What Does a Sports Psychologist Do?

what do sports psychologist do

Psychology is a field of work with brimming possibilities and plenty of important work to be done, and some of its students end up as sports psychologists. This might not be what people think of when they hear the word “psychologist,” but this particular branch nonetheless carries out similar functions. For anyone wondering what sports psychologists do differently, check out the answers below.

Improving Performance

Where a physical therapist helps athletes recover from bodily injuries, sports psychologists help athletes both professional and amateur find mental success. This typically ranges from support in social interactions to finding players’ “zones”; concentration, goal-setting, and mental exercises are also well-covered. If there is any area where an athlete feels he or she needs improvement, a sports psychologist can motivate them into a better mental state. Parents and coaches can also consult with such a psychologist if they need advising or want insight into working with athletes.

Checking Behavior

Because being involved in sports isn’t always a happy circumstance, sports psychologists will work with suffering athletes so they enjoy what they do. Certain elements of athletics like pressure, competition, and rivalry may require a psychologist’s intervention; an athlete simply not enjoying playing is also reason to contact a professional. Alternatively, patients with eating or mental disorders can call upon the aid of a sports psychologist for finding balance. Anxiety and energy issues, whether or not they lead into undesired behavior, will be addressed. Off-field issues are not out of the question, as well.


Sports psychologists don’t stop with game preparation, however. According to the American Psychological Association, they’ll also assist athletes with the mental strain of getting over injuries and not playing during the healing process. What’s more is that sports psychologists often have a hand in setting up exercising regimens so patients can reach their goals. Those who need help with adhering to physical therapy, as well as loved ones having trouble adjusting, may reach out to a sports psychologist. In the event of a player being unable to start or continue recovery regimens, the psychologist will step in and instruct everyone involved on how to move forward.

Does a Sports Psychologist Need Special Training?

It helps to be familiar with the sports environment, but many psychologists helping athletes are not especially trained to do it. The Association for Applied Sport Psychology does give special certification to trained psychologists in the field, however; the AASP is the only organization in the U.S. offering this authorization, which requires extensive work in sports-related fields. That said, sports psychologists counsel people in other high-stress fields, too—politicians, dancers, and musicians are just some of the non-sports fields in which a sports psychologist might make a difference.

While all psychologists tend to the mental health of their patients, sports psychologists take care of the particular needs of sports players and those around them. They are specialists, tending to both on- and off-the-field concerns, who both train and advise. From playing to recuperating and enjoying, sports psychologists work to bring out the best of those in the industry.


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