How To Become A Sport Psychologist

Last updated on : July 16 2022

Workout with a trainer.

Introduction

Psychology is an element of research that can be attached to many different areas. When it concerns the world of sport and its events, we call it sports psychology - a fascinating subject that can tackle many underlying issues. 

A sports psychologist works with sporting personalities and teams and deals with performance improvements, primarily through changes in cognitive behavior. 

You can find jobs for a sports psychologist from many reliable sources. Job aggregators such as Jooble post dozens of vacancies that require the use of psychology in various industries. 

Here is how you can work towards gaining such a respectable job title.  

Sport Psychology Definition 

The first thing you need to know about sports psychology is that it is very different to exercise psychology. 

A lot of people have heard of sports physiotherapists. While these specialists help with the body's recovery, a sports psychologist will help with the recovery of the mind. 

They will mainly work with athletes or even coaches for various sports and focus on how psychology can help them overcome mental issues or improve their overall performance. 

The job of a sporting professional can be taxing and risk many possible mental health problems. A sports psychologist can help prepare them for such endeavors.  

Examples of how a sports psychologist can help would be as follows: 

  • Let's say there is a referee who is struggling to cope with managing matches. Quite often, they will be blamed by players for many calls they deem unfair. This blaming can cause a lot of stress and self-doubt for referees. A sports psychologist can help with improving the referee's self-esteem.  
  • A player might struggle with the high expectations their fans place on them. The player might not be able to cope if they fail their fans. Proper therapy and mental training can help the player deal with these mental stresses. 
  • A coach may struggle to handle managing their team. If the team doesn't perform well, they will likely blame themselves and cause a lot of inner turmoil. With proper psychological training, a coach can learn to take the losses healthily and use them to help improve their team further.  

An exercise psychologist can still work in a similar field. Both mental stability and physical stability go hand in hand. The better motivation a sports player has, the better they will perform in training. And this performance can relate significantly to how their audience perceives them or vice versa. 

Ultimately, the main goal is the health and well-being of the player. It is NOT about their performance. A sports psychologist will work with a team of professionals to ensure their physical and mental aspects are appropriately addressed. Often the work includes working with nutritional experts, personal trainers, general practitioners, and so on.  

Why Choose This Career? 

Yoga

Choosing this profession can ignite many different passions. Here are some.

A Passion For The Mind

The first is a passion for the mind and understanding one's self. You will be learning about someone's inner turmoil and working on the way to fix it. Not only will you be the critical element in a separate person's recovery, but you can also play a crucial role in the industry's success. 

These achievements can be fantastic if you also have a passion for sports. And the knowledge you gain can provide extra insight into what your favorite sports stars are going through.  

Travel

Another reason to choose this career is the travel aspect. Since you will never know who might need your help, you could be sent off to various parts of the world. 

Sometimes you will be working within your geographical area. However, professional teams in other locations might personally request you, depending on how recognized you are and how many connections you have. 

International travel is pretty commonplace with many high-profile jobs. If a particular sports event occurs in a specific part of the world, you will no doubt be asked to travel there in attendance. 

The more places you visit, the more you become recognized in the industry. You also get to see exotic locations as part of the business trip.  

The Challenge

A big reason why you may choose this career is the challenge. Becoming a psychologist, in general, is a challenging journey. It requires years of training even to begin to scratch the surface. 

Once you have the job, the real work begins. The biggest challenge will be trying to diagnose the route of the problem and work toward a treatment. 

Sometimes the road to recovery can be a long one. However, once you have finally offered the invaluable help a sports player needs, it can be a rewarding experience. 

Knowing that you have helped a player reach the top of their game and happiness is the true goal of a sports psychologist.    

Education Required 

As mentioned earlier, you will need extensive knowledge to qualify as a sports psychologist. Most US field positions require a master's or doctoral degree in counseling, sports psychology, or clinical psychology. 

Apart from that, don't forget about additional classes and courses in general physiology and sports medicine. These courses might include clinical, counseling, or psychological aspects of sports, medicinal sports applications, and kinesiology. Some work placements might require business and marketing skills as well. 

Many schools will have a majority of all these subjects included in one course due to the significant popularity of the profession. 

If you do not select a school with many of these areas included, try applying for extracurricular sessions that could have them in your learning. 

Once you have decided on a school, you can choose between three main fields of study in your education. 

1. Applied sports psychology. 

Applied sports psychology teaches players to enhance their athletic abilities through the mind. Players learn to work towards goals that improve their well-being. 

2. Clinical sports psychology. 

Here, you learn to combine mental training with psychotherapy. Clinical sports psychology uses various medical treatments to help players with their mental health problems. 

3. Academia

The third area you can learn is on the academic side. You can absorb theoretical knowledge on sports psychology in the hopes of teaching at schools or courses. You can also research your niche part of sports psychology to produce academic reports to help other professionals. 

Work Experience Required 

Doing exercise

It isn't just a long time of education that is needed. Work experience can prove invaluable in getting yourself a job later down the line. 

You can find many relevant internships related to the educational courses you take. Your school or classes might advertise such internships so you can get more experience while studying. 

Sometimes you can find these opportunities while working abroad. You may even be sent abroad for an internship as part of your education, kicking in the travel aspect that can make the profession so tempting.  

There are many ways to gain relevant experience. You can try gyms or sports centers to follow the professionals who work there. These could be coaches training a team or a personal trainer who works with individuals. Or it might even involve you in coaching as well. 

You can learn about what goes into players' training and gain more insight into their minds. From this angle, you gain experience in knowing players on a more sympathetic level. 

Try volunteering as well; this is something a lot of psychologists will also approve of on a CV.  

Looking For The Job 

There are two main ways to find work as a sports psychologist. 

1. Freelancing

The first way is by trying freelancing. You can offer your services as part of your business and advertise yourself to find potential clients. The work may be slow, but the hard work towards building clientele can earn you a steady profit. 

Professional freelancers can make a possible $1,000 per day. But at the highest level, specialists in NFL teams can make over $100,000-200,000 a year. Of course, thanks to a long list of athletes, innovative facilities, and incredibly lucrative competition, sports psychologists can expect their piece of the pie. 

The downside for a freelancer is that getting services from other urgently needed areas for treatment can be much more complex. These services include working with GPs, nutritionists, and professional medical equipment.  

2. Hired Into An Organisation.

The second way is a little more secure than freelancing but is more competitive. It's the option of being hired by a public or private organization. 

The more experience you have in varied areas, the more sought after you are for your services. If you land a job, you will have access to funding and more medical platforms to help treat clients. You could work alongside a personal trainer and coaches as part of a larger team and will get paid a salary.  

Conclusion

There are many positive reasons to become a sports psychologist, especially if you are passionate about sports. Although it takes effort to acquire the skills, the work is challenging yet rewarding and is often well paid, with the potential for travel locally or internationally.  

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