Do you get jittery before a big game or find that your nerves get the better of you during a game?
Are you looking for a way to improve your sports performance? Looking into sports psychologists might be the answer. Interestingly, almost 85% of coaches say that mental toughness is one of the most important sets of psychological characteristics when figuring out what level of competitive success an athlete will have. A sports psychologist can help you hone that mental toughness, work through anxiety, and train your mind to get into the “zone” before and during the game. There are different types of sports psychology and psychologists may have their own techniques and methods. Read on to see what sports psychologists can help you with, why you should consider employing one, and how to find the best sports psychologist.
What Do Sports Psychologists Do?
The ultimate goal of a sports psychologist is to help athletes reach their full potential. They can fill various functions as trainers, therapists, or even advisers. If an athlete suffers from an eating disorder or is beginning to think about what he or she wants to do after s/he leaves the sport, a sports psychologist can help. Some sports psychologists specialize in physical therapy or getting back on their feet — literally or figuratively — after an injury.
In terms of research, sports psychologists are interested in seeing the effects — both positive and negative — of participating in a sport at a high professional level, what makes an athlete successful, and how being hurt can affect individuals.
They’re most commonly hired by professional athletic teams and schools (mostly colleges), to keep their athletes happy and healthy on and off the field.
How Can Employing a Sports Psychologist Help My Team?
Though teamwork is necessary in almost every sport, many individuals claim their sport as their identity, especially if they started playing at a young age. According to a study done by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, around 60% of student athletes said they viewed themselves as an athlete first, and a student second. If an athlete is hurt and can’t play — either temporarily or permanently — that can be mentally and emotionally devastating news. A sports psychologist can help them work through it and focus their energy and passion into different channels.
Alternately, sports psychologists can help athletes focus better under pressure during a game, control their emotions, and persevere, despite setbacks. These all lead to stronger performances and more balanced individuals off the field. And, the ability to handle nerves, strong emotion, and setbacks will go far in the rest of their lives, even after they retire from the field.
Indeed, using mental skills training to develop mental toughness can have a huge impact on athlete finishing time and if you take into account the variables that can have a difference when it comes to performance (how fit the athlete is, the weather, and nutrition), mental toughness can be responsible for as much as 14% of the outcome.
How Do I Find the Best Sports Psychologist For My Athletes?
Each sports psychologist will specialize in a different range of services, so knowing that services you’re looking for going in, will be helpful in deciding which psychologist you want to employ. Of course, looking at credentials and qualifications, as well as their specific skill sets, is also imperative when deciding on a sports psychologist. You’ll probably also want to conduct interviews and get a feel for how they work with you and your team.
You can also consult the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, which lists psychologists who meet their professional criteria. Candidates are reviewed by their board before being allowed to join the Association, so you know they’ve already undergone a rigorous evaluation. You can search more specifically by geographic location on their website as well.
Hiring a sports psychologist can have many positive benefits for your athletes. Not only can it help improve their performance on the field, but it can also be excellent to have someone they can talk to about any mental or emotional issues over the course of the season.