At one stage or another, a lot of us have dreamed of being involved at the highest levels of sport. We’ve wondered, what would it be like to push the boundaries of sporting greatness? To stretch the limits of our abilities? Best of all, to be involved in a great sporting success? Unfortunately, for most of us, doing any of this as a player is highly unlikely. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to enjoy a successful career in sport.
In the ever changing world of sport, one of the major innovations of recent years has been the growing introduction and influence of sports psychology. High profile individuals have thrived because of it and teams have turned to it ahead of major tournaments, making Sports Psychology a growing career with ever increasing opportunities for young people.
One famous example is the impact famed psychologist Steve Peters has had on five-time World Snooker Champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan was always heralded as the greatest talent ever to play Snooker, but before he worked with Peter’s he was considered to have underachieved in his career, thanks in part to a few high profile meltdowns in crucial matches. Since working with Peter’s, O’Sullivan has turned into a composed, happy player and now sits at the very top of his sport. He’s said himself that Peter’s is the man who made him the player he is today.
That such a talented sportsman would attribute his success to sports psychology is a prime example of just how important it is, and how close to the action a career in sports psychology can get you.
Better yet, there’s no limit to the sports you can have an impact on. Pursuits like skiing, gymnastics or boxing all require unique skills and specialised training, but when it comes to the psychology behind them, they rely on the same principles. It’s the sport-stars mental attitude the psychologist will focus on, and a lot of the time that doesn’t change whether they’re holding a tennis racket or a golf club.
A sports psychologist will work on several things depending on the client’s situation, be it using visualization and relaxation techniques to help maximise their potential, helping them cope with the pressures of high-end competition, dealing with their self-belief, or helping them cope with the mental stress that comes with injuries and defeats.
Better yet, it’s a career that’s only going to get bigger. The stigma is wearing off, people talk about it openly, and it’s getting more and more popular at all levels of sports. It used to be that clubs would only hire a psychologist if a player had a specific problem, but now they know they need them like they need a fitness coach – to make their players the best athletes they can be!
Of course, this career doesn’t come easy – hey, nothing in sport ever does! But it’s a great example that when you’re passionate about something, you should think outside the box for how you might create a career in it. There’ll be hard work, which will usually start with a psychology degree which will allow you to focus on sport for certain modules, and then perhaps carry on to Masters level and beyond. But if you’re passionate for a career in sport, psychology might be an option worth getting your head around.