Career Spotlight: Sports Psychologist

GCU lacrosse players in mid-play on the field

Sports psychology, related to exercise psychology, is an exciting and dynamic career field within the American Psychological Association. It applies the scientific understanding of human behavior and mental resiliency to the challenge of overcoming obstacles in athletic performance. If you have a passion for sports and a desire to learn about the inner workings of the human mind, then a career in sports psychology could be right for you.

What Is Sports Psychology?

Some people dream of a career as a professional athlete, but only a select few achieve it. Professional athletes are highly competitive people who are intrinsically motivated to propel themselves to the top of their game. Nevertheless, they are also humans and are subject to mental hang-ups and complex emotions. Sports psychology is a specialized field that seeks to understand the minds of athletes, and to apply scientific principles to help athletes achieve optimal performance.

What Do Sports Psychologists Do?

Sports psychologists work one-on-one with athletes to help them overcome challenges, conquer fears and improve athletic performance. Some athletes go to sports psychologists for help with specific problems, such as controlling their temper after a loss, having trouble communicating effectively with teammates or getting past their tendency to hesitate during stressful moments. He or she may work with a sports psychologist for any of the following reasons:

  • Injury recovery: Psychologists can help athletes develop mental tolerance to pain and adjust to being on the sidelines.
  • Performance improvement: With relaxation, introspection and mental visualization techniques, sports psychologists can help athletes boost their performance.
  • Mental resiliency: Athletes face an incredible amount of pressure from fans, coaches, teammates and themselves, and sports psychologists can help athletes learn to cope with difficult situations and maintain mental health.

Where Do Sports Psychologists Work?

Sports psychologists may work in private practice as consultants. Some of them may be full-time staff members at professional sports teams. Others may work for national governing bodies of sports or focus on research and teaching in academic institutions.

Sports psychologists often work with professional athletes, but some focus on recreational and amateur athletes. For instance, a youth sports organization may hire a psychologist to educate coaches about best practices. Through this education, coaches can learn to help young participants grow improve self-confidence.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Each state sets their own individual licensing and certification requirements for psychology professionals. It is important for students to understand the requirements for the state in which they intend to practice. However, all sports psychologists start out with a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field. From there, the aspiring sports psychologist will go on to complete a master’s degree and typically a doctoral degree in performance psychology.

Consider enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sport Psychology at Grand Canyon University. This degree program is perfect for students who are interested in learning about mental resiliency and athletic performance. Students will benefit from the guidance of qualified faculty at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. To learn more about this and other programs, visit our website or click on the Request More Information button on this page.

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