What is a sports psychologist? This is a question I am often asked, as many people are unsure or have never heard of such a profession. So in this post I am going to go over what sport psychology is and what working with a sport psychology consultant or sports psychologist looks like.
Every person will be slightly different in their approach in the field of sport psychology, as everyone brings to the table different education and focus for what they are trying to work with. For me I explain the field of sport psychology as the study of the psychological factors contributing to human performance. Human performance usually breaks down into three areas:
1. Knowledge, skills or abilities (physical or mental)
2. Motivation or desire
3. Psychological factors
So what exactly are the psychological factors that influence performance? The term psychology is heavily weighted and can often times make people uncomfortable about working with someone in the field of sport psychology, so one thing to know off the bat is sport psychology is about helping someone reach their full potential, in whatever it is they are doing. Sport psychology is generally not about the past or childhood traumas, it is about how do we get someone to uncover their own potential and find ways to maximize what already exists within them. My general approach is broken down into three areas:
I look at how does pressure impacts ones mind, how does it change certain things that are necessary for high performance and reaching ones potential. How does pressure impact your ability to have deep focus, to be aware, to strategize? How does pressure impact confidence, communication, leadership and decision making? As well how do these factors impact how one feels pressure, how they experience it and let it impact them.
Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. How well can one maintain being in the moment and how well can they come back to it once it is lost? We can only live in each moment as it occurs, when we don’t we lose the ability to truly experience something and to perform up to potential. In the world of athletics living in the moment is usually termed being in the zone or flow. When one has truly emerged themselves in the moment, another level of consciousness occurs that allows them to access another level of performance.
The only difference between great athletes, and those that never quite make it, is not that the great athletes never experienced adversity, but that they used it to better themselves and continued towards their goal. They understand that adversity is apart of the path to mastering something. If you are not making mistakes, you are not pushing yourself to your limits and thus are not in a position to grow and become better. A friend of mine recently wrote a post on persistence and what it really means. Ultimately it means the continued choosing of a goal! That is pretty powerful and something to really think about. Those that make it to their goal, continually choose their goal after each and every set back.
These three areas are the foundation for the work I do with clients. My job is to help clients understand each area and how it relates to them and their performance, and then help them evolve with time. So the best way for me to sum up what is a sports psychologist is to say it is someone who helps you to tap into the power of your mind, so that you can reach your full potential.