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Careers in Sport Psychology

by Karlene (Sugarman) Pick, M.A.

Here are a few examples of different areas of emphasis within the field:

1. Applied: This area emphasizes teaching performance enhancement/mental training skills such as goal setting, focusing, imagery, positive self-talk, energy management and pre-performance routines. Within this area people often work in a sport or performance setting teaching mental training techniques and team building strategies.

2. Clinical: Clinical sport psychology can combine both performance enhancement/mental skills training and clinical work. Training in both sport and clinical/counseling psychology is needed. Examples of clinical issues would be depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Expertise in working within both of these areas increases your scope of practice.

3. Academics: Here there is a primary focus on research and teaching.

If you are considering a career in the field I would suggest joining the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). I would also recommend getting the Directory of Graduate Programs in Applied Sport Psychology (11th ed.) edited by Burke, et al. and published by Fitness Information Technology, Inc., of West Virginia. This directory lists all the schools that have sport psychology programs. It tells which ones offer a Master's degree or PhD and which have internships, plus areas of specialization and other useful information. To become a Sport Psychologist you should have a doctorate, sport psychology training and the licensing your state requires.

If you are still at the undergraduate level, and your school does not offer courses in sport psychology (which are still somewhat rare at the undergraduate level) you might be able to do an "independent study" type of course with a faculty member.

There are also some journals and books that might also be helpful. Here are a couple of the journals:

As well as some books:

Hopefully, this has given you some helpful resources if you are considering going into the field.

Karlene is a Mental Training Consultant and works with athletes and teams teaching mental training techniques and team building strategies. She works with athletes in sports such as golf, skating, swimming, tennis and gymnastics; baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and others. Karlene is also the co-founder of Pick and Foyle Consulting, providing mental skills training for teams and athletes. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Sport Psychology Program at John F. Kennedy University. She is the author of the book, Winning the Mental Way: A practical guide to team building and mental training. She is also a member of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and a member of IDEA Health & Fitness Association.


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