Do you want to be part of a sports team but aren’t going to make the cut to play? You can help in other ways, such as becoming a sports psychologist to help players.
The two words ‘sports’ and ‘psychology’ may not seem like they belong in the same sentence, The field of sports psychology is, in fact, a new, specialized branch of occupational therapy that focuses on helping athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels in order to improve their performance, ensure they stay well-adjusted, and help cope with the lifestyle.
Professional athletes, in particular, undergo a high-pressure lifestyle that can create extreme stress, leading to negative coping mechanisms, conflicts with coaches or teammates, or other long- and short-term issues that require therapy to fix. People who want to get into this career field should make it a point to learn about the sports psychologist salary and other information.
We’ve come up with some of the most important information about being a sports psychologist to help you decide whether it’s the right career path for you. Bear in mind that as with any career your experience and knowledge will vary from others. We hope this will serve as a proper baseline of knowledge.
This is the most important aspect of any job for many people. Because sports psychology is a new and relatively narrow field, it can be hard to pin down exact data. However, sports psychologists can make a salary of about $70,000 annually. This number can be even higher if you work for a prestigious organization.
In the case of sports psychology, this would be something like a sports team, either at the professional or collegiate level. At the collegiate level, payers are more likely to visit their career advisor or coach for help dealing the stresses brought on by the game.
The more specialty knowledge the sports psychologist has, the higher their salary can be. Other factors include the organization for which you work, the scope of your job duties, your amount of experience in the field, and others. Unlike hourly wage jobs, you can typically negotiate a salary based on benefits and other factors.
Also, bear in mind that the figure of $70,000 is a salary and does not always accurately reflect the amount of actual work you do. Salaried jobs are not tied to a standard 40-hour workweek, though most psychologists keep standard hours, you may be expected to be on call in case an athlete needs immediate counseling.
What Does a Sports Psychologist Do?
A sports psychologist is a psychologist that works in a sports-related setting, like a team or a school. The position could exist in any organization with strong teamwork and competitive-based environment, such as the military.
You work alongside athletes and consult with coaches to help the team perform better. One major example is to help athletes improve their performance on the field or court by addressing metal hangups that might be holding them back. Where coaches and trainers focus on physical technique and skills, sports psychologists help athletes find ways to induce “flow” or “the zone.”
This is a state during which the conscious mind shuts off and allows the subconscious and muscle memory to perform the required actions. A player who is nervous will overthink and reduce to the level of a beginner trying to perform the task. A sports psychologist teaches visualization techniques, meditation, and other rituals to induce a state of calm alertness.
A sports psychologist can also help players create positive coping mechanisms to deal with pressure, as well as provide stress relief exercises or in some cases intercede between a player and a coach that might be pushing too hard. They also can teach health anger management and conflict resolution skills. Competitive personalities can easily conflict with one another.
Therefore, it is important that athletes, coaches, and other members of teams have healthy outlets for stress and conflict.
Should a player be injured and need to seek physical therapy, a sports psychologist can assist in the process as well as to help the player cope with the problems, whether it’s from stress or a lack of pain tolerance. Some pain is inevitable during the healing process and a sports player needs to be able to accept and work through that to the degree that it’s safe.
Job Environment of a Sports Psychologist
The job environment is relatively comfortable. As a psychologist, you work in a climate controlled office setting, and you can usually set your operational hours though you may have to make yourself available to clients that need help outside those times. Just know what you’re comfortable doing.
A sports psychologist can have a private practice, but sometimes they are affiliated with sports teams exclusively – being on retainer if you will. If you manage to get a position as a team’s psychologist, you can almost guarantee that you’ll have a higher salary than the average practitioner. Other places you can work include gyms and occupational therapy centers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most fields of psychology, including sports psychology, will experience a job growth of 14 percent by 2026. This doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get a job. If just means there is expected to be more demand If you want to have the best chance at employment in this field, you need to relocate to a large city.
Large cities have sports teams and a wide range of psychological services that need additional practitioners. Of course, bear in mind that you’ll be competing with hundreds of others possibly for the same spot, so you’ll need to make yourself stand out from the competition.
Getting that lucrative sports psychologist salary doesn’t come easily. To have the best chance at landing jobs in this field you need to get at least a master’s degree in psychology and have a background in physical education. A dual major as an undergraduate can work well for this route if you’re willing to take longer and shoulder the extra credit load.
First, you need to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology. This will likely involve an internship, as well as practical studies in the field. Internships usually last anywhere from three to six months and provide college credit toward graduation. Once you get your bachelor’s degree in four years’ worth of study, you then need to get your master’s degree, which should take about two years.
This is the minimum baseline of education for most good positions as a sports psychologist, If you want to set yourself above the rest, go for your doctorate. This can take anywhere from two to four years. You can pursue a doctorate in the form of a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.
Participating in research studies, publishing studies, and papers, and attending regular meetings or seminars in your field can also increase your chances of getting a higher salary.
You can specialize in one of three main fields when becoming a sports psychologist: research, counseling, or training. Research is exactly what it sounds like: you look into new methods of practice, conduct and supervise studies, and record the results to see what is most efficient. You can publish these results in academic papers.
Counseling is the aspect of a sports psychologist’s job that we’ve touched on the most. In this part of the job, you focus on helping athletes get over any mental hangups they may be experiencing, help them emotionally recover from injury, or helping them to develop coping mechanisms.
As a counselor, you might also work alongside an athlete’s physical therapist if you’re trying to help recover from an injury. You’ll share information from your sessions on a need-to-know basis, so the physical therapist knows where the patient is struggling and how he or she best responds.
Training, meanwhile, is a more academic route. In this job, you focus on teaching up-and-coming professionals how to practice sports psychology.
Qualities of a Good Sports Psychologist
You need the following qualities to be good at your job
- Ability to listen
- Background in sports or exercise-related field
- Ability to remain objective
This last point is vital to practicing any form of psychology, but if you’re affiliated with a sports team, it’s even more necessary because you can become attached to a player’s ability to perform, regardless of whether it’s the healthiest thing or not.
The other qualities allow you to listen to the patient and provide them with helpful, professional advice. With a background in sports, you can more easily empathize with any struggles the athlete is facing and possibly draw on your own experiences to help.
Sports Psychologist Salary: Final Thoughts
Working as a sports psychologist can be a fulfilling and lucrative career, with the potential for working with some of the greatest athletes of modern times. You can nurture growth, prevent future burnout, and bring a sense of compassion to a sometimes cutthroat culture. You can also nurture a love for sports and exercise in students if you work in an elementary or high school.