Depending on practical application of skills and various licensing organizations, sports psychology may be considered a specialty under either applied or clinical psychology. Applied sports psychologists typically advise teams, coaches, trainers and managers in methods of stress-management, relaxation and visualization designed to optimize performance in the game. Clinical application of these skills tends to involve counseling athletes in personal crisis; addressing performance issues, anxiety or mental or physical injury rehabilitation; and more.
Ferruccio Antonelli established the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) in 1965 and by the 1970s sports psychology had been introduced to university course offerings throughout North America. The first academic journal, the International Journal of Sport Psychology, was introduced in 1970, which was then followed by the establishment of the Journal of Sport Psychology in 1979.
The most common educational path starts with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. From there, students move on to a master’s degree, then finish with either a PsyD or a PhD at the doctoral level. Some schools offer joint degree programs, allowing students to get a master’s and doctorate degree at the same time. After graduating, students are eligible to test for licensure and may pursue real-world experiences.
There is an intense mental toll of reaching—and remaining—at the pinnacle of a sport. “The top six inches of the body matter just as much the rest,” says Matthew Cunliffe, a sports psychologist, who spoke with Quartz about what goes through the minds of elite athletes and how psychologists can help them win. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Performance profiling can provide a rigorous evaluation of psychological characteristics and can be used in conjunction with existing measures of physical ability to provide great insight for players, athletes and coaches. Psychometric assessments can help athletes explore their own unique characteristics, such as self-confidence, motivation, resilience and mental toughness. This greater self-awareness can help athletes to shape their development and can encourage them to take ownership of their performance with a significant impact on focus, drive and achievement.
These professionals typically work with each individual or group to determine how to improve strategies and build a positive game plan that will meet the needs of all patients involved. In addition to utilizing techniques to build team morale and motivation, methods of treating anxiety and other personal mental health issues are taken into consideration by psychologists in this field.
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Skill commonly used for enhancing motivation, focusing attention on the aspects of performance that are most in need of improvement, or facilitating rehabilitation from injury. The establishment of a goal-setting program often includes several common components, including: emphasis on skill development (not the outcome, such as winning), identifying target dates for attaining goals, identifying goal achievement strategies, and providing regular goal evaluation.
This graduate-level certificate is one of only a few programs of its kind to be offered at higher education institutions in the US. It is built upon the International Coach Federation (ICF) competency model and the Graduate School Alliance for Education in Coaching (GSAEC) standards. It is also approved by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE) as a Board Certified Coach (BCC) program.
Professional sports psychologists often help athletes cope with the intense pressure that comes from competition and overcome problems with focus and motivation. They also work with athletes to improve performance and recover from injuries. But sports psychologists do not just work with elite and professional athletes. They also help regular people learn how to enjoy sports and learn to stick to an exercise program.
Just recently have sport psychologists begun to be recognized for the valuable contributions they make in assisting athletes and their coaches in improving performance during competitive situations, as well as understanding how physical exercise may contribute to the psychological well-being of non-athletes. Many can benefit from sport psychologists: athletes who are trying to improve their performance, injured athletes who are looking for motivation, individuals looking to overcome the pressure of competition, and young children involved in youth sports as well as their parents. Special focus is geared towards psychological assessment of athletes. Assessment can be both, focused on selection of athletes and the team set up of rosters as well as on professional guidance and counseling of single athletes.
Trance is commonplace. People fall into traces many times without even being aware that it happened. Examples of this are: reaching the destination of a morning commute, but not recalling the passing of familiar landmarks; daydreaming while sitting in a college classroom; or that anxiety-free state achieved just before going to sleep. The difference between these altered states and clinically used hypnotherapy is that a professionally trained person is involved in helping the patient achieve the trance, which can be done in many ways.
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Look for a hypnotherapist who is a member of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. To be a member of either of these organizations, a hypnotherapist must have a doctorate level degree in medicine, dentistry, or psychology, or a master’s degree in nursing, social work, psychology, or marital/family therapy plus a specific number of hours of approved training in hypnotherapy. In some cases, accredited, doctoral-level practitioners of alternative health care, such traditional Chinese medicine, may also be approved for membership. Of course, in addition to looking at qualifications, you should also find a hypnotherapist with whom you feel confident and comfortable in a therapeutic relationship.