Recently I have attended a number of psychology careers events for students looking to apply for University courses. Every time at these events I get asked the same two questions without fail ‘are there any jobs in sport psychology?’ and ‘what is it like to be a sport psychologist?’. Regarding the first question my answer is always the same, yes if you are willing to work hard. I firmly believe that any individual who is driven and motivated, and is willing to put in extra effort will be successful in the profession. Increasingly there is the opportunity to build a career at a local level and to build a portfolio of clients. I think this is also a better approach than hoping a full-time contract will come along.
I am going to focus though for the rest of this blog post on what it is like to be a sport psychologist, or at least reasons why a career in sport psychology is desirable. You can earn far more money in other psychological disciplines and have far more job security, but (I appreciate I am biased) I think there is something special about working as a psychologist in sport. As a result I would advocate (if you are interested) pursuing a career in sport psychology for the following reasons:
1) If you love sport (like I do) there really is nothing better. Getting paid to be in and around sport and to help performers at all levels to improve is amazing. There is also no better feeling than knowing that an individual or team you have worked with has improved, and in some part you have helped along the way. There is also an opportunity to develop a deep understanding of (and appreciation for) the performance requirements of many different sports.
2) There is significant diversity in the opportunities and experiences available. You might work in education, or full-time in professional sport, or even run your own business, but on a day-by-day basis you get to meet and work with many interesting and driven individuals. Also if you are lucky enough you can get to travel to other parts of the world and experience different cultures.
3) In my experience, over the number of years I have worked in the profession, most other sport psychologists are both helpful and supportive. I appreciate there are always a few individuals who are a little less ‘charitable’ but generally speaking I have always found my peers to be very helpful and collegiate. Whether it is via email, face-to-face, or on the phone I have experienced many examples of individuals who have been extremely helpful and supportive even when a personal relationship did not exist previously.
4) Also, for sport psychologists the world of business offers an additional avenue for work. In the UK there is a strong appetite in business for anything that is related to sports performance and performance in general. Understandably business leaders can see the parallels between sports performance and business performance and as a result I know many sport psychologists who do a lot of crossover work in both sport and business.
5) Finally, in my experience the job is continually evolving. There are always new developments in theories, knowledge, technology, and competition. Also, both teams and individuals are always looking for that competitive edge. As a result there is always a push to be at the cutting edge of sport psychology and helping to drive change. This enables me (and hopefully you) to see every day as a challenge to finder a better way and to find new and innovative ways to make a difference.