If you have a passion for sport and helping athletes, then becoming a sports psychologist is probably high on your list of possible careers. Sports psychology focuses on how playing sports affects people and how to help athletes have positive mindsets that will help them to excel in their sports.
Sports psychologists understand that successful athletes, whether professional or amateur, must have healthy bodies and minds. And to achieve this success, you need a sports psychologist.
There are many benefits for athletes who use sports psychologists including overcoming psychological issues and reducing stress and extreme anxiety. But what are the benefits of becoming or being a sports psychologist?
What is a Sports Psychologist?
An athlete may stand alone when collecting the prize but it takes a team of people to get them ready for the win – physically and mentally. A sports psychologist forms part of the team that helps amateur and professional athletes to perform at their best. When you are at the top of your game, and you want to stay that way, your mind – not just your body – needs to be incredibly strong. This is where the sports psychologist comes in.
Today’s sports psychologists
The modern sports psychologist works with athletes at all levels to improve their performance, help them manage stress and anxiety as well as any challenges associated with injuries or challenges. Most importantly, they encourage and motivate athletes to enjoy what they do.
A sports psychologist also goes beyond what a coach does in that they get to an athlete’s underlying core beliefs. They mainly use relaxation techniques, visualisation and self-talk to create healthy self-esteem in athletes. This ensures they reach the level of excellence they strive for.
There are a number of tips that these professionals give their athletes to help them with their performance. You can use these too in order to improve your performance on the sports field and in the gym. For example:
- When you’re working out, use positive mental imagery to keep you focused on achieving and surpassing your fitness goals.
- Always engage in positive self-talk. This will help you get to go that extra mile when all you want to do is give up.
- Break your training goals down. Don’t think about the 100km race that is in in front of you. Focus on getting to the next lamppost. Once you’ve gotten there, focus on reaching the finish line.
Enjoy the reward of helping athletes overcome their challenges
As a sports psychologist, you can bring back the joy for athletes who have lost their passion for their sport. Not only can you help them overcome challenges but you can also help athletes improve their mental and physical states. You can put a smile back on their dial! In other words, being a sports psychologist is a gratifying and fulfilling career.
In terms of designing programmes for their athletes, sports psychologists suggest the following best practices – among many others – to sports coaches to help them keep their sportsmen and -women motivated:
What one athlete finds enjoyable, another may not enjoy
The definition of an enjoyable activity is highly subjective yet the importance of doing something that someone likes is critical to maximising psychological payoffs.
There has been significant debate about if exercise needs to be aerobic to produce reliable psychological benefits. Some studies have shown that activities, like yoga, which involve diaphragmatic breathing produce benefits similar to those from aerobic activities. Based on these findings, a regular, varied fitness programme will provide the best benefits.
Absence of interpersonal competition
Half the athletes involved in competitive activities lose. Along with this experience often go self-criticism and negative emotional states. If your self-esteem is at a high level, losing a game isn’t as likely to throw you for a spin. Remember, however, that self-esteem waxes and wanes based on life experiences. If an athlete happen to be on a losing streak in life, involving this athlete in a steady diet of competitively oriented sports may accelerate their downward spiral. This highlights the need for a personal lifestyle fitness (or wellness) coach to create scenarios where the athlete can feel successful in a non-competitive setting.
Closed or predictable activity
When life circumstances are ambiguous, uncertain, and uncontrollable, having an exercise programme that is predictable and contained may help. Swimming laps in a pool, doing a weight-training circuit, or going for a run on a well-worn path may allow your mind to release into free association. Such activities can also provide opportunities for solitude and reflection. While this may not work for all athletes or even at all times, this prescription can be important when the rest of one’s life feels chaotic and stressful.
Throughout the literature on the psychological benefits of exercise are consistent recommendations for moderate, rather than light or intense, exercise. As a rule of thumb, engaging in a programme that moderately taxes your body will more reliably produce beneficial psychological outcomes than participating in one that is too hard or too easy.
- A minimum of 20-30 minutes. More is not always better and less is not always without benefit. Whenever possible, exercise sessions should be scheduled to last at least 20-30 minutes, remembering of course that even 10-minute exercise periods have been shown to have some psychological payoffs.
- Weekly scheduling. The frequency of exercise sessions may vary according to preference, conditioning, and age. In general, the formula of being active on a daily basis – in one way or another – is a good one. When frequency drops below three times per week, psychological benefits usually decline as well.
Whether you work in someone else’s practice or for yourself, being a sports psychologist offers you freedom. You can set your own hours and control your schedule. There aren’t many professions where you get to enjoy this degree of freedom.
One thing you can be certain of – when becoming a sports psychologist – is that your life will most definitely not be boring. You have the opportunity to work with people from all walks of life, all levels of skill, cultures and backgrounds. You probably won’t have one day that is the same. Whether you help children, amateur or professional athletes, you will get the opportunity to work with new people almost every day. How exciting!
And there you have it! Just three benefits of many of being a sports psychologist. Are you ready to step into your calling? Then contact us today!
Sports psychology is an interesting field that is always evolving. Contact a representative from Trifocus Fitness Academy today about our Sports Psychology Course if you want to help athletes improve their performance and excel in their sport.