What does a sports psychologists do?

A sports psychologist is a licensed mental health professional who helps athletes improve their performance and focus.  They work with sports players to help them identify their challenges, work through difficult times, and set goals.
A sports psychologist's job is to understand how psychological factors affect an athlete's physical performance and to understand how participation in sport affects a person's psychological development. A sports psychologist will help an athlete build awareness of areas that the athlete would like to improve upon. Once an athlete has an awareness of areas of improvement in their sports performance, there are three important phases of psychological skills training: the education phase, the acquisition phase, and the practice phase. In order to develop and improve mental skills, research has shown that is important to include all three phases of psychological skills training. In the education phase, a person must first identify what need they have for psychological skills training. During the identification period, a person also needs to become aware of the relevance of psychological skills training and how it applies to the their specific needs. For example, a person may think that mental skills training is only for someone who has psychological issues. It's important for this person to understand how mental skills training can be beneficial and applicable in a sport and exercise setting using specific examples of things addressing that person's need and hoping to "normalize" psychological skills training. In the acquisition phase, it's important for people to understand the range of techniques available to help address their needs and how to utilize those techniques. In the practice phase, people learn skills through extensive practice so that those skills become automatic and people learn how to transfer those skills to their sport or exercise.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.