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What is Sport Psychology?

Sport Psychology is the study of behavioral factors that influence and are influenced by active participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity. Sport psychology professionals are interested in how participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity may enhance personal development and well-being.

Sport psychology professionals work with the mental aspects of sport performance. Coaches often focus exclusively with the physical and strategic components of competition, whereas, sport psychology professionals strive to enhance the minds of athletes and to help them improve their performance in order to reach their greatest mental potential in a competitive setting.

Why do people contact sport psychology professionals?

1) To improve performance
The most common reason for consulting a sport psychology professional – to improve performance. Performance may be enhanced through the teaching of mental strategies that help refine performer practices or help performers overcome obstacles that may be preventing them from reaching their potential.

2) To cope with the pressures of competition
Athletes of all levels feel varying degrees of pressure/anxiety during competition. Such pressures may stem from external expectations as well as the athlete's own expectations regarding performance. Sport psychology professionals help provide athletes with strategies and tools to overcome pressure and anxiety that often is associated with performance.

3) To enhance the enjoyment of youth sport participants
Youth sport and parent organizations may employ a sport psychology professional to educate coaches about ideas and methods to increase the satisfaction and enjoyment and about support structures that promote the development of healthy self- esteem.

4) To get psychological assistance with injury rehabilitation
Injuries often require athletes to adjust to non-participant status, adhere to often-rigorous physical therapy, tolerate pain, or other issues. Sport psychology professionals can provide guidance and support during the rehabilitation process.

5) To assist with an exercise program
Many who desire to exercise regularly may need to boost motivation or get help with other issues that get in the way of meeting their goals.

6) To help ease the transition out of sports participation

Sport and exercise participants invest a lot of time in pursuit of sport enjoyment. When transition to non-participatory status becomes a reality, coping with this life event can be difficult. A sport psychology professional can help to guide and counsel participants through this transition process.

7) To receive guidance in dealing with life challenges
Concerns with personal problems can adversely affect exercise and athletic performance. People often find that counseling helps to put things in perspective and allows for greater satisfaction in life, career transition, and time management. Professionals who are trained in these specific areas can often provide much needed support.

What services can a sport psychology professional provide?
Sport psychology professionals may provide a variety of services to individuals, groups and organizations related to the psychological factors affecting sport, exercise, and physical activity. The most common services focus on:

Teaching specific mental, behavioral, psychosocial, and emotional control skills. For example; focus on relaxation, concentration, self-talk, self-confidence, goal setting, aggression, burnout and/or the use of imagery as tools to enhance performance.

Special Clinical Training and Licensure
Sport psychology professionals who have special training or licensure in areas such as social work, counseling, counseling psychology or clinical psychology may also provide services such as diagnosis and treatment of psychological difficulties (e.g., depression, eating disorders, substance abuse), marital, family or group therapy, or the administration and interpretation of psychological tests in addition to those services listed above

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