What is Sport Psychology?

For the athlete, components such as exercise, diet and technique are all about enhancing physical performance. But there is another area of training that, if neglected, can erode or even negate all that hard work and effort. The sport psychologist picks up where coaches, trainers and nutritionists leave off.

Athletes rely on coaches to maximize their physical dominance and mastery and they are, in ever increasing numbers, looking to sport psychologists to provide ‘mental’ coaching.

Sport psychologists apply principals of modern psychology in identifying factors that hold athletes back and employ techniques specifically designed to increase mental toughness, decrease anxiety, build confidence and elevate their performance to the next level.

Since the field of sport psychology took hold in the 1960’s, it has steadily gained momentum, prompting many pro teams to hire consultants and making believers of scores of elite athletes who credit sport psychologists with boosting, or even salvaging, their game.

Sport psychology doesn’t just enhance performance and isn’t only for elite athletes. It is used to help athletes overcome a wide range of challenges, such as injury recovery and dealing with intense pressure, and clients can range from pro golfers to high school prodigies to ‘weekend warrior’ hobbyists.

A good sport psychologist can intensify the performance and tighten the focus of any athlete at any skill level.


Why Sport Psychology?

I had my sport psychologist on speed dial one, my pastor on speed dial two and my mom on speed dial three.

U.S. Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones

Every athlete is well aware that exercise, training and proper diet will enhance performance, but many don’t understand the role of mental training. While coaches and trainers help the athlete focus on development of the physical game, the sport psychologist is there to provide a mental regimen.

The age old sentiment that one either is or isn’t ‘born tough’ is simply inaccurate. The mind, just like the body, can be made stronger through hard work and discipline.

The first job of the sport psychologist is to pinpoint the unique issues blocking the client from goal attainment, whereupon the proper mental training program can be implemented.

Methods of treatment may include Bio- and Neurofeedback, mental skills training and reaction time training. Clients who learn to lift their ‘mental weights’ and utilize the tools offered during sessions will achieve marked improvement.

The benefits of sport psychology are no secret to scores of professional and Olympic athletes all over the world, but the advantages are really applicable to athletes of all ages and skill levels. No one is too young or old to learn to practice healthier mental habits and sharpen their mental skills.

When the mind is as strongly developed as the body, the athlete has the best possible chance to realize maximum potential.


What to Look For in a Sport Psychologist

Is the practitioner licensed and certified?
Not all practitioners are both. Look for a sport psychologist who is a licensed psychologist and an AASP certified consultant.

Do you have a clear idea of your particular need(s)?
Are you looking for a competitive edge that will help you get more out of your performance? Do you need help dealing with the mental side of the game? Are you looking for someone who can assist during the injury rehabilitation process? Knowing the answers to these types of questions will narrow the field by allowing you to concentrate on the consultant’s areas of competency and experience. Be sure to ask what sort of coursework and training have been completed and what certifications have been earned.

Is the practitioner licensed in his/her state of operation? Has he/she ever been censured?
It is important to check credentials. A licensed psychologist should be able to provide verification that they are currently licensed in the state.

Has the practitioner been certified by the AASP (Association For Applied Sport Psychology)?
Certified Consultants must have completed specific educational requirements and taken part in an extensive, supervised work experience.

Are your questions being answered satisfactorily?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions like, “What ages and types of sports do you primarily work with?”, “Where did you attend school and what degree(s) did you earn?”, “What can I expect in my first session?” or “What’s your fee?”

Does the practitioner’s personality mesh well with yours?
You should feel comfortable, safe and confident that the practitioner has a good understanding of your specific challenges and you, in turn, should have a good understanding of the services you are receiving.

Dr. Marc Strickland is a Licensed Psychologist and an AASP Certified Consultant. He is committed to giving his clients the best possible evaluation and treatment by providing a positive, comfortable environment, making sure their questions are answered and, most importantly, offering individualized counseling and treatment options.