Sports and exercise psychology is a relatively new and fast-growing multidisciplinary field of psychology that addresses the mental health needs of athletes. Sports psychologists combine their knowledge of both psychology and exercise or kinesiology (human kinetics) to help athletes learn to maintain their focus and concentration, remain optimistic, and set realistic goals. They may help athletes cope with injuries and the process of rehabilitation, communication with team mates, and career transitions. Sports psychologists counsel coaches and parents of athletes as well. They also conduct research into how participating in sports and exercise influence an individual’s mental health and how psychological factors in turn affect an athlete’s performance.
Sports psychologists must hold a master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree in psychology and be state-licensed or certified. The specific licensing or certification requirements will vary by state. As of this writing, only a small number of schools offer bachelor’s, master’s and/or doctorate degree programs in sports psychology. Some programs offer a degree in sports psychology along with a separate certificate in exercise and sports performance or a dual degree in sports psychology and career counseling. Doctorate programs in sports psychology typically emphasize a course of research and are designed to prepare students for employment teaching and researching in an academic setting.