These are the most common frequently asked questions concerning sports psychology.
Sports psychology involves the study of how psychological factors affect (athletic) performance and how participation in sport and exercise affects psychological and physical factors. In addition to instruction and training of psychological skills for performance (enhancement), applied sports psychology may include work with athletes, coaches, and parents regarding injury, rehabilitation, communication, team building, and career transitions. (WIKI)
Applied sport and exercise psychology involves extending theory and research into the field to educate coaches, athletes, parents, exercisers, fitness professionals, and athletic trainers about the psychological aspects of their sport or activity. A primary goal of professionals in applied sport and exercise psychology is to facilitate optimal involvement, performance, and enjoyment in sport and exercise.
Sports psychology is not about treating those with mental illness. That is a clinical diagnosis. People that are challenged with mental illness, eating disorders, drug or alcohol addiction or things like debilitating depression use clinically trained psychologists to hopefully overcome those types of challenges. Sports psychology is the art of applied theory specifically designed to help athletes perform better in their sports with the use of cognitive training techniques. In other words, sport psychology consultants work with athletes who want to improve their mental game in an effort to perform at their best in their sport. Sport psychology consultants do not treat or evaluate people with mental disorders. They would refer that kind of diagnosis to another qualified professional. A sports psychology consultant focuses on performance enhancement and utilizes performance psychology techniques to help the athlete maximize their potential with the use of many different cognitive techniques. If you have the desire to perform at your best, consider utilizing a sports psychology consultant. Your competitor does.
Most Olympic athletes use some sort of psychological training. Those are the best-trained athletes in the world and are usually ahead of the learning curve when it comes to training. Any athlete looking to gain a competitive edge over the competition uses performance enhancement skills. Whether they learn to use them from self-research or hiring a consultant, all great athletes must control their mental processes to overcome and cope with the everyday things we all must contend with. Great athletes use their learned mental training in helping them achieve their full athletic potential. But, they are not doing it alone. So, instead of asking what kind of athlete uses sports psychology; a better question might be: "Why would an athlete NOT use sports psychology?" Think about this: Your competition is looking for any competitive edge in order to defeat you. Sports psychology is just another tool they can use to achieve that. You can use it too.
There are several ways to become qualified as a sports psychology consultant. A qualified consultant has an academic background in sports psychology. Why? Because that demonstrates credentials and lends credibility. What kind of education is best? One that provides the consultant with exposure to experienced professionals. The Internet is full of people who claim to be experts in performance psychology due to personal experiences or a special understanding of life. Do not trust anyone without accredited academic credentials. Without those, a consultant cannot understand the theoretical foundations of sport and exercise psychology and apply them to you.
There are basically two kinds of degrees in sports psychology. There are those with a Masters degree (M.Ed, M.A., or MS), and a doctoral degree (Ed.D. – Doctor of Education, Ph.D. – Doctor of Philosophy, or Psy.D. – Doctor of Psychology). If someone has earned one of those degrees that have a sports psychology emphasis, that person could be qualified to call themselves a sports psychology consultant. The level of their expertise is something you need to research to make sure you are working with someone who knows what they are talking about.
Academics are people that teach sports psychology in a classroom setting. Many times these are professors in colleges and universities. But are they qualified to help you? Many times they are not qualified even though they have the educational credentials.
How is that possible? How many sports have they played competitively? How many athletes/teams have they coached? It's one thing to teach theory in a classroom environment and another in applied experience. Ultimately, you would want to hire someone who has had experience in coaching and playing sports. The best scenario for you would be to put someone on your team that has academic credentials, coaching experience, and has played your sport competitively. That triple-layered consultant will be challenging for you to find (if not impossible). In terms of golf, I am one of the most qualified people in the world to consult with you or a member of your golf team. Why? I am triple layered in that sport.