What Does Sports Psychology Focus On?
A degree in sports psychology can open a wide range of doors for people interested in many different career fields. Because sports psychology is an interdisciplinary science and profession, meaning that it combines elements from multiple other sciences and professions (as wide-ranging in this case as behavioral psychology and physiology), those seeking a degree in sports psychology must often put in a great deal of work up front, but will emerge from their respective programs as well-rounded individuals with many doors now open for them.
Sports psychology is intensely focused on the relationship between the mind and the body, particularly concerned with things particular to athletic competition like motivation to train harder and perform better during competition and team dynamics. These concepts are often related to ideas talked about in behavioral psychology and other sub-fields within the overarching field of psychology; sports psychology simply applies them directly to athletes in great detail in order to get at a deeper and more helpful understanding of the role that an athlete’s mind plays in her successes.
Many careers within the field of sports psychology involve analysis of psychological traits of individuals and groups in the athletic world and an application of the findings of that analysis to particular situations. That being said, there are also some more highly specialized jobs that have employees focusing intently on one aspect of sports psychology at a time.
Related: Becoming a Sports Psychologist
The employment outlook for the overarching field of psychology as a whole is very good, projected to grow at a slightly faster rate than the average field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – growing at 12% from 2012 to 2022, as opposed to the average of 11% growth for all career fields. Because individuals with degrees in sports psychology can get jobs in most psychological fields and at all levels of the psychological field, the overall trends in psychology as a whole can be construed as very similar to those in sports psychology in particular.
Similarly, the types of jobs available within the fields of sports psychology are often very similar to those available within the field of psychology in general, but in more specialized forms.
Career Path and Options
These types of psychologists in general provide psychological services to the workplace by analyzing trends within an employer’s work environment and working in counseling or other roles for employees. In the more specialized world of sports psychology, though, industrial-organizational psychologists may work for entities like professional sports teams and sports training facilities. Many professional sports teams and leagues function just like other workplaces and require the same types of psychological services that other workplaces do, but with a more sports-focused bent and from an individual more well-versed in sports, especially when it comes to counseling and providing similar services for professional athletes.
Industrial-organizational psychologists are the most highly paid single group of psychologists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a median annual salary of $83,580 as of 2012. That being said, industrial-organizational psychologists for major professional and college sports teams may expect to make a great deal more, while those working for smaller colleges and nonprofit organizations (such as city recreation departments with youth athletic programs) may be paid significantly less – though there are other benefits to keep in mind.
Counseling psychologists work in private practices or hospitals or similar medical centers, generally making around $67,650 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within sports psychology, individuals interested in becoming counseling psychologists, who listen to their patients’ problems and give them advice on how best to conduct themselves, may look into specialized fields such as career counseling and mental health services during career transitions (especially when athletes reach the end of their careers and must seek out other careers, which many of them have difficulty doing) or counseling during periods of injury, stress, or lack of motivation.
Related: Becoming a Counseling Psychologist
Psychologists of this type or with knowledge in this sub-field may also work as consultants, giving coaches and other athletic professionals’ advice on how to counsel their players in order to maximize performance and minimize the occurrence of high stress and mental problems such as depression and anxiety. Because consulting work varies more than steady counseling work, it is harder to pin down exact salaries for sports counseling consultants, though some are highly successful.
Social psychologists, who can make up to $90,000 a year and above according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are concerned with how groups and individuals within groups interact with one another and respond en masse to certain types of stimuli. In sports psychology, this can be applied in two major ways. First, social psychologists may be hired on a permanent or consulting basis in order to facilitate teamwork and group productivity for a professional, college, or other sports team. Second, social psychologists with business experience or an understanding of the business world may be hired on a permanent or consultant basis in order to facilitate psychological marketing for sports teams and events.