What does a sports psychologist do?
A sports psychologist works with athletes, coaches and referees to find out how psychology affects performance. Sports psychologists determine how stress impacts these individuals’ sporting careers, and work with them to set goals, reduce anxiety, and maximise potential.
Sports do not only take their toll on the body. They can be incredibly emotionally taxing, particularly for those training to reach certain goals in their career. A sports psychologist will analyse performance, offering training techniques and coping strategies to help these professionals overcome obstacles.
This may involve running workshops, building exercise programmes, counselling athletes through injury, or researching sports psychology. As an offshoot of a career in psychology, sports psychology is ideal for those with an interest in health and fitness.
What qualifications do you need to be a sports psychologist?
As a discipline of psychology, sports psychology requires a minimum undergraduate degree level qualification for you to progress. You will need a degree in psychology to obtain what’s known as ‘graduate basis for Chartered Membership’, or GBC. If you already have a degree, you can choose a conversion course to secure your GBC.
You will then need to complete a Master’s degree accredited by the British Psychological Society, before a further two years’ training in sports or exercise psychology. This is known as ‘stage 2’. After completing this doctoral level training, you can become registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
An alternative route is to become qualified through the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. This will also be a follow-up to a relevant degree or conversion course, and can take from one to two years. If you are already a registered practitioner with the HCPC, you can take a supervised practice programme.
To start an undergraduate degree in psychology, you will need at least one A-Level in Chemistry, Physics, Biology or Mathematics. You can also enrol in an A-Level equivalent Level 3 Diploma in Sports Psychology.
What kind of personal skills do you need to be a sports psychologist?
As a sports psychologist, you will be dealing with people from all walks of life on a daily basis. You’ll need to enjoy working with people and be able to maintain professional boundaries. Some of these people may be going through periods of immense distress, particularly if they are injured or feel under pressure.
This also means you’ll have to be observant, as you are analysing changes in a person’s behaviour. Verbal skills are a must, particularly when communicating different treatment methods. Above all, you need to be patient and empathetic – understanding what a person is going through and helping them with the best course of action.
If yours is more of a research-based role, you will also benefit from analytical skills and an enquiring mind. For example, you may need to assess fitness trends in groups of athletes based on behavioural traits.
What are some benefits of being a sports psychologist?
Sports psychologists can help athletes, coaches and referees to overcome personal traumas. This is incredibly rewarding, knowing that your course of treatment positively impacts somebody’s life.
A sports psychologist can be instrumental in an athlete’s healing. A practising sportsperson may need guidance on overcoming an injury. Retired sports stars may also face challenges, such as mental health issues caused by repeated brain injuries. Your analysis of their behavioural traits could make a huge difference in their life.
Sports psychology offers a range of challenges, and introduces you to people from all walks of life. You may be counselling somebody through an injury one day, and leading an entire sports team the next. If you’re passionate about sports, you may enjoy working in a range of sporting arenas.
As an offshoot of psychology, sports psychology is also generally well paid. Starting salaries tend to be closer to average UK figures, at around the £20,000 mark, but you can progress. Senior sports psychologists could earn up to £48,000 per year.
If you’re passionate about psychology and looking to niche, sports is a varied, rewarding and lucrative career path.
How much does a sports psychologist earn?
Sports psychologists need to go through many years of study, which is rewarded with high salaries. You may even find you can charge more if you choose to go freelance, with some top-level consultants charging up to £1,000 per day.
How much does a sports psychologist earn?
£37,000 to 38,000
£20,000 to 22,000
Your pay may be affected by your employer. You could choose to work for the public sector, such as in an NHS sports psychologist role, or for a private employer, such as UK Sport.
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