What Does A Sports Psychologist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Sports Psychologists

Sports Psychologists primarily help athletes overcome physical or psychological issues that limit their ability to compete. This may include a variety of mental obstacles related to anxieties or physical injuries.


Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

Athletes frequently work with a wide range of professionals, including Sports Psychologists. A Sports Psychologist is responsible for helping athletes achieve peak performance by overcoming physical or psychological limitations.

When an athlete loses confidence or lacks motivation, they are often sent to the Sports Psychologist. However, there is more to Sports Psychology than therapy sessions and counseling.

Sports Psychologists also require an understanding of kinesiology and physiology. This profession examines the connection between physical and psychological factors that may impact an athlete’s performance.

What they do

Sports Psychologists primarily help athletes overcome physical or psychological issues that limit their ability to compete. This may include a variety of mental obstacles related to anxieties or physical injuries.

Help Athletes Overcome Anxieties

One of the most common uses of a Sports Psychologist is to help athletes deal with anxiety and performance fears. For example, an athlete may be afraid of failure or embarrassment. 

Performance anxiety is a common issue for athletes, as they are often perfectionists and worry about the opinions of others. Sports Psychologists use various methods to help athletes cope with their fears, such as getting to the root of the fear.

Help Athletes Gain More Focus

Some athletes are not afraid of failing but suffer from a lack of focus. Sports Psychologists frequently help athletes develop skills for remaining focused. 

In some cases, the Sports Psychologist may help an athlete focus on a specific goal, such as reaching a weight goal or mastering a new athletic technique. This may involve the use of mental strategies, including visualization and relaxation techniques.

Help Athletes Mentally Recover From Physical Injuries

After suffering a physical injury, athletes may retain mental scars of the injury that impact their performance. For example, after injuring a leg, an athlete may worry about their ability to run or maneuver. They also tend to fear further injury and may experience decreased confidence.

Sports Psychologists employ special methods for helping athletes mentally recover from physical injuries, such as imagery, goal setting, and focusing on sport-specific skills.

Help Athletes Prepare for Sports Competitions

Sports Psychologists often help athletes gain the right mindset for competitions. In the days leading up to a competition, the Sports Psychologist may devote more time to working individually with athletes. 

The goal of the Sports Psychologist is to help the athlete set aside other worries and focus on their performance on game day. They typically focus on building confidence, preparing athletes to deal with adversity, and eliminating outside concerns or life challenges.

Help Athletes Develop Pregame or Pre-Shot Routines

As part of their efforts to help athletes focus on their performance during competition, Sports Psychologists often develop individual routines for athletes. The routines are tailored to help athletes cope with their specific challenges, such as performance anxiety or fear of injury.

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What is the job like


You Get to Help Athletes Excel

Watching an athlete succeed due to your intervention is extremely rewarding.

Your Patients Want to Follow Your Advice

Unlike other health professionals, Sports Psychologists mostly work with highly motivated individuals who want to follow their advice.

You May Get to Travel for Work

When working for a sports team, you may get to travel and visit different cities.

You May Eventually Become Your Own Boss

Sports Psychologists with enough experience may open their own practices or offer their services as a consultant.


Your Patients May Undo Your Hard Work

While athletes are often motivated to improve, they may try to move too quickly and undo any progress.

You May Need to Work Long Hours

Full-time Sports Psychologists who work for major sports organizations or universities often work long hours to accommodate players’ schedules.

Where they work

Sports Clinics and Rehabilitation Clinics
Universities and Colleges
Professional Sports Organizations
Professional Sports Athletes

Sports Psychologists often work at Sports Psychology Clinics, Kinesiology Clinics, and Sports Rehab Clinics. You may also find work in the athletic department at Universities and Colleges. Professional sports organizations and individual players may hire Sports Psychologists with many years of experience.

How to become one

Step 1: Become Active in Sports and Science

Participating in sports and excelling in science can prepare students for a career in Sports Psychology.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Most students who want to enter this profession earn Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology or Exercise Science. You may also double-major in both fields of study.

Step 3: Earn a Master’s Degree

After earning a degree in Psychology or Exercise Science, earn a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Sports Psychology.

Step 4: Gain Experience Through an Internship

Master’s programs should provide internship opportunities, allowing you to gain clinical psychology experience.

Step 5: Earn a PhD in Sports Psychology

Many Sports Psychologists have earned Doctoral degrees in Sports Psychology. This typically involves two to three years of study after earning a Master’s degree.

Step 6: Obtain a License to Practice Psychology

Most states require Sports Psychologists to obtain a license to legally practice psychology.

Step 7: Look for Jobs in Sports Psychology

Look for work at Sports Psychology Clinics, Universities, Colleges, and other common employers.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Sports Psychologists need strong interpersonal skills, as they frequently work with a wide range of athletes and fellow professionals. You must also be an observant individual to detect nonverbal cues when evaluating the mental state of patients. Sports Psychologists are also often analytical thinkers, due to the need to develop routines or treatments for helping athletes overcome mental or physical issues.

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