Frequently Asked Questions about Practitioners in the Field of Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology
What is applied sport and exercise psychology?
Applied sport and exercise psychology is:
- the study of the psychological factors that influence participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity;
- the study of how these psychological factors are influenced by participation and performance in sport, exercise, and physical activity; and
- the application of the knowledge gained through this study to performance in sport and exercise, coaching, teaching fitness skills, rehabilitation, and encouraging participation in physical activities.
Professionals in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology:
- are interested in how participation in sport, exercise, and physical activity may enhance personal development and well–being throughout the life span and
- teach mental skills that can enhance participation in sport (e.g., controlling anxiety) and exercise (e.g., increasing motivation).
Why do people contact a professional in the field of applied sport and exercise?
- To improve performance. This is the most common reason for consulting an applied sport and exercise professional. In general, performance may be enhanced through learning mental strategies that either refine the practices of effective performers or help ineffective performers overcome obstacles that prevent them from reaching their potential.
- To sustain motivation in exercise. Individuals, corporations, or community groups interested in promoting health and exercise across the life span often need assistance developing and implementing strategies to increase motivation to begin and sustain exercise programs.
- To overcome the pressures of competition. Athletes at all levels seek help in dealing with the pressures of competition. Such pressures may stem from parental and/or coach expectations as well as the athlete\'s own expectations regarding performance.
- To enhance the experience of youth sport participants. Youth sport organizations may employ an applied sport and exercise professional to educate coaches and parents about how to increase the satisfaction and enjoyment of participants and about the coaches\' and parents\' role in promoting the development of healthy self–esteem.
- To provide psychological assistance with injury rehabilitation. Individuals who have suffered from injuries may request assistance adjusting to non-participant status, adhering to physical therapy, tolerating pain, or other issues. In some cases, assistance with transitioning out of sport may be needed.
What services can a professional in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology offer?
Applied sport and exercise psychology professionals may provide a variety of services depending on their professional training. The most common services focus on:
- providing information about the role of psychological factors in sport, exercise, and physical activity to individuals, groups, and organizations (e.g., assist with exercise adherence, communication, teamwork, or program development and evaluation).
- teaching participants specific mental, behavioral, psychosocial, and emotional control skills for sport, exercise, and physical activity contexts (e.g., relaxation, concentration, or the use of imagery).
Professionals in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology who have special training and/or certification in such areas as coaching, substance abuse, body image and eating issues, diagnosis and treatment of psychopathology, marital or family therapy, or the administration and interpretation of psychological tests, may provide additional services.
What roles may a professional in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology assume?
Professionals in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology may be trained primarily in the sport sciences with additional training in counseling or clinical psychology, or trained primarily in psychology with supplemental training in the sport sciences.
The activities of a particular professional in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology will vary based on the practitioner's specific interests and training.
- Some may focus primarily on conducting research and on educating others about applied sport and exercise. Typically, these individuals teach at colleges and universities and, in some cases, they also work with athletes, coaches, exercisers, or athletic/fitness administrators. They provide education as well as develop and implement programs designed to maximize the overall well–being of sport, exercise, and physical activity participants.
- Other professionals may focus primarily on applying applied sport and exercise psychology knowledge. These individuals are typically more interested in the enhancement of sport, exercise, and physical activity performance or enjoyment. They may consult with a broader range of clients and may serve in an educational or counseling role.
Who is considered a "qualified" professional in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology?
Only those individuals with specialized training and, with certain limited exceptions, only those with appropriate certification and/or licensure may call themselves an applied sport and exercise psychologist. Anyone seeking the services of a professional in the field applied sport and exercise psychology should ask about the professional's credentials, clientele, experience, and membership in professional organizations such as the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and/or the American Psychological Association (APA). To read more about this and CC-AASP, click here.
A growing number of professionals in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology are certified by the AASP. These professionals -- who earn the designation Certified Consultant, AASP (or CC-AASP) -- have met a minimum standard of education and training in the sport sciences and in psychology. They have also undergone an extensive review process. The AASP certification process encourages professionals in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology who complete it to maintain high standards of professional conduct while giving service to others. Certification, however, does not guarantee competency.
Some professionals in the field of applied sport and exercise psychology may be listed on the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) Sport and Exercise Registry, meaning that they are approved to work with Olympic athletes and national teams. To be on the Registry, a professional must be a CC-AASP and a member of the APA.
How can a person find a qualified professional in the field of applied sport and exercise?
A person can find a qualified professional in the field of applied sport and exercise by:
- Word of mouth: Talk to athletes and coaches who have worked with a professional in the field of applied sport and exercise to find out how it was helpful, the types of services provided, and the names of competent professionals they have worked with.
- Your local college or university: Many institutions have academic programs in sport and exercise and/or applied sport and exercise consulting arrangements with one or more qualified professionals through their athletic department.
- AASP Certified Consultant Registry: You may view a list of the people certified by AASP through the Certified Consultant Finder.