology is a largely growing science that has been backed up by not just scientific facts, but well-documented psychological principal that can benefit the athlete to reach their full potential at the best time (Turner,2014). If left untreated the high levels of stress on an athlete can cause lower enjoyment, poor performance, potential burnout, quitting the sport, weakened immune system, and the increased risk of injury (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).

"The best option for the teachers at Orlando Ballet School to helping the dancers at lower their stress levels and in turn, reducing injuries, would be to provide a sports psychologist for the athletes to go to improve the athlete’s mental health and to help them deal with the stress or pressure."

The sports psychologists can also teach them coping strategies for not just sports, and things they could take into their future careers and life. Sports psychologists can help the students make the tricky transition from sports to real life (“Mind Games: Could You Benefit from a Sports Psychologist?”, 2011). Some of the most effective strategies used by athletes and psychologists are visualization, focus cues, recognizing that they are only competing with themselves, confidence in training, consistency of effort, and teamwork (“Coping Strategies Used by Elite Athletes”, 2012). Each athlete responds differently, causing it to be important for the psychologist to understand them and figure out if physiological, behavioral, or cognitive coping strategies would be most beneficial for their performance (Moffett, n.d.). This is also beneficial to help the athlete deal with the pressures of competition and the overall stress put on them by either themselves or their coaches (“Sports Psychology Helps Professional and Amateur Athletes”, 2017). Many sports organizations are starting to employ a sports psychologist to educate coaches on how to help the athlete enjoy the sport more and develop a healthy mental health.

These injuries, which were most likely due to high stress, can cause even more stress and mental fatigue, leading to a never-ending cycle.

These athletes can go to them to release stress and talk about the pressure from parents, coaches, and their own expectations. The psychologists can then bridge the gap between how the coach and athlete feel (Moffett, n.d.). They can explain to the coach why the athlete is feeling this way and help them change up the training to help the athlete succeed mentally. Without the help of a trained professional it can be tough for a young athlete to distinguish the differences between good stress and bad stress (Moffett, n.d.). Good stress, what is known as eustress, can fuel an athlete to lead the team through the extra drill or to push through a tough practice. Eustress increases performance in practice which would translate to more confidence in a performance or audition (Moffett, n.d.). Bad stress, also known as distress, is where a sports psychologist can really help. Distress can cause an athlete to shut down and not perform to their full potential (Moffett, n.d.). By figuring out what type of stress the athlete suffers from the psychologist can help find the cause or help the athlete cope if the cause cannot be changed, overall helping the athlete retain their love for the sport (Goodtherapy.org Staff, 2016).

These professionals are also used to help athletes rehabilitate from injury. These injuries, which were most likely due to high stress, can cause even more stress and mental fatigue, leading to a never-ending cycle. For an athlete, their sport is their identity and when an injury takes this away this can change the way they view themselves in a negative way (Rogers, n.d.) These negative feelings can be detrimental to their training, recovery, and overall performance if they can’t find a way to control and understand them. A sports psychologist can help them manage and deal with the injury in an effective way for their mental health (Rogers, n.d.) It has been proven that negative feeling and high levels of stress can slow down a recovery process. Psychological strategies, provided by a sports psychologist can help the athlete down the road to full recovery. The psychologist can help educate the athlete about the injury and recovery process to keep them informed and to reduce uncertainty with future injuries (Rogers, n.d.).

Even though adding a sports psychologist is the best option to keep dancers healthy, there is still some opposition. It’s argued that this treatment will take too much time and will be too expensive for the students in the long run it will be the most effective. There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to mental health and reducing stress on the athletes (Moffett, n.d.). This will take at least a few months of consistent meetings between the two to break down the barriers the athlete has put up around themselves, allowing them to share what is going on and causing this added stress (“Sport psychologists help professional and amateur athletes”, 2017). On average, it will cost $600 a month per athlete for an hour a week of individual time with a psychologist. But many premier psychologists have stated they would reduce prices for groups of athletes (“Appointments”, n.d.). When comparing this to the cost of being injured there really is no question of what the better option is. On average a physical therapy appointment is $100 and many athletes go to 1-3 appointments per week. Doctors’ appointments, surgeries, tapes, and boots to try to heal the injuries would end up being much more expensive (“Appointments”, n.d.).

There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to mental health and reducing stress on the athletes (Moffett, n.d.).

When looking at young children’s health it is important to take it very seriously and put up any money or time necessary in order to help them. If the teachers at Orlando Ballet School were to bring a sports psychologist in to talk to the students one on one each week their stress levels would be reduced dramatically. This would not only benefit their mental health, but decrease the risk of injury and keep them dancing at their best for the longest amount of time possible. The sports psychologists would be able to help everyone in many unique ways, helping them learn to enjoy their sport more and stay injury free longer.

This would not only benefit their mental health, but decrease the risk of injury and keep them dancing at their best for the longest amount of time possible.

Works Cited

Appointments. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2017, from https://www.premiersportpsychology.com/appointments-2/

Coping Strategies Used by Elite Athletes. (2012, June 26). Retrieved April 26, 2017, from https://staroversky.com/blog/coping-strategies-used-by-elite-athletes

Fader, J. (2013, May 20). Freaked-out Kids in Sports: Keys to Stress Reduction. Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/coaching-and-parenting-young-athletes/201305/freaked-out-kids-in-sports-keys-stress-reduction

GoodTherapy.org Staff. (2016, August 19). How Sport Psychology Helps Olympic Athletes Win Gold. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-sport-psychology-helps-olympic-athletes-win-gold-0822167

Gregoire, C. (2013, October 28). How Yoga Changes Your Body, Starting The Day You Begin (INFOGRAPHIC). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/body-on-yoga_n_4109595.html

Khan, K. (1995, May). Overuse injuries in classical ballet. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7618011

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, April 28). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

Mind Games: Could You Benefit from a Sports Psychologist? (2001, February 28). Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/docview/218693103?pq-origsite=summon&http://login.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/login?url=accountid=4485

Moffett, A. C. (n.d.). Stress Management Tips for Good Health. Retrieved from http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resources/health-fitness-resources/stress-management-tips-for-good-health/

Rogers, A. (n.d.). The Role of Sport Psychology in Injury Recovery. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from http://www.bsems.com.au/injury-recovery.html

Schwarz, J. (2000, October 11). Ballet dancer injuries as common, severe as athletic injuries. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.washington.edu/news/2000/10/11/ballet-dancer-injuries-as-common-severe-as-athletic-injuries/

Sport psychologists help professional and amateur athletes. (2017). Retrieved April 26, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sport-psychologists.aspx

Stenson, J. (2004, April 29). Pushing too hard too young. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4556235/ns/health-childrens_health/t/pushing-too-hard-too-young/#.WP97VVKZP6Y

Taylor, D. J. (2016, October 25). Teach Your Child Athlete Healthy Perspectives. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teach-your-child-athlete-healthy-perspectives_us_580e4b0ae4b0f8715789fec8

Turner, M. (2014, July 23). What Elite Athletes Can Teach You About Dealing With Pressure. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235847

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