Vincent J. Granito
The history of sport, exercise, and performance psychology in North America dates back to the late 1800s. However, these professionals typically conducted research in the area of motor learning and development, with little connection to other efforts and researchers. They struggled to forge an identity with the parent disciplines of psychology and physical education. By the 1930s, sport psychology was beginning to take shape in the form of topics that would become the foundation of the field. Professionals were also starting to provide services to athletes, such as Coleman Griffith with the Chicago Cubs in 1938. The field came into its own during the 1950s and 1960s as established research labs and educational opportunities became available to students who would go on to develop further opportunities during the 1970s and 1980s. The scholarly journals were launched, professional organizations were set up, and graduate programs were created. Exercise psychology became a subdivision of the field during the 1970s fitness craze, and performance psychology developed into a specialty in the 1980s. This rich history provides a framework for the current makeup of the field and direction for the future.
Clinton Gähwiler, Lee Hill, and Valerie Grand’Maison
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
The past five decades have seen significant growth in the related fields of sport, exercise, and performance psychology. This growth, however, has not occurred evenly throughout the world, and Southern Africa is one region that has seen slower development in these fields. Other than isolated pockets of interest, there has been little teaching, research, or practice.
South Africa is an exception, however, which even during the apartheid era had some university-based researchers who engaged with the international community. In fact, quite a few international sport psychology pioneers visited South Africa during the 1970’s on sponsored trips. Virtually all of this activity took place in the economically advantaged sectors of the country, and it is only since the end of apartheid in 1994 that applied services have been extended to the economically disadvantaged areas, through both government and private funding.
The past few years have also seen a gradually growing awareness in other Southern African countries, who have started sporadically using (mainly foreign-based) sport psychology consultants. Botswana, however, is currently leading the way in developing locally based expertise.
Throughout the Southern African region, sport, exercise, and performance psychology remain organizationally underdeveloped and unregulated. Local researchers and practitioners in the field face some unique challenges, including the multi-cultural environment. In striving to overcome these however, they have the potential to add significantly to the global knowledge-base of sport, exercise, and performance psychology.