History and Psychology of Sports

Managing sports is one of the most debated topics globally. Initially, engaged for purposes of leisure, games have evolved to become a major commercial activity that necessitates astute management skills to yield optimum results. Such development partly explains why the psychological component of management has become one of the core elements in the running of sports. Сurrent paper reviews the history and psychology of sports management.

Philosophy of Sports Management

Sports management is a critical topic within the field of education. Thus, students, as well as athletes gain valuable knowledge on sports by focusing on it. Given that a business aspect to sport exists, attention on the field continues to grow. Sports management covers professional and college sports, facility management, managers and sportsmen. The primary function of sports management is critical based on the role it plays in shaping the lives of athletes (Robinson, 2010). Hence, the philosophy of sports management is to enhance improved performance among athletes. Viewed differently, sports management philosophy aims at optimizing personal, organizational, corporate, as well as communal gains. In addition, the philosophy seeks to provide promote personality marketing through tri-level relations and other innovative approaches to demanding clients.

The management of sports is beneficial for future development. For that reason, sports management entails planning and organizing to provide positive outcomes by concentrating on decision-making and task performance. The discipline of sports management provides a possibility to attain the common objectives (Watt, 2003).

Sports management has four fundamental functions that include planning, organizing, directing and controlling. As in most activities, planning is a core task that the management team performes, since it is foundational for the remaining functions. The process of planning is essential for evaluation of team performance, among other purposes. Planning can also aid in the identification of unmet goals and the factors contributing to such cases. Apart from the core function, organizing is also useful in the enhancement of effectiveness in sports management.

Sports management teams develop the internal sports organizational structure besides establishing and maintaining working operations. Regarding the directing role, the provision of a guiding role towards the attainment of set objectives takes precedence. To maximize the outcomes of directing, the use of communication, motivation and leadership is advised (Watt, 2003). Thus, it is held that the directing role is associated with incentives to increase the commitment towards the pursuit of agreed goals. Focusing on the controlling role, reference to its effect on assessing the management’s performance is put into perspective. Thus, the latter function focuses on the evaluation of effectiveness, identification of problems and development of solutions.

The field of sports psychology focuses on the extension of research and theory in teaching, coaches, athletes, exercisers, parents, fitness professionals and trainers in aspects of psychological competence so that optimal results are obtained (Jones, Hanton & Connaughton, 2002). Jowett (2001) adds to the issue by suggesting that psychology in sports entails both individual and group consultations or counseling based on the style a professional employs in a given situation.

Within the field of sports management, psychological interventions are applied for various reasons. For instance, Pain and Harwood (2004) contend that energy or anxiety management is vital. Psychologists apply their skills to assist players who encounter arousal at levels that are ineffective to allow for optimal performances (Jowett, 2001). Techniques applied to mitigate stress, anxiety or anger include progressive relaxation, breathing exercises, mediation, cognitive techniques, visualization or imagery, among others.

Paying attention to controlling levels of concentration is also helpful. In the current times, sports managers seek the services of psychologists with the aim of guiding athletes on how to stay focused amidst disturbing occurrences that might take place in course of a competition (Richardson & Riley, 2004). Psychological skills help the sportsmen maintain the expected level of mental intensity given the variations in circumstances. Some of the most common approaches employed include controlling attention training and expanding participant’s degree of self-awareness.

Other commonly used psychological management techniques border on communication and goal setting. Under communication, team managers seek the services of psychologists in improving participants to increase the degree of cohesiveness within a team (Weinberg & Gould, 2003). In such engagement, attention is paid to interpersonal interactions. Similarly, the manner of communication between or among players and coaches is harmonized. The communicating skills, such as listening, reflecting, clarifying and assisting players, as well as encouraging managers to be assertive are integral to enhancing performance.

On the other hand, goal setting is a critical psychological concept that is employed in the management of sports. Goal setting is viewed as a useful approach to increasing participants’ focus on performance (Jowett, Paull, Pensgaard, Hoegmo & Riise, 2005). Setting objectives help both players and managers remain motivated through the course of a competitive activity. The aspect of setting goals is also used in encouraging injured players through the recovery process. Thus, it is not surprising that target dates are set. Strategies for goal attainment are predetermined besides the provision of a basis for performance evaluation.

A critical expectation on the part of players is the possession of high visual, imagery and mental capacity (Jowett, 2003). In order to use their skills perfectly, athletes need help with the above mentioned aspects. It is noted that for athletes to apply their senses well, psychological help might be necessary. Moreover, employing the skills require mental preparation, attention, anxiety control, learning new skills, building confidence and hastening recoveries after suffering injuries. Psychological management becomes critical in assisting participants on how to evaluate imagery and creating images consistent with expectations.

The process of team building, which involves helping a group to enhance the ability to operate harmoniously through an improvement in communication, propagating group objectives, building trust and respect, is a major step in sports management. Often, team-building techniques are adopted at the commencement of a season in order to assist members increase their familiarity with one another. The most commonly used approaches when building teams include self-introductions, carrying out rope courses and setting of individual goals (Baker, Horton, Robertson-Wilson & Wall, 2003). In the final place, time management is also a psychological aspect that is dominant in the present day sports management. The attribute of management focuses on scheduling activities in a way that confusion does not emerge. Some of the common techniques employed include coaching on planning, learning various demand requirements, setting realistic objectives and organizing pre-performance routines.

The complexity of modern-day sports industry necessitates distinctive business, legal, as well as management practices. Consequently, the way the industry is managed is largely unique. However, Baker, Horton, Robertson-Wilson and Wall (2003) observed that management continues to evolve as times change. Buckingham (2005) supports the position that, in the recent times, sports managers have had to deal with structures like playoff systems, drafts and conference alignments.

In tracing the roots of the sports management, a review of clubs, leagues, in addition to professional tournaments, is necessary. The view is held since the structures guide managers in organizing sports (Jowett & Cockerill, 2002). Hence, the three are the primary building blocks of a wide number of sports today. Besides, Crosset and Hums (2014) indicated that thought that the evolution of sports management, as an academic discipline, is also informative of the entire history. It is noted that the subject became central to academic discourse as the need for professionally trained sports people became evident.

The primary observation is that sports management evolves in response to specific sporting issues or wider societal changes. Regarding the above position, sports managers are obliged to demonstrate creativity when running their teams. It is also noted that a management approach that is effective in one situation might not yield the same results if it is applied to a different one (Horn, 2002). As history depicts, flexible sports managers tend to succeed more because they adapt to change more easily.

Sports and Community: The Club System

Present-day England is deemed the mother place of the modern sports and sports management systems. A big percentage of the most popular games, such as football, hockey, baseball and cricket, are traced to the country (Mandel, 1984). It is largely regarded that the meteoric rise of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries was partly influenced by England’s sporting traditions. O’Connor-McDonogh (2007) recalls that the empire took sports to its colonies. Thus, the empire is viewed as a major player in the evolution of sports.

Despite the collapse of the empire, the British influence remained due to the organizational nature that epitomized the tradition of the Britons (Crosset & Hums, 2014). The same level of organization is apparent in the kingdom’s political and cultural arrangements. Bower (2007) observed that although some sports, such as gymnastics, golf and basketball, originated outside England, they adopted the British model of organization.

In the 18th century, the aristocracy (the nobles and property owners) commenced the development of sports clubs (Polley, 2007). Only the economically and politically powerful individuals were allowed membership to such clubs. In practice, the clubs held one-time or yearly events which brought members to common social gatherings. By the turn of the 19th century, clubs had stand rules which guided dispute resolution and organization of competitions (Mandel, 1984).

One of the earliest activities influenced by management involved thoroughbred racing (Mandel, 1984). Later, sports, such as rugby, cricket and soccer, also embraced a similar style of management. Under the initial sport arrangement, races entailed horse sales or holidays. In the middle of the 18th century, thoroughbred breeding and racing had attracted a wide following among the nobility. Horse owners organized the events, while local breeders arranged races before participants were invited to display their animals.

At the time, horseracing was under the local level of management (Crosset & Hums, 2014). Essentially, the organization was a volunteer arrangement which was under the control of the aristocracy. Regardless of the high level of social stratification in the 18th century, horse races attracted a diverse audience (Mandel, 1984). However, no admission fees were charged as the upper class kept with the tradition of entertaining the masses.

Horse racing was not in line with the capitalist economy, since the owners did not factor in the possibility of generating income from the activity (Crosset & Hums, 2014). It is also noted that, so far as racing remained local, the locality club system organized and oversaw the events. However, with time, the desire to rear and train the strongest horses and the expanding complexity involved in gambling conspired to alter the sporting landscape. With prestige increasing for those with the fastest horses, the urge to bred only horses that can win races took centre stage. By the turn of the 1830s, owners had managed to compete nationally thanks to the completion of railway construction. The management spectrum increased as organizers had to work with jockeys, breeders and owners drawn from a national setting. Put differently, it was time to systematize the management of thoroughbred racing.

An emerging phenomenon at the time was gambling among every class (Mandel, 1984). Since everybody was involved in policing the horse races, it was difficult to execute mischief. However, as time moved, the introduction of new methods made it difficult for the common person to understand how the racing was conducted.

The Jockey Club

The formation of clubs was the earliest step towards standardizing the management of sports. Approximately 1750 noble patrons from Newmarket formed the Jockey Club (Mandel, 1984). The group had the responsibility of establishing rules, settling disputes, designating officials, regulating breeding, determining eligibility and doling punishment to unscrupulous players. Besides, the club also organized and sponsored local activities related to racing. The club also regulated participating in various activities, such as races.

The success attained by the club led to the Newmarket becoming the national centre for racing (Mandel, 1984). The club made lasting contributions towards the regulation of horseracing. The club proved to be a model for sports management in England, as boxing, cricket and other sports adopted the approach. Modern day Olympics takes the club format modeled alongside with the earlier club structure.

Modern Day Club Structure

As already observed, the British Empire influenced the evolution of sports greatly. Contemporary clubs trace their organizational roots to the British system. Club sports, such as the European Football and the US Collegiate Athletics, are good examples (Bower, 2007). European football clubs, Masters Golf Tournament and the Augusta National Golf Club are other illustrative cases of club sports management. However, the predominant structure of the past is being replaced by modern systems. For instance, the Olympics have been transformed into a tournament. Similarly, clubs, such as Real Madrid and Manchester United, have deviated from community ownership/ influence to powerful individuals. It is also apparent that clubs have lost their localness, since an influx of foreign control has become common.

Leagues and Professional Tournaments

Following the unprecedented levels of success scaled by racing and other sports clubs, managers and enthusiasts sought further refinement of sports management. Thus, by 1870s, profit-oriented leagues, such as the one for baseball, were running in the United States (Crosset & Hums, 2014). It is noted that baseball was the first sport to adopt a league format. The William Hulbert’ league was organized based on the club system. Hence, leaders from various clubs played leading roles in setting rules and standards of operation.

In the current times, national leagues are dominant within each sport. Professional sports leagues, however, take into account licensing agreements, naming rights and television deals (Janssen & Dale, 2002). Nevertheless, other leagues are still under consolidated leadership characterized by centrality and close regulations, which are intended to encourage fans.

One of the most apparent developments deals with the experimentation of running leagues in the US. For instance, recently started leagues, such as MLS and WNBA, have tried single-entity structuring where the league owns and runs each team (Bower, 2007). Despite such findings, it is noted that not all sports follow the approach, since tennis and golf are some of the games that do not follow the league pattern.

Tournaments also demonstrate the evolution of sports management. Crosset and Hums (2014) noted that professional tournaments, such as golf and tennis, have roots in the club structuring of sports. Initially, private clubs sponsored tournaments with the view of benefiting members. Professional players who taught members the game were often excluded from competing in such events. In the absence of sponsorship from wealthy individuals, other alternatives became necessary. Such twist of events is attributable to the emergence of professional golf.

Currently, the tournament format of management is predominantly used in golf, Olympics, Paralympics and tennis. Sponsors of the tournaments do not sell events but rather seek to gain popularity. Corporate entities have become major sponsors of tournaments owing to the amount of publicity that the events generate.

Sports Management: An Academic Field

With the evolution within the sports industry, a business orientation emerged. Although it is rarely possible to find individuals who combine both business and sports knowledge, it is increasingly becoming necessary to portray the two sets of characteristics (Crosset & Hums, 2014). Based on the emerging trend, the academic discipline of sports management became a necessity. It is apparent that leagues, tournaments and clubs are the dominant structure used in sports management currently. However, amateur bodies, including the United States Track and Field Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association present a different perspective regarding the running of organizations. With the expansion in the sports industry and growing importance to sponsors, it was a natural development that the field captured the academic community.

Discussion and Conclusion

Running sports remains a critical function both within social, commercial and educational forums. For this reason, students, athletes, clubs, corporate entities and the society gain precious knowledge by concentrating on sports. The growing tendency to commercialize sports has increased the attention paid to the field.

The history of sports management is quite complex. However, the paper makes major findings relating to the field of psychology and management in sports. Philosophically, sports psychology and management entails planning, organizing, directing and controlling sports activities with the view of maximizing the performance of athletes and organizations. Previously, psychology was not deeply involved in sports management. However, with time, the increase in the levels of expectation, the commercialization of the activity and a growing interest in the field have necessitated the adoption of psychological approaches.

The enlisting of a psychological orientation by the sports field is supported by the need to assist participants, among other developments. For example, Pain and Harwood (2004) indicated that managing energy or anxiety is necessary. Jowett (2001), who found that psychologists use their expertise to help players who are aroused, negatively supported the observation. The paper also establishes that some of the techniques employed to control stress, anxiety and anger include breathing exercises, mediation, progressive relaxation, cognitive techniques and visualization or imagery.

Based on the paper, modern-day sports are diverse, unique in given aspects and assume a business and a legal nature. Such attributes require a new management system to suit the environment. It is also apparent that the field of sports has kept changing from time to time. In response to the changes, it is only logical that the management side also evolves. For instance, Buckingham (2005) affirms that managers now have to alter systems or structures to align with emerging needs.

Although the three management structures (clubs, leagues and tournaments) remain reflective of the running of organizations, sports management has become a complex activity. Thus, the industry now requires well-trained individuals to entrust them with management positions. It is apparent that transformation of sports management has taken a social needs dimension as changes emerge based on changing societal expectations. However, the structures that emerged in the last two to three decades remain the basis of sports management.


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