Several sports today have, in several ways, become commercialised. Televising games to bring popular sport into living rooms has helped increase fan following, sponsorship and prize money. The pressure on players to consistently be on top of their game has become monumental but many cannot handle this pressure, or lose their motivation after a bad day.
Sports psychologists are trained to help sportspersons adapt to situations either personal or within their team, to handle adversity and emotion. They help with issues of motivation, mental and physical strength. A degree in this field also entails an understanding of kinesiology – the mechanics of human movement. A practitioner in this field works holistically, with both mind and body. It is not uncommon to find a sports psychologist travelling along with a team, or with an individual in a non-team sport.
The arena of sport is not the only place where the skills of a sports psychologist are needed. They can be applied to any profession where the body is the actual tool (dance, gymnastics) for instance. This is a growing and evolving field of study with good employment opportunities.
The Department of Health and Kinesiology, Purdue University, has a Sport and Exercise Program. Students can undertake a two year full time M.S. degree or pursue doctoral studies depending on their existing qualification. This degree includes atheletic training education, motor control and development and sport and exercise psychology.
Liverpool John Moores University (School of Sport and Exercise Science) offers a one year M.Sc. in Sports Psychology. The programme is made up of core modules along with electives and research. These address issues such as anxiety and stress, mental skills training, ethics of practice and professional practice in sports psychology, among others. It is important that you check the guidelines for eligibility to this course as the criteria may be different for international students. (www.ljmu.ac.uk)
Another U.K. based university offering an M.Sc. in Sport and Exercise Psychology is Northumbria University, Newcastle. This is a one year module-based program integrating lectures, workshops and research for an all-round foundation and understanding of the field. The course is accredited by the British Psychological Society as a step towards qualifying for professional practice. (www.northumbria.ac.uk)
The University of Denver, Graduate School of Professional Psychology offers an M.A. in Sport and Performance Psychology. “This degree is intended for individuals in the sport, performing arts, health and fitness, or mental health fields who want to develop their ability to improve the performance and lives of those with whom they work.” The program includes courses in General Psychology as well as Sport and Performance Psychology with the hope of developing “competent, ethical and socially conscious professionals.”