History of the Mental Game

Prior to 1893 I cannot find in my research a single reference to a mental coach or a sports psychologist in history.  The idea that a person could be taught to improve his performance by changing his attitude seems to be a relatively new idea.

Norman Triplett – “The first sport psychologist is thought to be Norman Triplett. Born in 1861, Norman would press onward to become a psychologist at Indiana University. Later, in 1893, he completed his experiment on the effects of social facilitation. This would later be deemed “the first sports psychology experiment ever performed”

Coleman Griffith established the first sport psychology lab in North America. This laboratory was located at the University of Illinois. Much of Griffith’s experiment had a heavy emphasis on being applicable to the ‘real world’ Griffith worked directly with both the Chicago Cubs and with Knute Rockne and the University of Notre Dame football team to enhance the performance of athletes who played on these teams.

Dale Carnegie publishes How to Win Friends and Influence People This book starts the self-help revolution, a period we are still in today.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz publishes Psycho Cybernetics, the first book to coin the term Self-Image.  Self-Image is what makes you act like you and is a key element to winning.

North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA). Formed in 1967 when the group had their first recorded meeting. Currently, there are three professional organizations for Sport Psychology.

Lanny Bassham chokes at the Olympics and begins to interview Olympic champions about their mental game.

The first use of the Mental Management system to win a world title when Lanny Bassham wins 15 medals at the World Shooting Championships in Thun Switzerland, 8 Gold, 5 Silver and 2 Bronze with 4 world records.

The first Olympic Gold Medal using Mental Management. (Lanny Bassham Smallbore 3-position event). It will be 8 years before sports psychology appears at the Olympic Games.

Mental Management Systems is started as a company and Lanny Bassham begins to teach Olympic teams and individual athletes Mental Management.

Sport Psychology made its first appearance at the 1984 Olympic Games. The practice reached it’s way into several of the events including: skiing, archery, shooting, boxing, cycling, fencing, synchronized swimming, track and field, volleyball, weight lifting. Interestingly enough, it failed to be credentialed by the USOC; none of the psychologists were able to provide on-site consultation during actual competition.

From the 1980’s to the present mental management, sports psychology and the value of mental training has grown in acceptance.  It is not uncommon today for elite athletes to credit the mental game as being as much as 90% of their sport.  It is common to see articles about mental game issues in sport publications and many of the top selling non-fiction books published today are on subjects relating to the mind and attitudes (Outliers, Blink, Talent is Overated).