Jaume Cruz
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Bellaterra (Barcelona)



Sport Psychology in Spain has a short history. However, several pioneers played a major role in the international recognition of this discipline, in the foundation of the International Society of Sport Psychology and in the organization of the 1st and 3rd World Sport Psychology Congresses. Despite that, Sport Psychology did not excite much interest among Spanish psychologists until the mid eighties. There was a predominance of laboratory research on perceptual motor skills and personality, during the sixties and seventies.Followed, from 1985 onwards by work on motor development, coach assessment and psychological preparation for competition. In the last decade, Sport Psychology in Spain has consolidated its status among scholars and scientists and is responsible for the creation of stable jobs in Sports' clubs and federations. There is a nexus between this development and the Olympic and Paralympic Games of Barcelona'92.

1.HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO SPORT PSYCHOLOGY IN SPAIN As in most countries, Sport Psychology in Spain has a short history. In fact - despite pioneering efforts in several countries by individual scientists or scholars- this subject did not receive international recognition as an independent discipline until the 1st World Congress of Sport Psychology held in Rome in 1965. Two important consequences of this congress were the foundation of the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) and the later appearance, in 1970, of the International Journal of Sport Psychology. Thus, it was as recent as 25 years ago that Sport Psychology became institutionalized both as a discipline and a field of research and application.

In Spain, due to the fact that the predoctoral degree in Psychology (Licenciatura= 5 years) was not established until 1968, it is not surprising that the first contributions to Sport Psychology should come from three professionals who worked in similar fields: José María Cagigal (Ph,D. in Physical Education and a Licenciatura in Philosophy and Humanities), the psychiatrist Josep Ferrer Hombravella and the pedagogue Josep Roig Ibañez.

While Cagigal paid special attention to philosophical and sociological issues on the phenomenon of sports, he was also very interested in the psychological aspects as is clear from his papers on "Psychopedagogy of sports" (1962), "The psychological phenomenon in sports" (1963), "Psychology of sports. Psychology of what?" (1974) and "Sports and aggression" (1976). Besides being a "savant", Cagigal was a man of action who operationalized his ideas, notably by the creation of the National Institute of Physical Education (INEF) in Madrid. The Program Planning of this Institute included an Introductory Psychology course. It was quite a promising beginning.

In Spain, as in Italy and France, the first empirical studies in Sport Psychology were carried out in research centres of Sport Medicine. In the "Sport Medicine Centre" at the Blume Residence of Barcelona, (founded in 1962 for the internship training of sporstmen and sportswomen), Roig Ibañez established the first Sport Psychology laboratory in Spain. Here, sports abilities and skills were diagnosed by means of pencil and paper tests as well as a series of reaction time, perception, concentration and vigilance tests. This followed the psychotechnics tradition, the application of psychological principles to the changing or control of sport behaviour. The personality profiles of athletes were also assessed and the group dynamics of sport teams evaluated. Their findings and reports were published in the bulletin produced by the Centre: Apuntes de Medicina Deportiva (Notes on Sport Medicine), created in 1964. Both Ferrer-Hombravella and Roig Ibañez were on the Editorial Board. The Sport Psychology laboratory has been the research centre with the highest uninterrupted production of empirical work on Sport Psychology in Spain. The second director of this laboratory was Gloria Balagué.

The idea of organizing Sport Psychology at an international level was planned in Spain, at a Congress of Sport Medicine held in Barcelona in 1963. This was due, as Salmela (1981) points out, to the close relation between Sport Medicine and Sport Psychology in Spain. At this congress José María Cagigal, Ferruccio Antonelli and Michel Bouet discussed and shared their common interests in the psychological aspects of sport and emphasized the advantage of organizing an International Congress of Sport Psychology. They declared themselves prepared to go to any lengths to achieve this purpose. Two years later, Antonelli proposed this idea and organized the 1st World Congress of Sport Psychology, in Rome. At this Congress the ISSP was founded, and Antonelli was elected President. Ferrer-Hombravella -who had been a member of the Organizing Committee of the Congress- was elected General Secretary.

The involvement of Spanish participants in making a success of the 1st World Congress of Sport Psychology and their role in the foundation of the ISSP, favoured their proposal to organize the 3rd World Congress of Sport Psychology, which took place at the INEF of Madrid, in 1973. However, these efforts at international level had little impact in our country for several reasons: a) the first group of university graduates in a Department of Psychology with a specialized curriculum in Scientific Psychology received their predoctoral degree that same year; b) in the whole country there was only one INEF and, c) no organised work groups interested in applying psychology to sport existed. Research teams and career perspectives must come together to favour the existence of a discipline in the scientific community and the existence of professionals and practitioners of that discipline.

In summary it can be pointed out that -in spite of the important work of Spanish pioneers in the initial stages of the establishment of Sport Psychology as a discipline- towards the end of the seventies there were only two small nuclei of people working in Sport Psychology in the INEFS of Madrid and Barcelona. More general interest in Sport Psychology did not manifest itself until the mid eighties; the Catalan Association of Sport Psychology (ACPE) was founded in 1983 to advocate this field of expertise. Since then, this Association has celebrated annual Meetings and, in 1986, organized the 1st National Congress of Psychology of Physical Activity and Sport, in which the ISSP Executive Council also participated. This Congress proposed the idea of a Spanish Federation of Associations of Psychology of Physical Activity and Sport which was eventually created in 1987. The same year a Sport Psychology Section was created at the Madrid Territorial Office of the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos (COP); which organizes regular meetings and develop annual programms and activities (See Cruz et al, 1990).


In Spain, it is possible to detect a first phase (1960-84) in the evolution of Sport Psychology in which laboratory research on reaction time, perceptual motor learning and descriptive studies of the athlete's personality were predominant. A second phase began around 1985 and was characterized by an increase in the influence of the work of Spanish sport psychologists with particular importance being paid to the psychological preparation of athletes. During the eighties, although there were still important publications on basic topics like reaction time (Roca, 1983a) and motor learning (Gordillo and Ormo, 1990), reviews about the state of the art on subjects such as motor development (Oña, 1987; Roca, 1983b and Ruíz, 1987), technique and sports-tactics learning (Riera, 1989) and Sport Psychology in general (Cruz and Riera, 1991; Marrero, 1988; Palmi, 1984 and Riera, 1985) were also published.

The systematic efforts for collecting descriptive behavioural data in naturalistic settings in order to improve the psychological training of the athletes began at that time and have increased progressively. Most psychological skills training programmes were structured according to the specific demands and characteristics of a particular sport (Buceta, 1985; Burballa, Oliva and Palmi, 1989; Capdevila, 1990; Galilea, 1990 and Pérez, Santigosa and Roca, 1989). The programmes emphasize a personal development model (Danish and Hale, 1981), instead of a narrow performance enhancement model. The techniques most commonly used with the aforementioned programmes were Imagery, Physical Relaxation, Stress Inoculation Training, Stress Management Training and Goal Setting.

Towards the end of the eighties, "new" research areas in Sport Psychology appeared, such as assessment and intervention with youth coaches; the development of behavioural strategies for the compliance of physical exercise programs; the injured athlete; the eating disorders in gymnasts and track and field female athletes and fairplay in young soccer players. Of these subjects, the behavioral assessment of youth sport coaches has been the main area of research, during the last five years. At the Autonoma University of Barcelona, Cruz and his coworkers, using the Coaching Behavior Assessment System, assessed the behavior of youth basketball coaches in order to obtain their behavioral profiles in competition games and evaluated the effectiveness of a behavioral coaching training with a experimental group of coaches. According to their results, behavioral coaching was an effective technique to significantly decrease coaches' punitive responses and increase remarkably positive reinforcement as well as technical and tactical instruction.(See Cruz, 1987; Ruíz et alii, 1990).

The increase in the quantity and quality of research which has contributed to the present standing of Sport Psychology in Spain has been brought about by a series of factors: a) the recognition, in 1982, of Physical Education as a subject for the award of a Higher Education Degrees (Licenciatura en Educación Física = 5 years in the University)(See Salmela and Riera, 1992); b) the introduction of Sport Psychology in the curriculum of Psychology students (as an optional course) in the Faculty of Psychology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona during the academic year of 1982-83; c) the creation of seven new INEF centres (with the direct consequence of stable jobs for Sport Psychologists); d) the commencement, as of 1986, of Doctorate programmes in four of the INEF centres -with a significant number of courses in different aspects of Motor Learning and Sport Psychology; e) the beginning of two Master's degree Programmes on Sport Psychology at the Autonomous Universities of Madrid and Barcelona; and, f) the inclusion of "Research in Sport" as one the priority areas within the National Research Plan.

This series of circumstances have favoured the completion of eleven Doctoral Dissertations and the publication of nine books about Sport Psychology in the last decade in this country. At the same time, there was an increase in the number of articles on Sport Psychology published in different scientific journals such as: "Apunts. Educació Física i Esports" ("Notes on Physical Education and Sports"),"Apunts. Medicina de l'Esport" ("Notes on Sport Medicine"), the Revista de Investigación y Documentación en Ciencias de la Educación Física y el Deporte (Journal of Research and Documentation on the Sciences of Physical Education and Sports) and, particularly, in the recently appeared Revista de Psicología del Deporte (Journal of Sport Psychology). Other important studies of Spanish authors -not mentioned here because of space limitations- have been published in the Proceedings of the seven Meetings, already edited, by ACPE, in the books of the National Congresses of Sport Psychology, in the volume 10 of the Proceedings of the 2nd National Congress of Psychology (sponsored by the Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos) and in monographic issues on Sport Psychology of different spanish journals.


The progress in the application of Sport Psychology in Spain is more modest than that in the teaching and research fields. However, by 1985, Sport Psychologists have obtained contracts of employment in Public Institutions such as Peak Performance Centres, Technification Centres, General Secretariats of Sport, Research Centres in Sport Medicine or Municipal Centres which promote the regular practice of Sport in the Community (see Cruz et al.,1990).

At the same time, there are still few private clubs or Sport Federations that have a sport psychologist as part of their technical staff. However, in the last five years, several psychologists have worked -and some still do- with Federations such as those of basketball, cycling, ice-hockey, tennis, gymnastics, weight-lifting, fencing, field hochey, soccer, winter sports and in private clubs for athletics, soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis and volley-ball, especially in Catalonia, Madrid, Andalucia and Valencia. Many of these entries into private practice have been of a temporary nature, reflecting the absence of a specific role for practitioners of Sport Psychology in our country. Not to paint too negative a picture, it has to be noted that some of these experiences have been more long term and have shown positive results, such as the psychological preparation of children at beginner-level tennis and the counseling of their coaches in a private club (Puig, 1990). Another example is the psychological intervention in the elite teams, such as that carried out with the national ice-hockey team, during the training period and matches in the last world championship in Argentina (Palmi, 1990).

By September 1992, the Spanish first division soccer teams are predominant in the European Community when it comes to employing psychologists. Albacete F.C., Sporting Gijon F.C.and Real Madrid F.C. have contracted expert psychologists. The Sporting Gijon F.C has two psychologists working with young teams in techniques such as imagery and concentration. It seems that there are no so many expert psychologists regularly employed in a similar way in the British, French, Italian or German Leagues. Other soccer teams have already started to study and discuss the contribution of psychological expertise in dealing with specific pressures. It is accepted now that trainers and coaches cannot be self-sufficient in the understanding of human behaviour during training and match play (Prieto, 1992).

The future prospects of Sport Psychology in Spain look good and, at the same time, challenging. This positive attitude is justified by the fact that: a) Sport Psychology has become more consolidated because of the existing courses in Sport Psychology in the curriculum design of the nine Faculties of Physical Education. It is also an important part of the Doctorate programmes of these centres. In Faculties of Psychology progress has been slower, although in the Autonomous University of Barcelona, there has been, since 1989, a tenured position for a professor in this speciality. Ten other faculties are awaiting the reform of the Curriculum Design in Psychology to introduce Sport Psychology as an optional course; b) in several INEF centres and in the Faculties of Psychology at Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca, there are now a number of Sport Psychology research groups; and c) the expectations and needs created by the celebration of the Olympic Games, in 1992, in Barcelona and the 22 medals obtained by spanish athletes enable us to foresee a slight increase in stable jobs and in the number of practitioners. In fact, 11 Spanish sport psychologists were delivering psychological services to Spanish Olympic teams of the last Olympiad, both winter and summer games. In the second and third issue of the Revista de Psicología del Deporte (Journal of Sport Psychology) they review their own contribution, summarizing their own philosophy of service delivery, the range of services provided, how these services were organized and what their effectiveness was. Moreover, Gloria Balagué, the second director of the Sport Laboratory in Barcelona was one of the expert psychologists with the U.S track and field team. Her professional prestige has been already reinforced at an international level.

The prospects are challenging, because the future of Sport Psychology in Spain will depend basically on: a) the training that future professionals will receive in the newly initiated Master's Degrees and the preparation that coaches and technicians will receive in their federations; b) the lines of research which might be developed in each Faculty of Physical Education and in each Faculty of Psychology in collaboration with the Federations, State and Territorial Institutions of Sport; and c) the success of practitioners in their new jobs in Sport clubs and Federations. Daily the mass media pays a lot of attention to Sport. This is a critical factor in the prestige of this speciality.


                           JOSÉ RAMÓN CORREAS GONZALEZ
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