If you’re looking for ways to combine a love of athletics with an interest in psychology, you might want to discover how to become a sports psychologist. This field of psychology is growing in popularity and has job openings at many different levels, from amateur sports clubs to professional teams. Sports psychologists work with athletes at various levels to help them achieve their goals while staying mentally fit and finding a good balance between their sports goals and other areas of their lives. Given the ongoing popularity of sports in our culture, it is likely that this will continue to be an important and expanding field.
The Work of a Sports Psychologist
Sports psychology applies psychological training and principles to the world of sport. It involves helping athletes perform well, whether they are solo or team performers, while staying mentally and emotionally healthy as they work on their physical conditioning. It may involve helping athletes learn to manage stress, something that can understandably become quite intense for professional and world-class athletes, but can also become part of the lives of high school and college athletes. Sports psychologists sometimes help their patients with techniques, such as mental visualization, that provide them with ways to sharpen their focus and concentration. Teams or training centers sometimes hire sports psychologists to work as part of their staff, or they might use a sports psychologist in a consultative role. If you end up on the staff of a team, your work might require a good deal of travel.
Educational Pathways Into the Career
A sports psychologist has to have expertise in both parts of the job. In general, you will need to hold at least a masters level degree and probably a doctorate in order to practice, according to the American Psychology Association. Although the field is still developing, there are some university programs that have developed specific sports psychology degrees. The American Psychological Association has recognized it as a graduate field, so the parameters and standards for the field continue to develop. In some schools, you might get a main degree in counseling or education psychology but with a concentration in sports psychology. Whether you get a specific degree or a concentration as part of a wider psychological discipline, you will need to take classes that will equip you to work with athletes, including kinesiology and sports medicine.
If you know early enough in your education that you want to pursue sports psychology, you can explore bachelor level degrees in psychology and see if you can either find a sports major or tailor a concentration. The Association for Applied Sport Psychology has a list of undergraduate programs in the discipline, some with majors and some with minors.
Related Resource: Careers in Experimental Psychology
If you’re serious out pursuing a career in sports psychology, it can be a good idea to talk to someone already at work in the field. Since it’s still relatively new and developing, getting counsel from someone with experience can be invaluable as you look into how to become a sports psychologist.