Are Sports Psychologists The Same As Coaches?

sport-psychologyWhile virtually everyone has heard of a coach, very few people have heard of a sports psychologist. Sports psychologists are highly skilled professional psychologists who work with athletes of all levels to enhance performance and overcome limitations to athletic functioning. Although the goals of a coach and a sports psychologist are very similar, the two professions are very different. A coach is responsible for the management of a team, implementing plays and strategies, and helping teams achieve victory. The responsibilities of the sports psychology are varied in nature but generally focus on helping athletes perform to the best of their capability.

What are the Main Responsibilities of a Sports Psychologist?

According to Division 47 of the American Psychological Association, S involves a wide range of topics including “motivation to persist and achieve, psychological considerations in sport injury and rehabilitation, counseling techniques with athletes, assessing talent, exercise adherence and well-being, self-perceptions related to achieving, expertise in sport, youth sport and performance enhancement and self-regulation techniques.” Sports psychologists are responsible for a wide variety of sports performance and educational issues. According to the American Psychological Association, Sport psychologists can also help athletes:

  • Enhance performance. Various mental strategies, such as visualization, self-talk and relaxation techniques, can help athletes overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.
  • Cope with the pressures of competition. Sport psychologists can help athletes at all levels deal with pressure from parents, coaches or even their own expectations.
  • Recover from injuries. After an injury, athletes may need help tolerating pain, adhering to their physical therapy regimens or adjusting to being sidelined.
  • Keep up an exercise program. Even those who want to exercise regularly may find themselves unable to fulfill their goal. Sport psychologists can help these individuals increase their motivation and tackle any related concerns.
  • Enjoy sports. Sports organizations for young people may hire a sport psychologist to educate coaches about how to help kids enjoy sports and how to promote healthy self-esteem in participants.

Where Do Sports Psychologists Work?

Some of the possible career options include teaching, working directly with athletes to increase motivation and enhance performance, client counseling, scientific research and athletic consulting. In addition to working with athletes, sports psychologists can use their information and experience to increase the mental well being of non-athletes.

How Much Do Sports Psychologists Earn?

Because the field of Sports Psychology is relatively new, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has not yet collected data on salary averages. For comparison, a professional psychologist earns an average of $69,280 annually and Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists earn an average of $42,690. It could be expected that Sports Psychologists with a master’s or doctoral degree and experience in the field have earning potential well beyond the $70,000 mark.


United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook: Data on Professional Psychologists and data on Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists

American Psychological Association Help Center: Sports Psychology