Public Description of Sport Psychology

Sport psychology is a proficiency that uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sports participation, and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations. APA recognizes sport psychology as a proficiency acquired after a doctoral degree in one of the primary areas of psychology and licensure as a psychologist. This proficiency should not be confused with those who have earned a doctoral degree in sport psychology, but are not licensed psychologists.

Specialized Knowledge

  • Theory and research in social, historical, cultural and developmental foundations of sport psychology
  • Issues and techniques of sport specific psychological assessment and mental skills training for performance enhancement and participation satisfaction
  • Clinical and counseling issues with athletes
  • Organizational and systemic aspects of sport consulting
  • Developmental and social issues related to sport participation
  • Biobehavioral bases of sport and exercise (e.g., exercise physiology, motor learning, sports medicine)
  • Specific knowledge of training science and technical requirements of sport and competition, IOC, NCAA rules, etc.

Skills and Procedures Utilized

This proficiency helps protect the public by insuring that those who seek services receive them from qualified individuals. The proficiency provides a recognized set of standards to guide appropriate training of psychologists who wish to practice sport psychology. Many strategies and procedures are used by sport psychology proficiency to address problems faced by athletes and sports participants. Some of the principal areas include:

  • Cognitive and behavioral skills training for performance enhancement. goal setting; imagery and performance planning; concentration and attention control strategies; development of self-confidence, self-esteem and competence in sports; cognitive-behavioral self-regulation techniques; emotion management, sportsmanship and leadership skills.

  • Counseling and clinical interventions. athletic motivation; eating disorders and weight management; substance abuse; grief, depression, loss and suicide; overtraining and burnout; sexual identity issues; aggression and violence; athletic injury and rehabilitation; career transitions and identity crises.

  • Consultation and training. team building; sports organization consultation; systems interventions with parents and families involved in youth sports participation; education of coaches regarding motivation, interpersonal and leadership skills and talent development; education of coaches and administrators regarding early identification and prevention of psychological difficulties.