By Karlene Sugarman, Sport Psychology Consultant | The field of sport psychology is growing every day. As a Sport Psychology Consultant currently working in the field, I can honestly say that it is very rewarding work. It is a very interesting and intriguing field, but it is also difficult to make a living purely as a sport psychology consultant. Many people are still skeptical about whether it is necessary to have such a person working with their school, team, club, etc.
There are three main areas to consider if you are interested in getting into the field:
Educational sport psychology emphasizes teaching performance-enhancement skills such as goal setting, focusing, imagery, and arousal control. With educational sport psychology you are working in an athletic environment applying sport psychology techniques.
Clinical sport psychology deals with sports-related psychological problems where expertise in clinical or counseling psychology is helpful. Examples of such problems would be depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders among athletes. Expertise in dealing with these problems allows you to work with both athletes and non-athletes.
Another area is academic sport psychology. Here there is a focus on research and teaching
If you are seriously considering a career in sport psychology I would suggest joining the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP.
This will allow you to receive their newsletter and journal and to become aware of things going on in the world of sport psychology.
Next I would get the Directory of Graduate Programs in Applied Sport Psychology (6th ed.) edited by M. Sachs, K. Burke, L. Butcher, and published by Fitness Information Technology, Inc., of West Virginia. This directory lists all the schools that have sport psychology programs. It tells which ones offer a Master’s degree or PhD and which have internships, plus areas of specialization and lots of other useful information.
If you are still at the undergraduate level, I would suggest looking into doing some sort of internship. For example, get involved with one of the sports teams (observing how teams work). Even if your school does not offer courses in sport psychology (which are still somewhat rare on the undergraduate level) you might be able to do a “directed research” type course in which you read books and write a term paper about sport psychology, while meeting weekly with a faculty member who serves as an advisor while you work independently. Keep in mind, you could only observe and volunteer your time as a student, because until you have some sort of degree or certification you are not qualified to do any sort of consulting or direct sport psychology work.
To be able to call yourself a Sport Psychologist you must have the proper licensing your state requires. Many people call themselves Sport Psychologists without the proper degrees or license, and this can cause problems. Licensing helps maintain “quality control” in the field and insures that someone who calls themselves a Sport Psychologist has the necessary qualifications.
I would also suggest that you do some reading to see what areas are of the greatest interest to you. Some journals you might want to take a look at are:
- Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
- Journal of Applied Sport Psychology
- The Sport Psychologist
- Some books that might be helpful and informative if you are interested in sport psychology are:
- The Mindset for Winning. Curtis, J.D. Wisconsin: Coulee Press.
- Psychological Dynamics of Sport. Gill, D. L. Champaign, Illinois: Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
- The Mental Advantage. Weinberg, R. Champaign, IL: Leisure Press.
- In Pursuit of Excellence. Orlick, T. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.
Hopefully, this has given you some resources and things to think about if you are seriously considering a career in sport psychology. Keep in mind that it will take a lot of hard work, and you will probably have to give a lot of your time away until you get yourself established. Even then you may need to have another job to supplement your income. I am not trying to discourage you; I just want you to be realistic. However, I can also tell you that if you do take this path, it can be very rewarding!