Sport and performance psychologists focus on identifying and applying psychological principles that facilitate peak sport performance, enhance people’s participation in physical activities and help athletes achieve optimal human performance.

Understanding Sport and Performance Psychology

In today’s society, we look up to professional and amateur athletes alike. We admire them for their extraordinary physical attributes and are amazed by their ability to stretch the limits of the human body. We also revere professionals who possess superior psychomotor skills and must perform under intense pressure such as surgeons, firefighters, law enforcement officers, military personnel, performing artists and others. 

However, what most people overlook is the fact that these individuals are not born with the physical prowess and mental resilience they later display. There is a tremendous amount of preparation that goes into performing at this level, and success almost always depends on both physical and mental toughness.

How many times have we seen a professional golfer miss an easy shot during an intense playoff or a veteran recording artist forget the words to a song he’s sung for 30 years?

If you’re wondering how these and others whose livelihoods depend on mental toughness and the ability to persevere during a high-stakes situation, you may want to learn more about sport and performance psychologists.

This subfield of psychology focuses on identifying and applying psychological principles that facilitate peak sport performance, enhance physical ability and achieve optimal human performance.

Sport and Performance Psychology Applied

Sport and performance psychologists are experts in helping athletes and professionals overcome problems that impede performance. Some teach strategies that help clients maximize their physical prowess; others work with clients to overcome anxiety or a traumatic experience, such as a ski fall, that is affecting their confidence. Other clients might need help communicating with colleagues or teammates or accepting a coach’s critiques.

But athletes aren’t the only clients. Consider the rigors of performing surgery, for example. Doctors may need help gaining the confidence to return to the operating room after losing a patient. Actors or comedians may need support getting back on stage following a poor review.

In all of these situations, tapping into the potential of human performance is the key so that individuals can hone resilience skills and perform at their best.

For Students

Sport and performance psychologists help athletes and other leaders excel. They work with the best athletes around the world in arenas ranging from the NCAA to NASCAR and the Olympics.

Resources for StudentsResources to help you pursue a career in psychology
A degree in psychology can lead to a fulfilling career that makes a difference in people’s lives.
  


Pursuing a Career in Sport and Performance PsychologyFind out what it takes to become a sport and performance psychologist
Sport and performance psychology focuses on helping athletes, performers and others reach goals and cope with the anxiety that can impede performance in many venues, from athletics to the boardroom.

For Teachers

An advanced degree in psychology is the foundation of many interesting career paths within the discipline. In addition, an understanding of the science of psychology — for example, by earning a bachelor’s degree in the subject — can help students in their careers and their lives.

Resources for TeachersExplore classroom resources
Understanding the science of psychology can help students in their careers and their lives. Psychological science is the foundation of many interesting career paths.
  


Psychology Can Take You Great PlacesLearn what it takes to pursue a career in psychology
You don’t have to look far to see the impact that psychologists make. They contribute in almost every profession, from health care and law enforcement to sport performance and space exploration.

For School Counselors

If your students are interested in a career where they can take their passion for sports and combine it with science and research, sport and performance psychology may be an option for them. Sport and performance psychologists study human behavior in sport, exercise and performance. They focus on identifying and applying psychological principles that facilitate peak performance and enhance physical activity.

Resources for CounselorsResources to help your students pursue a career in psychology
A degree in psychology can lead to a fulfilling career that makes a difference in people’s lives.
  


Pursuing a Career in Sport and Performance PsychologyFind out what it takes to become a sport and performance psychologist
Sport and performance psychology focuses on helping athletes, performers and others reach goals and cope with the anxiety that can impede performance in many venues, from athletics to the boardroom.