Sport psychology is (a) the study of the psychological and mental factors that influence and are influenced by participation and performance in sport, exercise, and physical activity, and (b) the application of the knowledge gained through this study to everyday settings.

Sport psychology professionals are interested in how participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity may enhance personal development and well-being throughout the life span.

Why do people contact a sport psychology professional? 

  • To improve performance. This is the most common reason for consulting a sport psychology professional. In general, performance may be enhanced through the teaching of mental strategies that either refine the practices of effective performers or help ineffective performers overcome obstacles that prevent them from reaching their potential.
  • To learn how to cope with the pressures of competition. Athletes at all levels seek help in dealing with the pressures of competition. Such pressures may stem from parental and/or coach expectations, the fans, as well as the athlete's own expectations regarding performance.
  • To enhance the experience of youth sport participants. Youth sport organizations may employ a sport psychology professional to educate coaches about how to increase the satisfaction and enjoyment of participants and about the coaches' role in promoting the development of healthy self esteem. 
     
  • To provide psychological assistance with injury rehabilitation. Individuals who have suffered from injuries may request assistance with adjusting to non-participant status, adhering to physical therapy, tolerating pain, or other issues. 
     
  • To develop exercise motivation programs. Individuals, corporations, and other groups that are interested in maintaining health (or weight loss) often need assistance in developing and implementing exercise motivational programs.

Who is considered a "qualified" sport psychology consultant?

Individuals with specialized training and appropriate certification and/or licensure are considered applied sport psychologists. Anyone seeking the services of an applied sport psychology professional should ask about the professional’s credentials, clientele, experience and membership in professional organizations such as the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP) and/or the American Psychological Association (APA).

A growing number of applied sport psychology professionals are certified by the AAASP. These professionals—who earn the designation Certified Consultant, AAASP (or CC, AAASP)—have met a minimum standard of education and training in the sport sciences and in psychology. They have also undergone an extensive review process. The AAASP certification process encourages applied sport psychology professionals who complete it to maintain high standards of professional conduct while giving service to others. Certification, however, does not guarantee competency.
(Information compiled from the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology at www.aaasponline.org. Accessed March 13, 2007.)

The psychological benefits of women and girls playing sports have been confirmed through research. Here are a few facts complied by the Women's Sports Foundation: 

  • Exercise and sport participation can be used as a therapeutic and preventive intervention for enhancing the physical and mental health of adolescent females. It also can enhance mental health be offering them positive feelings about body image, improved self-esteem, tangible experiences of competency and success and increased self-confidence.
    (Physical Activity & Sport in the Lives of Girls. President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 1997.) 
  • Women who are active in sports and recreational activities as girls feel greater confidence, self-esteem, and pride in their physical and social selves than those who were sedentary as kids. (Miller Lite Report, 1985; Melpomene Insitute, 1995)

References

Books

Dosil, J. (2006). The Sport Psychologist's Handbook: A Guide for Sport-Specific Performance Enhancement. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Dorfman, H.A. (2005). Coaching the Mental Game: Leadership Philosophies and Strategies for Peak Performance in Sports and Everyday Life. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing.

Driscoll, A. (2000) Girl to Girl: Sports and You! Boston, MA: Element Children's Books.

Ungerleider, S. & Bollettieri, N. (2005). Mental Training for Peak Performance. New York, NY: Rodale.

Weinberg, R.S. & Gould, D. (2007). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Journals

Here are a few journals that provide research studies and analysis's to help further your study.

The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology and The Sport Psychologist are publications of Human Kinetics in Champaign, IL.

The Journal of Applied Sport Psychology is a publication of Allen Press in Lawrence, KS.

The Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal is a publication of the Diversity Productions Inc. in Forth Worth, TX.

Organizations

Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology
2810 Crossroads Drive, Suite 3800
Madison, WI 53718
608-443-2475
www.aaasponline.org

American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
800-374-2721
www.apa.org

USOC Sport Psychology Services
U.S. Olympic Training Center- National Headquarters
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO
719-866-4956
www.usoc.org