What Do Sports Psychologists Do?

Sports psychologists work with coaches, athletes, and referees across all levels. These psychologists focus on how psychology affects sport and recommend ways to improve sporting performance.

Sports psychologists do a lot more to help sportspeople retain their form towards achieving sporting feats. That’s why this article provides information on everything a sports psychologist has to offer athletes, referees, and coaches.

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What Do Sports Psychologists Do?

Improvement of Mental Skills

Sports psychologists teach athletes how to manage their skills towards enhancing sporting performance. These psychologists help athletes win their mental game towards achieving the following:

  • Improved focus,
  • Confidence,
  • Intensity,
  • Exposure, etc.

Sportspeople can improve their mental skills towards their sporting performance and other areas.

Mental Preparedness for Competition

Sports psychologists assist athletes to prepare mentally for practice sessions and competitions. Mental preparedness transcends general focus, confidence and intensity to include specific sporting situations.

Focusing mental preparedness training towards some challenging situations helps sportspersons to strengthen weak abilities.

Recovery Assistance

Recovering after injuries can take a mental toll on athletes. In some cases, the mental wellbeing of athletes can significantly drop after a severe injury.

Sports psychologists assist athletes grappling with mental scarring at all stages of their injury recovery. These psychologists can assist injured sportswomen and men towards coping with mental stress.

Psychologists in this field also help athletes return to their pre-injury performance level as quickly as possible.

Pregame Routine Development

Sports psychologists help sportswomen/men, coaches, and other sportspeople develop their mental skills before any event.

Assistance from sports psychologists helps athletes focus on vital stages in the sporting process. Support from psychologists in this field is also vital towards building athlete confidence before a competition.

Elimination of Performance Fears

Psychologists in the sporting industry provide support for athletes to overcome performance-limiting fears. Sports psychologists equip athletes to overcome the fear of embarrassment and failure during and after an event.

Athletes who perform in high-activity and competitive sports require the services of sports psychologists to thrive. Sportspeople unsure or unimpressed with their performance can also get valuable support from professional sports psychologists.

Pre-shot Routine Development

Sports that involve dead ball set pieces require professional pre-shot development. Psychologists can assist athletes towards developing their pre-shot game, especially in sports like football, golf, and rugby.

Assistance from psychologists towards pre-shot routines development helps improve athletes’ overall sporting performance.

Improvement of Practice Efficiency

Sports psychologists assist athletes towards getting more from practice sessions. Athletes with limited practice times must get the most from each session.

Psychologists help athletes build motor learning skills and their overall physical and mental conditioning.

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Where Do Sports Psychologists Work?

Private Practice

Sports psychologists commonly offer independent services to clients. Psychologists in this field who choose private practice work with pro athletes, amateurs, and student athletes.

Professional Sports Teams

Athletic associations usually employ sports psychologists for team treatment and evaluation. Sports psychologists working with professional teams usually travel with their clients during active sporting seasons.

Rehab Facilities

Sports therapy is essential to treat patients struggling with mental or behavioral health issues. Sporting therapy also assists people recovering from illnesses or injuries after taking part in high-activity sports.

Psychologists in this field can work at healthcare institutions and rehab facilities where their services are needed.


Colleges and universities need sports psychologists to assist student athletes enhance their performance. Services from sports psychologists also helps athletes manage pressure from coaches to build effective exercise and sporting habits.

Armed Forces

Performance enhancement psychology is a vital for members of the military and armed forces to cope with pressure. Sports psychologists can work in the army to help soldiers manage pressures from active duty.

What Professional Sports Psychologists Must Possess

Professional sports psychologists must possess the following qualities to perform their duties:

Strong Critical Thinking Skills

A professional sports psychologist must possess advance critical thinking skills to succeed in the profession. Critical thinking skills are essential for sports psychologists, especially in emergency or challenging situations.

Possessing the right level of critical thinking ability makes it easy to identify problems and recommend effective solutions.

Solid Interpersonal Skills

Psychologists must be good communicators, and the same goes for practitioners in the sporting industry. A sports psychologist must possess strong communication skills and have the ability to interact and operate with a team.

Sports psychologists rarely work alone, so poor communicators might experience difficulty while attempting to perform their duties.

Good Knowledge of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine

Sports psychologists must have extensive knowledge of the science of exercise and how it affects athletes’ sporting performance. These psychologists must draft a working plan to ensure their athletes engage correct exercise to avoid underperformance or injuries.

Also, psychologists in this field must have enough knowledge about how sport medicine works. Sports psychologists can use their know-how of sports medicine to alleviate negative health effects on their athletes.

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Thorough Understanding of Sports Injuries and Effective Treatment Methods

Injuries from engaging sporting activity are different across sports.

For instance, tennis players usually experience ankle, back, and wrist injuries. However, football players might experience leg, head, and torso injuries from sporting activity.

These psychologists must know every injury type common to athletes across different high-activity sports.

Sports psychologists must also have broad knowledge about the correct treatment methods to heal such injuries. Collaboration with a medical practitioner may be required to fix career-threatening injuries suffered by professional athletes.

Good Stress Management Techniques

Being a psychologist involves lots of work, regardless of your chosen sector. A sports psychologist requires very good stress management abilities to work with clients.

Proper stress management abilities makes it easy for sports psychologists to remain calm under challenging situations. Sports psychologists also require effective stress management skills to assist their clients.

Advanced Mental Conditioning Techniques

The absence of mental conditioning in athletes could be career-threatening. Sports psychologists must know about several effective techniques to help tune their athletes towards improved performance.

There’s a strong link between the human mind and how it affects physical performance. Advanced knowledge of mental conditioning techniques makes the duties of sports psychologists effortless.

Data Analysis Skills

Psychology isn’t possible without retrieving relevant data for evaluation and assessment. That’s why sports psychologists must have enough knowledge about data analysis and its importance.

Knowledge about data analysis makes it easy to retrieve essential information about athletes. Such information might be useful to assist athletes improve their performance.

Research, Evaluation and Assessment Abilities

Advanced research abilities are essential for sports psychologists, especially for practitioners working with athletes engaging in high-activity sports.

Sports psychologists can engage research to evaluate relevant data and assess the condition of athletes. Psychologists in this field must have knowledge of at least 3 different research methods essential to evaluate and assess available information.

Patience and an Empathetic Disposition

Sporting environments can be hyper-competitive, especially in high-impact sports climates. Competitive sports may take a heavy toll on sportspeople and could cause issues of varying degrees.

A sports psychologist must exercise patience while discharging their duties. Psychologists in this field must be ready to engage long sessions with athletes to diagnose problems and recommend solutions.

Sports psychologists must also possess an uncommon level of empathy, especially practitioners who work with teams. Every team member will react differently to a psychologist’s input; hence, the psychologist must understand how to assume each sportsman’s position.

Knowledge of Counselling and Therapy

Sports psychologists must engage in regular counselling and therapy sessions to assess the mental state of athletes, coaches, and sportspeople. Knowledge about effective counselling techniques equip the psychologist with ample skills to relate with athletes.

A professional sports psychologist must also have enough knowledge of practical therapies athletes need to thrive. It is impossible for psychologists in this field to serve a sports team without advanced knowledge of counselling and therapy techniques.

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How to Become a Sports Psychologist

To become a sports psychologist, you need a combination of relevant education and licenses to practice. The minimum requirements to practice sports psychology are typically identical across countries. However, some licenses, certifications, and registrations may not be compulsory to practice.


Sports psychologists typically require a Master’s degree in clinical psychology or related fields. In many cases, sports psychologists might require a minor in exercise science, sports medicine, or sports psychology along with their degree.

Sports psychologists can also hold advanced degrees like a doctorate in any psychology-related field. Common courses typically taught in sports psychologist degree programs include:

  • Athletics-related biochemistry
  • Effective counselling and therapy techniques
  • Physiology
  • Professional standards adherence
  • Psychological disturbance treatment
  • Psychology-related theories of performance enhancement
  • Sports medicine
  • Study of cognitive and affective, biological, or social behavior bases
  • Trauma and stress management


Apart from this education, sports psychologists require licensing to practice in several countries.

For example, sports psychologists in the US must attain certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology. Sports psychologists without a license to practice clinical psychology are not allowed to practice in several countries.

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Dave P
Dave P
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