School Sports Psychology, Perspectives, Programs and Procedures
by Charles A. Maher, The Hayworth Press, Inc., Binghampton, NY, 2006, 193 pp, $24.95 softcover.
This book is an interesting collection of articles discussing the need for and scope of practice of sports psychologists, especially in the middle and high school settings. The editor, Charles Maher, starts with a brief description of the American school system, the place of psychologists in that system, and the emergence of and value of a focus on psychologists wording with athletes and through athletic programs in the schools. Each of the ensuing articles has been published separately in various journals, but, together they explain well the role for sports psychology, both related to the specific needs of student within their sports programs and to their more general needs as developing adolescents and young adults.
The first article gives a history of the roots of sports psychology in general, internationally and in professional and elite sports. It lists resources for further information about the topic as a field and organizations related to, practicing, or supporting sports psychology. The second article brings the topic to the high school and middle school context. The authors emphasize the number of youth involved in school sports throughout the country, and how teams are a good setting for working with youth, a theme repeated by many of the other authors in the book. The article describes where, in the school setting, the sports psychologist can be helpful - working with student athletes and their team members, coaches, school personnel and families on issues of specific concern to athletes, in their sports and beyond sports in their day-to-day lives.
The rest of the articles describe and discuss the school sports setting as a good place to help student athletes improve their overall development, and as a good setting for prevention work in substance abuse and eating disorders - both common problems in adolescence but even more common among athletes. The first of these articles describes a program for helping youth learn to balance many demands in their lives and develop the interpersonal skills and personal resources they need to enjoy and succeed in their sports and in life including but not exclusive to sports. Several articles describe programs that help athletes learn to recognize the dangers of and avoid the use of substances of abuse - not just the “performance enhancing” substances they will encounter in their sports activities, but all substances of abuse including tobacco, alcohol and other “recreational” drugs. Eating disorders and programs to prevent them are also described. Each program uses the talents of peer athletes, and the interest in athletic success to focus attention on the related topics of good health, good health habits, and avoidance of behaviors that can decrease the athletes' successes in their sport and in their lives beyond sports.
This is a very interesting book for those who enjoy working with youth in the setting of school athletic departments, and organized sports. It also points out the need for more work in those settings, in research, program development and practice.
Conleth M. C. Crotser, MD, MPH
Lorain County Health and Dentistry