According to Division 47 of the American Psychological Association, sports psychology encompasses a range of topics including "motivation to persist and achieve, psychological considerations in sport injury and rehabilitation, counseling techniques with athletes, assessing talent, exercise adherence and well-being, self-perceptions related to achieving, expertise in sport, youth sport and performance enhancement and self-regulation techniques."
While popular perceptions often presume that sports psychology is only concerned with professional athletics, this specialty area includes a broad range of scientific, clinical and applied topics involving sports and exercise. There are two key areas of interest in sports psychology: understanding how psychology can be applied to improve motivation and performance and understanding how sports and athletics can improve mental health and overall well-being.
Sports psychologists may also choose to specialize in a particular area.
Some examples of major specialties within this field include:
- Clinical sports psychology involves combining mental training strategies from sports psychology with psychotherapy to help clients who suffer from mental health problems including eating disorders and depression.
- Academic sports psychologists teach at colleges and universities and also conduct research
What Do Sports Psychologists Do?
Sports psychologists typically perform a range of tasks related to sports performance and education. Some opt to teach at the university level, while others work directly with athletes to increase motivation and enhance performance. Other options include client counseling, scientific research and athletic consulting.
In addition to working with professional athletes, sports psychologists also utilize their expertise to increase the mental well-being of non-athletes. They may work with a range of clients including children and teens involved in athletics, professional athletes and teams interested in improving their performance and injured athletes working toward returning to competition.
How Much Do Sports Psychologists Typically Earn?
Pay ranges vary considerably within sports psychology based on training, education, and area of specialization. According to the published by the U.S. Department of Labor, average salaries for clinical and counseling psychologists range between $41, 850 and $71, 880. The median salary for university faculty positions was $55, 000 in a 2001 salary survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) (Singleton et al., 2003). Some top sports psychologists earn six-figure salaries working as consultants for professional athletes, but most earn a more modest yearly income.
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