What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology?
You want a career that makes a difference in the world — one that leaves you feeling challenged and fulfilled. If you love the idea of helping others pursue their ultimate mental and physical fitness, an option awaits you that checks all these boxes — sport psychology.
A master’s degree in Sport and Performance Psychology covers the field of Sport Psychology and includes the broader field of Performance Psychology. It is the perfect option for graduate students looking to advance their careers in a field that supports their interests in the intersection of psychology and sports/performance. These terms come together every day in a real way, on and off the field, with people like you, who care about athletes’ mental well-being and holistic success.
If this sounds like your calling, the sport and performance psychology field could be an excellent path for you. What can you do with an Applied Sport and Performance Psychology degree? By having the term “applied” in the title of the degree shows that the emphasis is on training practitioners rather than researchers. Read on to find out how getting your Applied Sport and Performance Psychology master’s degree can be your next step in pursuing your dreams and career goals.
What Is Applied Sport and Performance Psychology?
Applied Sport and Performance Psychology is a discipline that brings psychological practices into the world of sports, athletics and wider performance arenas.
Mental performance consultants (MPCs), or some people use the term ‘Mental Skills Coaches’ concentrate their attention on more than the athletes involved in the sports at hand. Their work also extends to coaches, parents, and administrators. These participants can exist across diverse settings, ages, and levels of competition, ranging from Olympic athletes down to beginner athletes.
The field has developed significantly since its early days (including Certification requirements, see below), but the core principle remains the same, with distinct psychological underpinnings that affect athletes and other performers every day. MPCs work toward the betterment of everyone involved with the rigors, challenges, victories, and losses associated with performing.
Why Do Athletes Use Sport Psychology?
Every athlete knows that what happens during the game is only a tiny slice of what it means to play the sport they love. Sport and Performance Psychology can improve athletes’ performance and mental and physical well-being. As athletes grow aware of the layers that affect their game and their ability to play it, they’ll continue to seek MPCs to help them on their journeys. Here are some of the ways this discipline can benefit athletes and performers.
1. Attentional Focus
Every athlete must stay sharp before, during, and after the game. Attentional focus is an athlete’s ability to tune out distractions, which can come from any angle. These include screaming fans, loud music, cheering parents, other players, and even teammates. Tuning out these distractions is a skill that lets athletes better manage their mental focus on what they need to accomplish when outside factors demand their attention.
Mental Performance Consultants can help athletes achieve better attentional focus in many ways, including the following:
- Deep breathing exercises to help focus attention and clear the mind
- Paying attention to bodily sensations and signals to better know when distractions could be creeping in and how to overcome them
- Mindfulness to keep people grounded in the present, while letting go of negative or intrusive thoughts
2. Visualization and Goal-Setting
An athlete’s job is equal parts physical and mental. Without proper mental clarity, they can’t reach their goals or achieve their high physical performance standards. Athletes seek MPCs to help them visualize performing a task, which can include successfully performing one of their physical skills or participating in a sporting event. In other words, MPCs use their training to help athletes mentally prepare for a competition or performance.
Visualization is the practice of an athlete creating a mental image of what they intend to do, envisioning every detail of their desired outcome. This habit can help them better prepare and perform when their time comes. MPCs specialize in ensuring athletes can participate in these positive mental performance exercises.
3. Motivation and Team-Building
Motivation and team-building are two critical components of an athlete’s success. MPCs can help athletes tap into their full potential by harnessing these powerful concepts.
Every day, MPCs use their specialized knowledge and techniques to increase coaches’ and athletes’ motivation. They study two types of motivators.
- Extrinsic motivators: These include external rewards that an athlete strives for, like money, trophies, social recognition, or medals.
- Intrinsic motivators: These motivators come from within each athlete. A sense of pride for performing a skill or a desire to win as a team are two examples of intrinsic motivators.
Mental Performance Consultants help athletes and players in team-building by emphasizing the importance of shared goals and motivations. Every athlete has a supporting cast behind them. Each coach works with assistants and players to achieve the result they’re seeking. MPCs help each team member, on and off the field, to work together effectively and efficiently.
4. Competitive Anxiety
Athletes regularly face varying levels of anxiety. An athlete who looks calm and collected on the field is only showing half the story. The other half is more private. It’s the journey they took to learn how to cope with and overcome their competitive anxiety to achieve a higher level of play.
Managing competitive anxiety requires an intimate and open relationship with a trusted professional. Some athletes may feel embarrassed to get nervous before a meaningful game or performance. MPCs teach athletes effective tactics for staying calm and avoiding burnout. These include the following:
- Relaxation techniques
- Building self-confidence
- Changing negative thoughts
- Finding distractions to reduce focus on the anxiety
Injuries are a constant reality in athletes’ lives. They’re also an obstacle that could get in the way of their aspirations. Thus, accomplished athletes rely on MPCs to help them recover from injuries and return to the sport they love.
Injuries can cause athletes to experience profound, complex emotional reactions, including frustration, anger, fear, and hopelessness. The role of a Mental Performance Consultant is to work with these athletes to help them mentally cope with their injuries throughout the recovery process. When the time comes for them to return to the game, they can do so with newly restored confidence.
What Can You Do With a Degree in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology?
If helping athletes, coaches, and other partners achieve their highest potential is your passion, an Applied Sport and Performance Psychology master’s degree is a key to unlocking your career goals. If you’re reading this, you’re likely already interested in the possibilities of what you can do with this educational background.
To give you a better idea of where MCPs work, here are some of the jobs you might qualify for after earning your degree.
A youth Mental Performance Consultant engages with young athletes and offers services to meet their psychological needs for maximal performances. They help young athletes develop teamwork skills and build confidence while maximizing the benefits of youth sports activities, like building character. These MPCs also help coaches and parents foster a healthy support system for the child athlete and their teammates.
Here are some of the issues you can expect to address as a youth MPC
- Participation anxiety
- Bullying and peer pressure
- The balance between sports and other life activities
Instructional Sport Psychology and Coaching
This discipline’s instructional training branch focuses specifically on trainers and coaches, but it could also help corporate managers, parents, team leaders, and individual athletes. MPCs with this area of expertise will teach strategies and offer guidance on topics related to the following:
- Increasing motivation
- Building mental stamina
- Boosting morale within the team or office
- Reducing the fear of success
- Creating performance strategies for reaching maximum potential
Often, instructional sport and performance psychology practitioners aim to work with groups or individuals to build a positive game plan and improve strategies that will meet the needs of every performer involved. MPCs will use techniques to build team motivation and morale, while helping with competitive anxiety and identifying mental health issues for referral to psychologists and therapists.
Sport Psychology With a Focus on Team Dynamics
This branch of sport and performance psychology focuses specifically on the collective psychological needs of a group or team. Team dynamic MPCs have extensive knowledge of the proven success of positive teamwork. They know how collaboration and communication can improve the team’s performance in the game and in regular life. MPCs in this field will often work in groups to create a team support system for their clients.
Here are some of the team dynamics issues MPCs address:
- A feeling of a lack of unity or alienation among teammates
- A lack of structure for team goals while on the field
- Selfish or attention-seeking behavior instead of healthy teamwork
- Dissension of individuals or groups of individuals on a team
Performance Enhancement Sport Psychology
Across disciplines, one of the ultimate reasons people hire MPCs is to enhance performance. Performance enhancement sport and performance psychology makes this goal the primary focus of patient treatment. MPCs will work with coaches, athletes, parents, and trainers to optimize the following factors:
- Communication issues
- Energy and anxiety management
- Concentration and visualization techniques
College Professor in Sport and Performance Psychology
If you love teaching and are passionate about training the next generation of MPCs, you can become a college professor in this discipline. As an instructor, you’ll teach students the skills they need to enter the sport and performance psychology field and make a difference in the lives of athletes and the people around them. Note that most colleges require at least a master’s degree to be a professor.
Military Sport and Performance Resilience Trainer
Many military service members follow a similar training regimen as elite athletes. Therefore, they need to work with MPCs to help them reach their fullest potential. Military life can be demanding — mentally and physically. A military sport and performance practitioner will help these individuals cope with anxiety, be resilient and increase their mental fortitude to reach their goals.
How Can a Master’s Degree Advance Your Career in Applied Sport and Performance Psychology?
Earning an Applied Sport and Performance Psychology master’s degree will open many career doors for you. Your educational background will equip you to empower athletes to unlock their highest potential. You’ll also have more value in the employment sphere, which can give you your pick of job options. Here are some benefits you could enjoy as a result of having your Applied Sport and Performance Psychology master’s degree.
- Start a private practice: A master’s degree will enable you to confidently start an independent practice. If you choose to branch out on your own, you’ll be able to tout your master’s degree as proof that you have the knowledge and background needed to help people in the sports realm achieve more. Having your master’s degree will make you a more attractive option for people or groups looking to hire an
- Join an existing practice: If you want to join an existing practice, a master’s degree will help you stand out from other applicants. Reasons for this include many of the ones listed above, as these are valuable skills to have whether you start a practice or choose to join a team of professionals.
- Stay competitive in a growing field: Sport and Performance Psychology is a growing career, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 8% growth from 2020 to 2030. With more people entering this line of work, a master’s degree will make you a competitive candidate during your job search.
- Offer holistic services: The journey of obtaining your master’s degree provides you with knowledge and skills you’ll use to aid your patients. Whatever direction you take your career, a master’s degree will ensure you can give better, more helpful services to every client who reaches out to you.
Take the Next Step in Your Sport and Performance Psychology Career at Holy Names University
If you’re looking for a welcoming college environment either online or in the wooded hills of Oakland, California, choose Holy Names University. We prioritize helping our students advance in an interconnected world, focusing on delivering vibrant classes and fulfilling experiences. Our Sport and Performance Psychology program can help accelerate your career as a Mental Performance Consultant.
The Association for Applied Sport and Performance Psychology (AASP). They have the sole certification program for mental performance in the U.S. so individuals can become Certified Mental Performance Consultants (CMPC), which is a growing prerequisite for working with various sport and performance populations.
Here at HNU, our MA Applied Sport and Performance Psychology curriculum is fully aligned with the requirements for this certification. This includes all the required coursework, plus the opportunity to attain the required CMPC applied hours in the field with performers.
All our courses are offered online (with real-time elements) or as a Hybrid (some classes on campus and some online). You can even do your final 2 placements from anywhere in the world as we can supervise you remotely with our expert team of CMPC faculty. The only residential requirement is a 2-week placement based at our beautiful campus in the Oakland hills during the summer.
If you’re wondering where to study sport psychology or sport and performance psychology and how to get into the field, contact our admissions team today for more information on this degree program. We look forward to helping you pursue your passion!