How to Become a Sports Psychologist

Sports psychologist talking with client

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Sports psychologists work with athletes on effective teamwork, stress management, motivation, and visualization. They can also assist athletes in overcoming their fears, including fears of embarrassment, failure, and performance anxiety. As a sports psychologist, you can help a sportsperson deal with competition pressure, recover from injuries, and improve mental performance skills. You can also help them prepare mentally for competitions, enhance practice efficiency, and establish pre shot and pregame routines.

Becoming a sports psychologist offers you career path diversity and specialization opportunities such as youth sports and teaching. Additionally, it’s a career that leaves you fulfilled and challenged. This article gives you several tips on how to become a sports psychologist.

1. Go to school

If you're passionate about helping coaches, athletes, and other sportspersons attain optimal performance, then attending school is the first step to becoming a sports psychologist. You can earn a bachelor's degree before completing a Master's in Sports Psychology. Graduating with these degrees boosts your chances of securing a lucrative job and increases your chances of working with top sports teams and athletes. It also enables you to remain competitive in the rapidly growing field. If you want to become a clinical sports psychologist or earn a doctorate, you can further your education to a doctor of psychology or doctor of philosophy.

2. Gain relevant experience

Gaining relevant hands-on experience enables you to prepare for your sports psychology career. Find positions that can allow you to build your skills while offering you extra knowledge. You can volunteer to help faculty members in your school conduct sports psychology-related research with tasks like data entry and data collection. You can use your research knowledge to boost a sports person's experiences.

The research experience gets you ready for the graduate level and makes you stand out for graduate programs. Alternatively, you can look for an internship to network and learn from experienced sports psychologists. These senior psychologists can act as your mentors and advise you of openings whenever they arise.

3. Get licensed

Sports psychologists can be educational or clinical. Every state requires clinical psychologists to be licensed. However, educational psychologists may need licensure. To qualify as a licensed clinical sports psychologist, many states require you to attain a doctorate in psychology plus post-doctoral training experience for a year or two under an authorized psychologist, then pass the qualifying licensing examination.

Researching the requirements for becoming a sports psychologist in your preferred state can help you prepare better. This is because each state sets the practice scope for psychologists and determines who can utilize the title, meaning, in some instances, you can be allowed to do some sports psychology-related duties but not bear the psychologist title.

4. Become board certified

Several bodies, including the ABSP (American Board of Sports Psychology), AASP (Association of Applied Sports Psychology), and ISSP (International Society of Sport Psychology), issue board certification. This certification isn't necessary for state licensure.

However, it demonstrates your expertise and boosts your marketability to prospective employers. It also shows your commitment to the sports psychology field and dedication to offering top-quality care to your clientele. For these organizations to certify you, you must pass an examination, meet particular training and education requirements, and sustain continuing education credits to ensure your certification remains current.

Additionally, you may have to remain compliant with the ethical standards provided by your professional organization, such as APA (American Psychological Association) or AASP. These standards are designed to ensure you, as a sports psychologist, adheres to ethical principles like preventing conflicts of interest, informed consent, and confidentiality.

5. Develop relevant skills

A successful sports psychologist requires more than an interest in sports, a degree, certification, and a license. They should develop various skills, personality traits, and attributes that will enable them to undertake their duties well. A good sports psychologist should have strong interpersonal skills to help them build rapport with clients. This makes it easier for the clients to trust them, communicate freely, and behave naturally during their sessions.

As a great sports psychologist, you should be able to make objective and quantifiable observations of your clients and possess analytical and active listening skills, emotional intelligence, integrity and patience, and empathy.

6. Get a job

Once you obtain the criteria for becoming a sports psychologist, it's time to look for a job. As a sports psychologist, you can work in different settings such as sports organizations, colleges or universities, professional sports teams, hospitals, or private practice. You can find research, clinical, and teaching work opportunities at a college or university.

Professional sports teams can hire you as a full-time staff or consultant to work with teams or individual sportspersons. You can also work in high-performance rehabilitation centers, medical clinics, and training centers.


A sports psychology career can be challenging, exciting, and fulfilling. Follow these steps to become a sports psychologist.

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