Career Development

What Does a Sports Psychologist Do?

Find out what a sports psychologist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a sports psychologist.

Sports psychologists are trained professionals who work with athletes and other physically active individuals to help them improve their performance, overcome obstacles, and achieve their goals.

Sports psychologists may also work with non-athletes who want to improve their health or well-being through exercise. They commonly provide counseling services that focus on helping people develop healthier habits and attitudes toward physical activity.

Sports Psychologist Job Duties

Sports psychologists typically have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Assessing athletes’ mental health using psychological tests, interviews, and observations of their behavior in different settings
  • Providing emotional support to athletes during stressful periods such as competition or injury rehabilitation
  • Developing customized training programs to improve athletic performance, such as improving reaction time or strengthening muscles
  • Working with coaches to help them improve their communication skills with players
  • Conducting research on topics such as sports injuries, exercise physiology, and sports psychology
  • Providing therapy to athletes who need emotional support or who are struggling with personal issues
  • Diagnosing mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression using clinical assessment tools such as questionnaires or psychological tests
  • Teaching athletes how to handle pressure situations and how to perform effectively under stress
  • Teaching social skills to children with disabilities who have difficulty interacting with others

Sports Psychologist Salary & Outlook

Sports psychologists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of organization they work for. They may also earn additional income through freelance work or consulting fees.

  • Median Annual Salary: $82,500 ($39.66/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $163,000 ($78.37/hour)

The employment of sports psychologists is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade.

Demand for sports psychologists depends largely on the popularity of various types of sports. As more people participate in activities such as rock climbing, yoga, and obstacle course racing, demand for sports psychologists will increase. However, because many people are familiar with the benefits of exercise and sports, demand may not increase as much as the overall population growth rate.

Sports Psychologist Job Requirements

A sports psychologist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most sports psychologists have at least a master’s degree, and many have a doctoral degree. A master’s program in psychology or a related field can prepare students for a career as a sports psychologist. These programs include coursework in research methods, statistics, experimental design, cognitive psychology, counseling, and mental health.

Training & Experience: Most sports psychologists will complete a training period while working under a licensed sports psychologist. During this time, they will learn the skills and techniques necessary to work independently. They will also learn how to apply their education to real-world scenarios.

Certifications & Licenses: Most states require sports psychologists to obtain a license to practice there. To earn a license, you must have a doctoral degree and at least 1,000 hours of supervised professional experience. Then, you must pass the Praxis exam, which is administered by the Educational Testing Service.

Many sports psychologists also earn a certification to show their skills and knowledge in a specific sport.

Sports Psychologist Skills

Sports psychologists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is the act of conveying information to others. As a sports psychologist, you may need to communicate with athletes, coaches, team managers and other staff members. You can use your communication skills to explain the importance of mental health and how it can affect an athlete’s performance. You can also use your communication skills to help athletes understand their mental health issues and how to overcome them.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s perspective and feelings. As a sports psychologist, empathy can help you connect with clients and help them feel comfortable opening up about their personal experiences. For example, if a client is an athlete who is struggling to overcome an injury, you can use empathy to understand their feelings and perspectives and help them overcome their challenges.

Stress management: Stress management is the ability to help individuals reduce stress and find healthy ways to cope with stress. This is an important skill for sports psychologists because many of their clients may experience stress from their athletic performance or other factors in their lives.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills allow a sports psychologist to identify the source of an athlete’s problem and develop a solution to overcome it. They may use this skill to help an athlete overcome a mental obstacle, such as a fear of failure, or a physical obstacle, such as an injury. They may also use problem-solving skills to help an athlete improve their performance.

Research: As a sports psychologist, you may be required to conduct research to support your treatment methods. For example, you may research the most effective methods for reducing anxiety in athletes. This research can help you develop treatment plans that are more effective than traditional methods.

Sports Psychologist Work Environment

Sports psychologists work with athletes of all levels, from amateur to professional, to help them improve their performance and overcome psychological barriers. They work with individuals, teams, and coaches to provide psychological support and guidance. Sports psychologists typically work full time, and some may work evenings or weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules. They may travel to meet with clients or to attend sporting events. The work can be demanding and stressful, but it can also be very rewarding.

Sports Psychologist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how sports psychologists work. Sports psychologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Esports

The growth of esports is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity around the world. This is due to the fact that esports offers players the opportunity to compete at a high level and be recognized for their skills.

As esports continues to grow, sports psychologists will need to develop new methods for helping players improve their mental game. This may include developing strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety, as well as improving focus and concentration.

More Focus on Mental Health in Sports

Mental health has become a growing concern in the sports industry, as more and more athletes are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Sports psychologists can help address this issue by providing counseling services and developing programs to help athletes manage their emotions. They can also work with coaches and team owners to create a more supportive environment for athletes.

A More Diverse Workforce

The diversity of the workforce is increasing across all industries, and sports psychology is no exception.

As more people from different backgrounds enter the field, sports psychologists will need to learn how to work with them effectively. They will also need to be able to understand the cultural differences that may affect how clients respond to treatment.

In addition, sports psychologists will need to be able to communicate effectively with other professionals in the field, such as coaches and trainers. This will allow them to collaborate on projects and share ideas.

How to Become a Sports Psychologist

A career as a sports psychologist can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to work with athletes at all levels, from amateurs to professionals. You’ll also have the chance to help people of all ages improve their physical and mental fitness.

To become a sports psychologist, you’ll need a graduate degree in psychology or counseling. You’ll also want to become certified by the Association for Applied Sports Psychology (AASP). This will show potential clients that you have the necessary training and experience to provide effective services.

Related: How to Write a Sports Psychologist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Sports psychologists typically advance in their careers by taking on more responsibility and/or obtaining more education. As they gain experience, they may be promoted to positions with more responsibility, such as team leader or department head. Those with advanced degrees may become research directors or move into teaching positions at the college level. Some sports psychologists may open their own private practices.

Sports Psychologist Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we understand that success on the playing field starts with a sound mind. We are looking for a sports psychologist to join our team and help our athletes perform at their highest levels by teaching them the importance of mental training and helping them to develop the necessary skills. The ideal candidate will have experience working with athletes of all levels, from amateur to professional. He or she will be able to create individualized programs based on the needs of the athlete, and will have the ability to work with athletes from a variety of different sports.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Understand how psychological factors affect athletic performance
  • Help athletes improve their focus, motivation, and confidence
  • Teach athletes how to control their emotions during competition
  • Help athletes deal with the pressure of competing
  • Help athletes recover from injuries
  • Help athletes cope with the disappointment of losing
  • Help athletes manage their time and energy levels
  • Help athletes set realistic goals
  • Help athletes stay positive after making mistakes
  • Help coaches create a positive team environment
  • Help athletes deal with the media
  • Help athletes transition to retirement

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Doctoral degree in psychology or related field
  • Board certified sports psychologist
  • 5+ years experience working with athletes in a clinical setting
  • Strong understanding of mental training principles and their application to sport
  • Ability to develop positive relationships with athletes and coaches
  • Excellent communication, writing, and presentation skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Experience working with elite-level athletes
  • Experience working with a variety of different sports teams
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish)
  • Experience with performance enhancement techniques such as hypnosis and biofeedback

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