Do you need a degree to become a Licensed Sports Psychologist?

According to the American Psychological Association, the field of psychology studies a person’s mind and how – what goes on in a person’s mind – affects how they behave. There are various branches that people – who do decide to be a psychologist – can go into such as clinical psychology and industrial psychology, to name a few. Although they are not medical doctors they are professionals who are allied to the medical profession and are registered with the body that regulates the health care profession.

Sports psychology is an essential field in the world of fitness and sports performance. These professionals ensure that athletes get the mental and emotional support to remain on top of their game, regardless of what life throws at them. A sports psychologist is just as essential, in the life of an athlete, as a sports coach or a sports manager.

So, do you need a PhD to start offering sports psychology services? Not if you’re planning on offering soft skills sports psychology. In this article we’ll look at what the difference between soft skills and licensed sports psychology is. We also look at how to get a head start in the sports psychology field.

Licensed Sports Psychology

This branch of sports psychology requires a licence to practice. On a day-to-day basis, this type of sports psychologist will perform tasks such as:

  • Counselling athletes
  • Assisting with remedying any performance issues that have psychological origins.

A bachelor’s degree will open up some doors in the licensed sports psychology field, as long as you have a major in psychology in addition to one or two sports-related modules. To find out where you can pursue this type of qualification, you’ll need to view the websites of various universities or colleges.

If you want to become a clinical or applied sports psychologist you can’t just stop at an undergraduate qualification. You’ll need at least a master’s degree (the best positions usually ask for a doctorate). Clinical sports psychologists counsel sportswomen and sportsmen who face issues ranging from anxiety and performance barriers, to modifying their behaviour and how they respond to injuries and slumps. This means that to help athletes deal with these issues effectively, the psychologist will need to have the tools that such an advanced degree will give them.

Soft Skills Sports Psychology

Because sports psychology is of an interdisciplinary nature, one need not go along the path of clinical or applied sports psychology in their common formats. Soft skills development, from a psychology perspective, in teams and individual athletes is just as important. The great thing is that you don’t need to be licensed to do so!

Hard skills in sports psychology are the technical aspects, for example such as diagnosing disorders and developing mental techniques to assist athletes when they perform their particular sports. Sports psychologists offering soft skills assist athletes with things like clarifying and upholding values, setting and achieving personal goals, and ensuring that there is a constant healthy dose of encouragement around at all times. Some argue that soft skills are just as important as those developed through clinical and applied sports psychology.

What type of person should become a sports psychologist?

It takes a special type of person to become a sports psychologist. First of all, if you want to pursue this career, you’ve got to be passionate about sport. Even better, you’ve got to be an avid sportsperson yourself. Because you need to get into your patient’s head, and feel what they’re struggling with an going through, you need to have experienced the trials and tribulations yourself. When they describe what they’re struggling with, you need to know how this feels. And the only way to do this is if you’ve experienced it yourself.

Besides being passionate about sports, to be a great sports psychologist you need to be a great listener. Remember that the trick with any type of psychology is to allow the patient to come to the conclusion – about what they need to do – themselves. You can’t tell them what to do because if they feel that they are doing something because they ‘have to’ do it, chances are very good that they will end up giving up on the practice.

There are many avenues that you can take to becoming a sports psychologist. You don’t necessarily need a PhD to enter the sports psychology profession. There are other avenues – like soft skills sports psychology – that you can take.