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Sports Psychology: a Good Career Choice for Sports Enthusiasts

Updated on July 25, 2015

Sports Psychology as an Alternative to a Career in Pro Sports

Only a very small segment of the population is selected to participate in professional sports, but millions of people across the United States are pro sports fans. Many young adults want to be a professional, but the harsh reality is that very few make the cut.

Let's face it: few people have the talent needed to make a pro team, or the time to spend developing that talent. Physical limitations also come into play. If you want to be a professional basketball player and you're not tall, your odds of making a team are exceedingly slim-- in fact, only 24 NBA players that ever stepped onto the court were five feet and ten inches tall or less.

If you truly love professional sports but are unable to secure a spot on the roster as a player, one thing you may want to consider is a career in sports psychology.

What Is Sports Psychology?

Sports psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that focuses around improving athletic performance. Sports psychology combines lessons learned in traditional psychology with knowledge about kinesiology-- the study of human movement. Mental processes can affect performance either positively or negatively. The goal of a sports psychologist is to bring an athlete's mind into harmony with his or her athletic goals. Sports psychologists also help with team building, rehab, retirement counseling and communication.

Education

The good news is that there is no physical requirement. People of all sizes and shapes can become a celebrity sports psychologist. On the other hand, those who want to succeed must be prepared for an intense academic challenge. If you want to make it, you're going to have to pursue several additional years of higher education after you graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sports psychology.

You'll need at least a master's degree and a certification course to succeed in this highly competitive career field. The most prestigious certificate programs in sports psychology are offered by the American Board of Sports Psychology (ABSP). ABSP certificate programs are "proceed at your own pace" style programs that take about six to twelve months to complete. These certifications combined with at least a master's degree will help you get the foot in the door. Unless you have connections from participating in high level sports activities or are a relative of a famous player or coach, it'll be very hard to find a job in the field of sports psychology if you lack credentials.

Salary

Expect to make around $40,000 in the beginning of your career. If you earn a Ph.D., you may go on to become a professor. University professors typically earn around $55,000 per year, but the benefits are usually fairly generous. You may also find yourself working as an Executive Sports Director at the college level, making around $100,000 per year. If you specialize in working with younger children, you may become a Youth Development Director making around $40,000 per year.

If you manage to make a name for yourself, there is also potential to earn a six figure income as a sports psychologist. Professional teams pay sports psychologists top dollar to help their star athletes improve. Getting published and pursuing new areas of research might help you build your reputation and increase your chances of getting hired to work with big name professional athletes.

Pros and Cons of Sports Psychology as a Career

Pros
Cons
Broad variety of employment options
High paying jobs are competitive
Helping people is rewarding
Many years of school is required
Potential to work with pro athletes
Travel / relocation may be required

Choosing a Specialty

As you progress in your education, you will need to choose a specialization. Some sports psychologists study personality and the way that mental traits (mental toughness, self-esteem, motivation, etc.) affect performance. Others specialize in working with youth. If a team is having interpersonal conflicts, they may call in a sports psychologist specialist to help with team building, communication and group dynamics.

Techniques Used By Sports Psychologists

Sports psychologists can help athletes deal with problems around motivation. An athlete may become distracted or bored during performance. A social psychologist may guide an athlete through some meditation techniques or breathing exercises to help facilitate better concentration. A social psychologist may also counsel an athlete who is struggling with performance anxiety by using mental imagery to help the athlete imagine success in advance of the competition. An athlete who is struggling with a diet or workout plan may also benefit from consulting with a sports psychologist to help get organized or to come up with a better fitness strategy.

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    • mercuryservices profile image
      Author

      Alex Munkachy 4 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      That's good to hear and thanks for the feedback.

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Hi MercuryServices! Welcome to HubPages!

      This is interesting information for those interested in a sports psychology career. Many undergraduates would benefit from your insights. Great Hub!

      Again, Welcome, and if you need any help with your hubs, please check out the Learning Center for tips and advice. :-)