History of Sports Psychology

Sports psychology is a relatively young discipline in psychology. In 1920, Carl Diem founded the world’s first sports psychology laboratory at the Deutsche Sporthochschule in Berlin, Germany. In 1925, two more sports psychology labs were established – one by A.Z. Puni at the Institute of Physical Culture in Leningrad and the other by Coleman Griffith at the University of Illinois.

Griffith began offering the first course in sports psychology in 1923 and later published the first book on the subject titled The Psychology of Coaching (1926). Unfortunately, Griffith’s lab was closed in 1932 due to lack of funds. After the lab was shut down, there was very little research on sports psychology until the subject experienced a revival of interest during the 1960s.

Ferruccio Antonelli established the International Society of Sports Psychology (ISSP) in 1965 and by the 1970s sports psychology had been introduced to university course offerings throughout North America. The first academic journal, the International Journal of Sports Psychology, was introduced in 1970, which was then followed by the establishment of the Journal of Sports Psychology in 1979.

By the 1980s, sports psychology became the subject of a more rigorous scientific focus as researchers began to explore how psychology could be used to improve athletic performance, as well as how exercise could be utilized to improve mental well-being and lower stress levels.