Coleman Griffith & Sports Psychology

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of sport psychology and learn about the father of sport psychology, Coleman Griffith. You will learn about the accolades that Griffith has received, his achievements, his failures, and his famous writings. You will learn about his personal life and career.

What Is Sport Psychology?

Sport psychology is a discipline within the field of psychology that focuses on personality, performance, well-being, goal setting, self-esteem, confidence, and the quality of life of the players and coaches on a sports team. Sport psychologists counsel players in areas such as depression, anxiety, stress, lack of motivation, pain management (from sport injuries) and anger management. Sport psychologists have a doctorate in psychology, a license to practice psychology, and a specialization in sports psychology.

Who Is Coleman Griffith?

The famous and quirky owner of the Chicago Cubs, Phillip Wrigley, believed that voodoo could help the Cubs win games by putting evil curses on the opposing team. Because of his unconventional practices and eccentricity, some fans were not surprised when Wrigley hired sports psychologist, Coleman Griffith, to utilize some of his psychological powers to help the Cubs in the 1938 opening season. But many fans and sports writers were dubious that a sports psychologist could do anything to help the Cubs perform.

Phillip K. Wrigley, former owner of Wrigley chewing gum company and the Chicago Cubs, hired Griffith to work for the Cubs as their sport psychologist in 1938.
Image of Phillip K. Wrigley

Fast forward to 1970 at the University of Massachusetts. Professors Walter Kroll and Guy Lewis unveiled some of Griffiths inspirational writings on sports psychology and subsequently honored him with the title, 'America's First Sport Psychologist.' He is also presently known as the founder or father of sports psychology. Nowadays, the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology gives an award in his name every year to a notable sport psychologist. This is Coleman Griffith's legacy.

Coleman Griffith was considered the the founder, father and official first sport psychologist.
Image of Coleman Griffith

Biography

Let's look at his early and personal life, career, and the field of sports psychology more in detail.

Early Life

Coleman Roberts Griffith was born the first of four children in May 22, 1893 in Iowa. He went to Greenville College in Illinois, where he met his wife, Mary Louise Coleman. While at Greenville College, he was class president his freshman year, member of the male quartet, on the basketball and baseball teams, and an organizer of various gymnastics events.

Start of Professional Career

He went on to study psychology at the University of Illinois. It was at the University of Illinois that he established a sports psychology laboratory called the 'Research in Athletics Laboratory' to study performance of athletes from a psychological perspective. Griffith was the first person to establish a sports psychology lab.

It was in this lab that he would study University of Illinois football players' personality features and psychomotor abilities. He was passionate and interested in how players learned and cultivated their athletic skills. The lab shut down in the early 1930s, some say due to financial reasons. Other theories is that some school officials and decision makers were not ready for the incorporation of psychology into athletics.

During Griffith's career with the University of Illinois, he wrote some articles and books which are now considered fundamental writings in the field of sports psychology. In 1926, he published the book The Psychology of Coaching. In 1928, he published the book, Psychology and Athletics. During his career with the University of Illinois, Griffith was a key contributor to The Athletic Journal.

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