What Does A Sport Psychologist Do

Athletes are increasingly seeking out support to help improve performance, and many are turning towards sport psychology support. But before taking the step to work on their mental game, many are curious about what does a sport psychologist do, and need to understand what kind of support they can expect to receive. 


Well, a sport psychologist works with athletes or teams to enhance their psychological approach. Typically, these interventions are directed towards enhancing sport performance. For example, helping an athlete manage anxiety levels, or perhaps discussing the use of pre-performance routines to help maintain concentration and focus. The aim is to help the athlete perform to their potential and achieve success. 


 

Sometimes a sport psychologist is called upon to deal with other issues, such as, helping an athlete during injury rehabilitation. Also some sport psychology consultants, particularly those who are clinical sport psychologists, sport psychiatrists, or sports counsellors, will also help individuals deal with broader issues around mental well-being. By understanding what psychological factors are important a sport psychology consultant can develop a psychology program to help athletes and teams improve their sport performance or psychological wellbeing. Often these interventions will involve sport psychology mental skills such as goal setting, relaxation strategies, positive self-talk or imagery, but can also involve others such as counselling. 


A sport psychologist will want to talk with a client to understand the particular issue and plan how best to help. This may happen in the consultant’s office but can also take place at a place the athlete feels comfortable, such as a training ground, or neutral venue like a coffee shop. Sport Psychologists will also want to observe the athlete performing (if performance is the issue) to get some observational data on the issue. 

   

Sport psychologists will often use different approaches to consulting. For example, some may use a cognitive behavioural approach, others may use a humanistic style of consulting. There are a number of different strategies that the consultants who list with us can use to improve performance. For example, imagery (often called mental rehearsal) can be used to enhance confidence. Another strategy to enhance confidence is self-talk. Approaches to stress management can include breathing techniques and mindfulness. The previously mentioned techniques of imagery and self-talk can also be effective techniques for stress management in competition. Many of our consultants also use counselling techniques that can be helpful in managing transitions or responses to injury or retirement. These are only examples of course and there are a wide range of strategies and approaches that consultants can use to help enhance confidence, stress management and managing the challenges of dealing with injury and retirement in sport. 


Despite a wide range of frameworks and techniques it is interesting to see that research suggests that while psychology practitioners may be technically diverse in their practices, there is no differential effectiveness. In other words, psychological consultancy seems to be effective regardless of the specific technique employed and the key factor appears to be the relationship that the psychologist forms with the client. You can find out more information on the pathways to becoming a sport psychologist in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia


Whether it is improving performance through mental training, or managing general lifestyle issues, such as mental health, our directory of sport psychologists can help athletes, coaches, and parent. While you may be keen to work with someone face to face this is often not possible and many of the consultants offer online sport psychology support. This latter approach can be particularly helpful if you are travelling frequently for training or competition. While sport psychology support is often thought to be the preserve of professional athletes, amateur and junior athletes can also benefit from the support of a sport psychologist. 

   

We hope you have found this brief overview of what does a sport psychologist do helpful. You can search our directory of sport psychologists for support. We also have a range of sport psychology courses online that may be helpful. If you would like any further information or support – please do not hesitate to contact the friendly team at Sporting Bounce.