Sports Psychology and Clinical Psychology News for 06-15-2019

Expertly Selected by Dr. JohnF Murray


Julius Thomas gives up football to pursue doctorate in psychology

For a couple of years in the not-so-distant past, Julius Thomas was one of the most dangerous touchdown makers in the entire NFL. Over the course of his seven-year career, playing for the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, he hauled in 226 catches for 2,406 yards and 36 touchdowns, 24 of which were accumulated between 2013-14. Now, at the age of 30, this native of Stockton, Calif., has opted to put football behind him in favor of pursuing a higher education, specifically to earn his doctorate in psychology. Thomas made this announcement in a column for The Players’ Tribute. In the essay, he divulged that he did truly love playing the game of football, which provided him with a tremendous opportunity to gain financial stability. 

More recently he realized there was more work to be done in his life outside of football. With all that in mind, Thomas has decided to pursue education as he moves past football. Studying therapy and becoming well trained in it so that I can help people heal from their emotional and mental pain. Investigating the effects of contact sports on brain trauma and neurobehavioral performance. Participating in research looking at biomarkers that may identify early warning signs of brain disease. 

We highly encourage you to read Thomas’ entire column, which delves into his football career, what got him turned on to psychology and how it all ties into the brain. It’s a wonderful, insightful and thoughtful piece. Thomas is definitely embarking on an amazing new course in life, and we wish him well in his endeavors. 


Social Identity Theory

Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s). Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world. In order to increase our self-image we enhance the status of the group to which we belong. The central hypothesis of social identity theory is that group members of an in-group will seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, thus enhancing their self-image. Henri Tajfel proposed that stereotyping is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. 

We see the group to which we belong as being different from the others, and members of the same group as being more similar than they are. We define appropriate behavior by reference to the norms of groups we belong to, but you can only do this if you can tell who belongs to your group. In the second stage, social identification, we adopt the identity of the group we have categorized ourselves as belonging to. There will be an emotional significance to your identification with a group, and your self-esteem will become bound up with group membership. Once we have categorized ourselves as part of a group and have identified with that group we then tend to compare that group with other groups. 

If our self-esteem is to be maintained our group needs to compare favorably with other groups. Just to reiterate, in social identity theory the group membership is not something foreign or artificial which is attached onto the person, it is a real, true and vital part of the person. 

Psychological and sport-specific characteristics of football players.

Psychological and sport-specific characteristics of football players. It is hypothesized that players of different levels of play might differ not only in their football skills but also in their way of playing football and with respect to psychological factors such as concentration, reaction time, or competitive anxiety. The psychological characteristics of a player might influence his way of playing football and also his risk of injury. A group of 588 football players were studied by questionnaire; additionally, reaction time tests were performed. Psychological characteristics were assessed by three established self-evaluation questionnaires: the Athletic Coping Skills Inventory, the State Competitive Anxiety Test, and the State-Trait-Anger-Expression-Inventory. 

Football-specific characteristics that were investigated included playing experience and positions played, style of play, number of training hours and games, as well as aspects of fair play. Reaction time was tested twice: without the influence of physical exercise and immediately after a 12-minute run. A significant reduction in reaction time was observed after physical exercise. In high-level players, the reaction time immediately after the 12-minute run was significantly shorter than it was in low-level players. The questionnaire answers given regarding fair play clearly indicated that fair play is not paid sufficient respect. 

The relationship between psychological characteristics and attitudes toward fair play was analyzed and discussed.