Sport psychology applies to a broad population base. Although some professionals use sport psychology to help elite athletes achieve peak performance, many other sport psychologists are concerned more with children, people who have physical or mental disabilities, seniors, and recreational participants.
More and more sport psychologists have focused on the psychological factors involved in exercise and health, developing strategies for encouraging sedentary people to exercise or assessing the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for depression. To reflect this broadening of interests, the field is now called sport and exercise psychology. Some individuals focus only on the exercise- and health-related aspects of the field.
Specializing in Sport Psychology
Contemporary sport psychologists pursue a variety of careers. They serve three primary roles in their professional activities:
- Conducting research
A primary function of participants in any scholarly field is to advance the knowledge in the field by conducting research.
Most sport and exercise psychologists in a university conduct research. They might, for example, study what motivates children to be involved in youth sport, how imagery influences proficiency in golf putting, how running for 20 minutes four times a week affects an exerciser’s anxiety levels, or what the relationship is between movement education and self-concept among elementary physical education students.
Today, sport and exercise psychologists are members of multidisciplinary research teams that study problems such as exercise adherence, the psychology of athletic injuries, how combat athletes (soldiers) can improve performance, and the role of exercise in the treatment of HIV. Sport psychologists then share their findings with colleagues and participants in the field. This sharing produces advances, discussion, and healthy debate at professional meetings.
Many sport and exercise psychology specialists teach university courses such as exercise and health psychology, applied sport psychology, and the social psychology of sport. These specialists may also teach courses such as personality psychology or developmental psychology if they work in a psychology department, or courses such as motor learning and control or sport sociology if they work in a kinesiology or sport science program.
A third role is consulting with individual athletes or athletic teams to develop psychological skills for enhancing competitive performance and training. Olympic committees and some major universities employ full-time sport psychology consultants, and hundreds of other teams and athletes use consultants on a part-time basis for psychological skills training. Some sport psychologists now work with the military to help prepare troops for peak performance, and others work with surgeons to help them perfect their surgical skills. Many sport psychology consultants work with coaches through clinics and workshops.
Some sport and exercise psychologists now work in the fitness industry, designing exercise programs that maximize participation and promote psychological and physical well-being. Some consultants work as adjuncts to support a sports medicine or physical therapy clinic, providing psychological services to injured athletes.
How You Can Help
Sport Psychology Coaches have endless opportunities to work with athletes ranging from beginning to professional and all points in between. Some coaches build businesses working with youth athletes. Others specialize in sports such as triathlon. Other coaches work with teams in the college and pro ranks. There are no limits to what is possible for your career.
Spencer Institute certification programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.