Career and Job Search Guide

Sports Psychologist

Sports psychologists focus on psychological factors that may be preventing athletes from performing their best during athletic events. Frequently, mental factors are impediments to an individual's success. Athletes who are aware of how mental and physical stamina are linked can often outperform their competition.

Sports psychologists make similar recommendations as other psychologists. Even though they deal with less serious problems, sports psychologists, like other psychologists, try to get their patients to realize how their psyche can affect their behavior, or as in the case of athletes, their performance.

Since cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on reaching specific goals, this is the preferred treatment utilized by many sports psychologists.

For example, a baseball player with a high batting average struggling to hit the ball can benefit after meeting with a sports psychologist. To treat this player, a sports psychologist may simply get the player to visualize hitting the ball. This may seem simplistic, but it can benefit struggling athletes.

If visualization does not work, the sports psychologist can recommend the baseball player utilize relaxation strategies prior to each trip to the plate. This can relieve stress and help the player focus while at bat. If this strategy is ineffective, the sports psychologist could recommend hypnosis.

Sports psychologists usually select treatments that best coincide with individual personalities. They also frequently develop treatment strategies after counseling sessions with athletes since sports psychologists can learn more about personal problems that can affect athletic performance from these sessions.

Sports psychologists working with young athletes often involve parents in their children's therapy. Young athletes whose parents encourage them to actively follow the advice of their sports psychologist more often than not overcome their mental barriers to athletic success.

In addition to a thorough knowledge of human psychology, sports psychologists must also understand physiology and principles of health. Very talented and knowledgeable sports psychologists can find research and teaching opportunities and continue to meet with athletes.

Many sports psychologists consult with people and organizations not involved with athletic competition. Sports trainers, coaches, and other people involved with sports heavily rely upon the research conducted by sports psychologists.

People interested in sports psychology must complete a graduate program. Those interested in working with professional athletes and franchises must usually possess a PhD.