Faculty at John F. Kennedy (JFK) University in northern California saw a demand for a comprehensive sport psychology training, and they've created an unusual course of study: The Sport Psychology MA/Clinical PsyD Linked Program. Prospective students apply concurrently to the sport psychology MA program and the PsyD program. The linked program takes five years to complete as a full-time student, and students earn their master's in sport psychology after their third year and their clinical psychology PsyD after their fifth year.
"Most sport psychology programs are not in psych departments," says William Parham, PhD, dean of the psychology school. "We have the unique linked program where the emphasis is on sport psychology, sport science and clinical psychology."
Sport Psychology Program Director Gail Solt helped develop the program, which officially began in 2003 and has 15 students enrolled at this point, four of whom received their master's degrees last year. Interest in the program is growing each year, she says.
Student internships have included working with high school football teams, teaching at-risk girls and incarcerated youth performance enhancement skills such as relaxation, visualization and goal setting and counseling collegiate athletes at area universities.
Students join the program for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it's a year shorter than a traditional track consisting of both master's and doctoral degrees. Tom Tracy, who is in his fourth year of the program, also cites the benefits of having both disciplines under one roof.
"Having completed a year of sport psychology training with a heavy emphasis on mental skills, techniques and interventions that are applicable to clinical work as well, I felt I had a nice practical foundation from which to grow as I moved into the clinical portion of the program, with its increased emphasis on theory," says Tracy, whose post-graduation plans include neuropsychological assessment with athletes who experience traumatic brain injury.
Fourth-year student Kurt Meyers agrees. He followed his lifelong dream of working with collegiate athletes and enrolled at JFK after 15 years in executive leadership with Verizon Wireless.
"The program has a multicultural diversity focus that teaches us to work with all different populations, and the linked program provides a solid training in sport psychology and clinical psychology, which makes me a well-rounded sport psychologist," Meyers says.