With sport psychology becoming a growing field—especially so since many professional teams are hiring people to work with their athletes on the mental side, many are wondering how one makes a career in sport psychology and what it takes. Below are some commonly asked questions and answers to help get you started.
What are sport psychologists and how do they differ from mental game coaches?
Most generally, sport psychologists are licensed psychologists who are trained in psychological skills training, athletes’ mental health, team dynamics in sports settings, psychological factors that influence performance, assessment of psychological and performance variables, and more. Mental game coaches also work with athletes on the performance side of sport, but they do not have specific training in mental health and are not licensed. You know the old saying that every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? Every sport psychologist is a mental game coach, but not every mental game coach is a sport psychologist. For more information about sport psychology, click here.
Do I need to go to graduate school to become a sport psychologist?
Yes. In order to become a full-fledged licensed psychologist, you’ll need to earn either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. and then complete further requirements for licensure depending on which state you want to practice in.
Is there only one set path to becoming a sport psychologist/mental skills coach?
Absolutely not! Our sport psychologists have all had very unique experiences. Learn more about how they got where they are by clicking below.
As a student, what kind of experience should I be trying to get?
As far as experience goes, working with athletes of any level will help you along the road, as will doing research. Reach out to various sport psychologists and firms for advice and to see if they have any internships—many will post information on their websites. In order to find sport psychologists, quick Google searches will take you a long way, and check out AASP’s (Association for Applied Sport Psychology) website.
I want to open up my own sport psychology practice. Any advice on what I need to know?
Make sure you know how to run a business and who you can reach out to for help. While a doctorate degree will help you become a sport psychologist, it won’t necessarily help you with the day-to-day operations of owning your own company.
I’d like to work with elite athletes—how can I get there?
First, realize that many people want to work with elite and professional athletes, so don’t be upset if it doesn’t happen right away! You need time to prove yourself and get the most experience that you can. Work with colleges and universities: try to get a position on their medical staff and work with athletes there. It may not happen right away, but you can put in the time and the effort!