Shadowing a DoctorDecember 30, 2013
Sports psychology is a specialized field that covers a broad range of topics including:
- Motivating a person to persist and achieve beyond their normal expectations
- Counseling techniques that can be used with athletes
- Psychological considerations in sport injuries
- Performance enhancement
- Exercise adherence
- Self-regulation techniques
- Self-perceptions that are related to achievement
- Assessing talent and well-being
- Expertise in sport especially youth sport
Contrary to popular perception, sports psychology is not restricted to only professional athletics. In fact, this specialty area covers a wide range of clinical, scientific and applied topics pertaining to exercise and sports.
There are 2 main areas of interest in the field of sports psychology. The first area is in understanding how psychology is applied to enhance motivation and performance and the second is in understanding how athletics and sports can enhance mental health and overall well-being.
Sports psychologists might also opt to specialize in a certain area. There are some major specialties in the field:
- Applied sports psychology – This focuses on teaching skills such as goal setting as well as imagery that help enhance athletic performance.
- Clinical sports psychology– This involves a mix of various mental training strategies in sports psychology and psychotherapy to help those who suffer from mental health problems such as depression and eating disorders.
- Academic sports psychologists – These professionals teach at universities and colleges and conduct research in this field.
The role of sports psychologists
Typically, sports psychologists perform a variety of tasks that are related to sports education and performance. Some choose to teach at a university level, while some others prefer working directly with athletes and help them enhance performance and increase motivation. There are also various other options such as scientific research, client counseling and athletic consulting.
Apart from working with professional athletes, these sports psychologists also use their expertise to help improve the mental well-being of non-athletes. They might work with a number of clients ranging from teens and children who are involved in athletics to teams and professional athletes who are interested in upping their performance. They might also work with injured athletes who are working towards returning to competition levels.
Most positions require applicants to have obtained their master’s or doctorate degree in counseling, clinical or sports psychology in addition to direct training and experience in applying psychology to sports and exercise. Entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree are extremely rare and when offered, they are usually in the form of internships.
Should you take up sports psychology?
You will need to take several aspects of your personality and preferences before you make this call. For one thing, you will need to decide if this career is suited to your mental make-up and whether you actually like it well enough. You also need to understand what your goals are and where your interests lie. If you do not like exercise or sports, this might not be the right career for you. On the other hand, if you like helping people in achieving their full potential, solving some complex problems and working in a team, this might be the perfect job for you. It can be a very exciting and challenging career with numerous specialization opportunities, diverse career paths and tremendous projected job potential.