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Athletic trainers focus on aspects that improve physical performance. However, few of them explore the connection between one’s mental state of being and enhanced performance. This is where a sports psychologist comes in, helping athletes improve their abilities by tapping into their inner psyche. If you enjoy learning how the mind and body interact with one another, a career as a sports psychologist could be right for you.
A sports psychologist acts as a coach, mentor, and teacher, helping players enhance their performance by improving their mental and emotional health. Some things a sports psychologist might assist athletes with include:
Sports psychologists are found in the locker rooms of professional, semi-professional, college, and high school teams everywhere. They may also work as consultants or alongside personal trainers and private coaches. Many are employed at the college level, where they might be involved in research or as professors who teach up-and-coming psychologists.
Although many states allow psychologists to practice with only a Master’s degree, a PhD is preferred. Many earn a doctorate in sports psychology, while others pursue a dual degree in clinical psychology and exercise science. It is recommended that anyone wishing to become a sports psychologist have at least some training in exercise science, or also be a licensed personal trainer or other fitness professional.
The majority of graduate degree programs require 60 credit hours followed by an internship that is several months long. Most states also require sports psychologists to become licensed. This requires passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, which is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). No continuing education requirements currently exist; however, courses are available on a voluntary basis through the Association for Applied Sports Psychology (AASP).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for all psychologists across the board was $75,230 in May 2016. This figure covers all psychologists; however, there is some indication that sports psychologists may earn more. Those designated as “psychologists, all other” (a classification that could easily include sports psychologists) earned $95,710, whereas clinical and school psychologists fell on the lower end of the pay scale.
The demand for psychologists is expected to increase by 19 percent by the year 2024, which is much faster than average for all occupations. The availability of sports psychology positions will vary by geographic location, with those residing in larger cities or near multiple sports franchises having greater opportunities. Those with a following or are so-called experts in their field will find more positions available to them than those just starting out.
Sports psychologists can give athletes the added “boost” they need to become competitive at the next highest level. Since more and more people are now discovering the benefits of using a sports psychologist, chances are that the need for these professionals will only increase in the years to come.