What is a Sport Psychologist?

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith, MA Sport Psychology

What is a Sport Psychologist?

According to the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), “A sport psychologist is someone who is trained in clinical or counseling psychology to provide individual or group therapy relative to a broad range of behavioral and emotional issues.”

In order to call oneself a “psychologist,” you must be licensed by the state.

Did you know that some of the most effective people in the field of Sport & Exercise Psychology are NOT licensed psychologists?  This is because they have chosen to focus on performance enhancement rather than clinical issues.

According to AASP, “Performance Enhancement Consultants are professionals trained in sport and exercise but are not licensed psychologists or counselors. Also known as sport and exercise psychology consultants or mental coaches. Provides individual or group consultations geared towards performance–related issues.”

When deciding who to turn to, ask yourself the following question:

  • Are my issues clinical or performance-related?

For performance-related issues (Anxiety/energy management, motivation, confidence or focus issues, negativity, time-management, etc.), it’s best to find a High Performance Coach or professional who specializes in mental skills training.

For clinical issues (eating disorder, depression, ADHD, etc.), you will be best served by a state-licensed psychologist.

How do I choose the Best Sport Psychologist?

Find someone who understands your unique performance issue. Also, seek out someone you feel you can trust and open up to. This is critical. It has been proven that the relationship between the consultant & athlete will make or break the athlete’s progress. If you don’t feel a heart connection, keep looking.

Read the articles this person writes.  Do you resonate with them? Read testimonials.  Are people saying good things about the help they received? What sports do they focus on?  What issues do they talk about? Do you feel like they understand and respect you?  Do you feel comfortable with them? Always have a conversation with a person before you hire them.  It’s important to make sure it feels like a good fit from the beginning.

What does a sports psychologist do?

We work with individual athletes and sports teams to help you master the mental side of sport. Whatever you call us (mental coach, performance enhancement consultant, mindset expert, awesomeness advisor), there are some common threads.

Most athletes I work with come to me for similar issues:

  • How to get in “the zone” for competition
  • How to overcome nerves
  • How to get out of a slump
  • How to encourage a child not to give up
  • How to overcome mental blocks
  • How to be a good sports parent
  • How to overcome fear in gymnastics and other sports
  • Building confidence, or getting confidence back
  • How to get an edge over the competition
  • How to motivate children in sports
  • How to increase focus and concentration in sports
  • How to transition out of sport or come back after an injury
  • How to set effective goals

Where do you meet with athletes?

Since I primarily work with young athletes, I work in a broad range of settings.  Kids & teens don’t always like to sit in a “therapy” office, so I often meet clients at a coffee shop, sport facility, or at home so they can be more comfortable.

Sessions also take place through video conferencing (via Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts).  This offers flexibility since most of my clients are outside the San Francisco Bay Area, (and incredibly busy!).

How does mindset coaching work?

Basically, we hang out and talk about the athlete’s sport.  I create a fun, warm environment based on trust and mutual understanding.

The athlete leads the session because they are the #1 expert on their own mind.  I help the athlete to open up and explore their sport experience. We tease apart thought patterns and belief systems that are keeping the athlete from reaching their goals.

I also teach scientifically proven techniques that allow the athlete to start re-wiring their brain for success. Every session increases awareness of the athlete’s mindset and how it effects performance.  The more aware they are, the more they can move forward.

The more they apply the techniques I teach, the faster they improve.

My goal is to give you (or your child) the mental edge as quickly as possible.  We’re not talking months or years.  Often, clients feel more confident, relaxed, and excited after just a handful of sessions.  I also offer monthly or quarterly check-ins to maintain the good work we’ve done.

I want to get you in, out, and on your way to a happy, successful sport career.  

How much does a sport psychologist cost?

In this industry, prices range from free/pro-bono up to tens of thousands of dollars per hour.  Many practitioners in California charge upwards of $150-300/session.

Because of my focus on youth athletes, it’s important for me to keep my prices affordable. I have a sliding scale and I give discounts for packages of sessions.  Click here to see my current rates for individual sessions & packages.  If you’re experiencing financial hardship, please inquire about my sliding scale.

Starting this work at a young age lays the foundation for a happy, healthy, successful life. My vision is to make mental toughness training available to all sport families who want and need it, not just professional and Olympic athletes.

I’ve recently created an even more flexible & affordable option: Parent-led mental toughness training in the #PerformHappy Community. Go at your own pace, with my personal expert guidance along the way.

Have more questions?

Contact me. If you’re ready to test the waters, schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation. I’d love to chat with you about what’s standing in the way of your best performance. what is a sport psychologist?

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.