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A sports psychologist is someone who studies the emotional and mental facets involved in participating in athletic activities. An emerging and growing profession, the first sports psychology course was offered in the 1920s. A professional will need a doctorate, training in the field, and proper state licensing to become a sports psychologist.
Generally, a sports psychologist is a professional who works with individuals from a variety of athletic skill levels. Duties include helping athletes to cope with nerves, enhance self-confidence, remain motivated, and set goals. A sports psychologist typically will arm athletes with the education needed to perform consistently in competition and achieve their potential. Since sports psychology is a specialized area, a person will need specific training to gain employment in the field.
Becoming a sports psychologist is a long road that takes years to complete. An individual needs to take a careful self-inventory to ensure it is the right profession to pursue. A sports psychologist typically possesses an interest in athletics and how people work together. Other characteristics of a sports psychologist include the desire to help others, tolerance and understanding, strong analytical skills, and the ability to develop good working relationships with athletes and coaches.
A person interested in entering a career as a sports psychologist needs to research the field by reading and talking with sports psychology professors and actual sports psychologists. This will provide a better understanding of the field and an individual can also receive career advice. One who is aiming to study sports psychology can get a grasp of the colleges that offer sports psychology programs by looking through publications, including the Directory of Graduate Programs in Applied Sport Psychology.
An individual seeking to enter the sports psychology profession needs to narrow the field down and determine what area of sports psychology to pursue. The three main areas of sports psychology include applied sports psychology, clinical sports psychology, and academic sports psychology. Applied sports psychology focuses on teaching mental performance enhancement techniques.
Clinical sports psychology unites teaching mental performance enhancement techniques along with clinical work. Academic sports psychology centers on research and teaching. Deciding which area of sports psychology to pursue will give a person academic direction. Reading journals such as the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, and The Sport Psychologist can also provide a better understanding of the field.
One can take different career paths to become a sports psychologist. Typically, a person seeking a career in sports psychology begins by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. While it is possible to find employment as a sports psychologist with just a bachelor’s degree, most often it is necessary to obtain a master’s or doctorate degree in sports psychology. A person wanting to deal with athletes will need a master’s degree. An individual looking to pursue academics will need a doctorate degree.
An internship can be imperative to gain entry into the sports psychology profession. Generally, an internship will provide valuable contacts and experience, and a person often will get hired at the place where he or she interned. One who is looking to break into sports psychology will need to be realistic. To become a sports psychologist who is established, it is necessary to do volunteer work. Most likely, finding some kind of part-time work or income will be needed while pursuing a full-time sports psychology career.
A person wanting to become a sports psychologist can network by joining professional organizations, including the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology, the International Society of Sports Psychology, and the North American Society for Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity. One seeking employment as a sports psychologist will need to show expertise in a multitude of areas, as well, to be more marketable. The more experience an individual has in the field, and the more contacts made, the better the outlook is for employment.
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