What is a sport psychologist?
First and foremost, a psychologist is an individual who
has completed graduate training in the field of psychology and is
licensed by a specific state. The requirements for this vary from
state to state. Generally speaking, licensing occurs after a specified
amount of graduate coursework and direct patient contact hours have
been completed. In some states individuals with a Masters Degree can
become licensed psychologists while in others a Doctoral degree is
required. You should check the requirements for licensing by your
Given the above, a sport psychologist is an individual
with expertise in the following areas:
- Performance enhancement through the use of psychological skills
- Issues that are specific to the psychological well-being of athletes
- Working with the organizations and systems that are present in
- Social and developmental factors that influence sport participation
Ethically, psychologists only practice within their scope
of expertise; therefore, it is necessary to have a good working knowledge
of the above factors if you are going to be working with athletes
or athletic personnel. If you feel that something is beyond your area
of expertise, you should either refer your client(s) to another individual
or seek out supervision.
While sport psychology is recognized as a specific field
of study within the Kinesiology and Physical Education departments,
it is not one of the traditional fields of practice offered by psychology
graduate programs. For example, while one can obtain a graduate psychology
degree with a concentration in children or substance abuse, the same
can not be said of sport psychology. Although many psychology departments
offer single courses in sport psychology, the opportunities for graduate
level degrees are few and far between. See the Becoming a Sport Psychologist
section below for more information.
What credentials are needed?
At the present time, no credentials beyond a state license
are needed in order to practice sport psychology. Ethically and practically
speaking, you should have expertise in the above mentioned areas.
However, there is no need for a specialized accreditation certificate
from any organization. This may change in the future. Division 47
(Sport and Exercise Psychology) of the American Psychological Association
recently submitted a proposal for the establishment of a proficiency
to the CRSPPP (Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies
in Professional Psychology). Individuals offering sport psychology
services would have to adhere to the standards set forth in this proficiency.
Otherwise, they would risk being in violation of ethical guidelines
which could result in the suspension and/or termination of one's license
Although accreditation is not necessary, it does not mean
that there are no benefits to becoming a certified sport psychologist.
There are many organizations offering to certify individuals. Typically
this involves completing an application and submitting it with your
payment. After this, there is a review of credentials to insure that
minimum standards are met - depending on the organization, this may
include an examination. The most reputable of these organizations
is the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology
(AAASP). Designation as a Certified Consultant, AAASP carries the
benefit of the possibility of being listed on the United States Olympic
Committee (USOC) Sport Psychology Registry. This is a listing of individuals
who are approved to work with Olympic athletes and National teams.
The benefits of this should be obvious. For more information, you
should visit the AAASP web site.
How do you become a sport psychologist?
Two basic qualifications are needed in order to becoming
anything in life: education and experience. This holds true for becoming
a sport psychologist as well.
EDUCATION: The educational opportunities for working
as a sport psychologist are limited. As you may have noticed in the
above sections, a graduate degree is often necessary. Before we discuss
graduate programs, undergraduate programs should be discussed since
they frequently provide the stepping stone necessary for graduate
work. Perhaps the best way to get into a top flight graduate program
is to go to a school that offers some formalized experience in the
field. The list below is not exhaustive but it gives an indication
of how few schools offer sport psychology concentrations or minors.
Sport Education Available
Sport Psychology, Major
Sport Psychology, Minor
Texas Christian University
Psychosocial Kinesiology, Major
Towson State University
Sport Psychology, Concentration
Truman State University
Psycho-Social Aspects, Concentration
University of Evansville
Sport Psychology, Minor
University of Northern Iowa
Sport Psychology, Major
University of Utah
Sport Psychology, Concentration
Western Washington University
Sport Psychology, Concentration/Minor
West Virginia University
Sport Psychology, Major
If you are not attending one of the above schools, we
recommend that you stick with a psychology major and try to get experience
however you can (see the advice for graduate students below). Perseverance
will pay off!
Although most graduate program in psychology do not offer
a concentration in sport psychology, some do. To see a listing of
these, you may want to consider purchasing Directory of Graduate Programs in Applied Sport
Psychology by Michael Sachs. This book offers a comprehensive
listing of those graduate programs that focus solely on sport psychology.
If you are in a graduate program at a school that offers
only an introductory sport psychology course but it is something that
genuinely interests you, I would recommend that you speak with your
department chair. Ask if there is any independent study classes or
independent research classes that you can take to gain further knowledge
of this field. The independent research class is specially useful
since it will bring you into direct contact with athletes for the
purposes of performance enhancement.
EXPERIENCE: Perhaps one of the most difficult things
to get in the field of sport psychology is the direct contact with
athletes. In order to get it, you should work with a supervisor with
an expertise in sport psychology and find a population to work with.
Basically there are three populations that use sport psychology services:
- The Willing Consumer is the athlete who recognizes the need for
psychological intervention and actively seeks out a sport psychologist
in order to improve some aspect of his/her performance. An established
supervisor should have a sufficient number of referrals to help
you gfewt experience with this population.
- The Suspicious Consumer is the individual who thinks that they
could perform better but is unsure of what to do. Although they
will not actively seek out a sport psychologist, they are willing
to listen when one approaches them with a SPECIFIC plan of how to
- The Unwilling Consumer is the individual who refuses to let any
one else dictate how to improve performance. Although they may be
willing to talk to sport psychologists, they will resist having
you work with them.
There are different ways of getting experience. One way
is to meet with the athletic director or their assistant at our college
or university and tell them what you are interested in doing. They
may be able to give you leads on which coaches are willing and unwilling.
Another source of experience is your supervisor. He/she may have a
list of already identified willing candidates who you could then contact
to begin working. Finally, some internship sites offer sport psychology
training as part of their formal curriculum. While the list is not
extensive, perhaps your internship site will allow you to use your
out reach time to conduct services for athletic teams.
The following is a list of internship sites that offer
a formal sport psychology rotation. The list is not intended to e
exhaustive but is rather a starting point. Another good place to look
is college counseling centers since it will be much easier to make
connections with the athletic department. If you know of other sites
or would like us to add your site, feel free to contact us at email@example.com
University of Delaware
Center for Counseling and Student Development
Newark, DE 19716-6501
Training Director: Richard S. Sharf, Ph.D.
George Washington University
University Counseling Center
Washington D.C. 20052
Sport Psychology Contact: Lori A Lefcourt, Ph.D.
Training Director: William G. Pinney, Ph.D.
Kansas State University
University Counseling Services
Manhattan, KS 66506-3301
Sport Psychology Contact: Fred B. Newton, Ph.D.
Training Director: Sherry A. Benton, Ph.D.
Pennsylvania State University
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
University Park, PA 16802-4601
Sport Psychology Contact: Dennis Heitzmann, Ph.D.
Training Director: Joyce Illfelder-Kaye, ph.D.
Thomas E. Cook Counseling Center
Sport Psychology Contacts: Gary T. Bennett, Ph.D. & Robert C.
Training Director: Robert C. Miller, Ed.D.
Washington State University
Counseling & Testing Services
Pullman, WA 99164-1065
Sport Psychology Contact: Mark T. Summerson, Ph.D.
Training Director: Robert H. Ragatz, Ph.D.
One last point about obtaining experience needs to be
made: BE REALISTIC! While many individuals dream of working
with elite athletes, this is not realistic when you start out. Many
professional athletes and teams have realized the value of sport psychology
and regularly make use of the services. However, they tend to use
the well established individual. When you start out, working with
amateur and collegiate athletes is good experience. In addition, writing
is a great way to develop additional experience and to tell others
about YOUR accomplishments and areas of expertise.
Is Athletic Insight a peer reviewed journal?
Yes, all article submissions other then commentary submissions
undergo a blind peer review process. Articles are first examined by
the Editor to determine their appropriateness for the journal and
are then distributed to Associate Editors and Peer Reviewer's with
the author's name and affiliation removed. Staff are selected to review
articles based on their expertise in a given area of sport psychology.
Submissions are judged using a four point rating system which is as
- Accept Unconditionally - This classification is for all
manuscripts that reviewers feel should be published as is. Authors
will receive notification if their manuscript falls in this class
along with a timeline for publication.
- Accept Conditionally - This classification is for manuscripts
that reviewers feel should be accepted with minor changes which
will be passed on to authors along with a timeline during which
these changes should be made.
- Reject Conditionally - This classification is for manuscripts
that reviewers feel need major reworking. Suggestions from reviewers
will be forwarded to authors.
- Reject Unconditionally - This classification is for manuscripts
that reviewers feel are not at all appropriate for publication in
Athletic Insight. Rationale for this decision will be forwarded
The editor is ultimately responsible for the designation
that a paper receives. Once a decision is made, feedback and recommendations
are forwarded to authors.