Sport and Business Psychology: The parallels in performance.
December 15, 2014
Recently I have found myself being interested in the development of applying sport psychology to business. It is something that I have considered a few times over the past few years and I have recently become more interested in. I have been applying for various jobs within business psychology but currently with no experience in the world of business this has proven difficult. The reason for this post is to clarify the parallels between business and sport psychology and possibly look at avenues where sport psychologists can apply their work.
Sandy Gordon in 2007 wrote a paper on sport and business coaching from the sport psychologists perspective. It was the only paper I came across that examined these two areas of psychology and suggested that there is a link between them. Executive leaders have been described in the research as corporate athletes (loehr and Schwartz, 2001) and it is agreed that to perform at high levels over lengthy periods of time they must practice in the same systematic way that an athlete does. It is possible for devoted and pasionate psychologists to transition from sport psychologist to business consultant for example Jones, (2002) describes the principles that facilitate elite performance in sport are easily transferable to a business context.
The first and most obvious area of transfer would be in terms of developing and working with high performing teams. Jones (2002) presents a create, unite, and perform model which suggests team building activities are about creating positive psychological environments. Where sport psychologist focus on keeping open communication w and focus on small performance gains business psychology uses similar techniques when developing team cohesion.
Within the corporate world high levels of stess often occur especially in sectors where high amounts of money are traded. There are two common factors that deal with stress in both sport and business. Firstly there is a clear need to develop appropriate stress and coping strategies within the corporate environment and secondly leaders in both sport and business need to have sufficient levels of rational thinking and emotional control to inspire their followers. It may be benefical within the business environment to raise awwareness of stress responses and the coping options that are available to employees as well as allowing time for them to tackle more personal issues in a systematic way, it has worked within sport (see Hardy, Jones & Gould, 1996) and therefore may have some efficacy within the workplace.
For businesses however I feel the most important area of development is within the organisational issues that present themselves. There are often a lack of resources, poor communication, failure to delagate within the corporate environment. Jones (2002) distguishes between the demands, support and constraints of the environment in both sport and business. Constraints in both envrionments have been shown to take up a considerable amount of energy which could be better used elsewhere. It would be the practitioners job to minimise the focus on constraints and maximise the focus on support in order to developa more positive environment. In more simplistic terms getting managers and employees to focus more on ‘controlling the controllables’.
There has been much written about the comparisons of business leaders, organisations and workplaces and sport. However within the UK there is still a some hostility from business psychologists towards sport psychologists. The term sport psychologist has a negative connotation despite having received recognition from the HCPC and having a similar training route to that of a business psychologist. I feel there is much a sport psychologist can give to a business and can bring the work and experience that creates olympic medalists and high performing teams, coaches (managers) and athletes (employees). I hope that this blog post will open up the opportunities for sport psychologists in business and will give a clearer picture of what sport psychologists can offer.