Your body is a mass of muscles and nerves linked to the central processing unit - your brain. Just how do Olympic athletes develop the concentration, confidence, control and commitment to harness their muscles, nerves and brain together to break the gold medal frontiers of performance? And what use are their performance enhancement techniques off the track, out of the swimming pool or away from the pitch? Many top athletes and sportspeople consider their sports psychologist to be as important as their coach, and the mind-toughening techniques they learn are just as useful for business people fighting the mental battles of offices and boardrooms.
Sports psychology is a relatively new but growing specialism of psychology. It concentrates on both how psychological factors affect performance and how participation in sport affects psychological development, health and emotional wellbeing.
Sports psychology can be studied as a module in many psychology courses but there are now some that focus specifically on sports psychology and, importantly, several are recognised by the British Psychological Society. This means that they confer Graduate Basis for Registration, which allows graduates to do further professional training to become chartered psychologists.
Example areas of study
The courses listed below differ in their emphases and in their content so it is important to find out exactly what they cover in their core and optional modules. For courses that focus specifically on sports psychology the following is a list of example topics you are likely to find:
- Sport psychology
- Psychological skills training
- Physiological basis of performance
- Organisational and developmental psychology
- Group dynamics
- Sports administration
- Event management in sport
- Sport and the law
- Sports tourism
- Sports marketing
- Management of sporting events
- Biological and cognitive psychology
- Social and developmental psychology
- Exercise training for sports performance
- Injury rehabilitation
- Functional anatomy
- Exercise psychology and physiology
- Movement analysis
- Biomechanics and motor behaviour
- Diet and nutrition
- Learning and individual differences
- Sports coaching
- Motivation and goal-setting
- Stress and performance
- Research methods
Some career possibilities
Career opportunities can range from coaching and development to management and consultancy; from working as a personal trainer to postgraduate research; from sports administration to sports psychology. Employers include sports clubs, local authorities, sports bodies, sports management companies, sports facilities, and national and international sports organisations.
What do I need to get on a course?
The entry requirements for courses in sports psychology vary a little and the list below will give you and idea of the grades and qualifications that you will be expected to have. However it is important to check with the institutions themselves before you submit your application.
- UCAS Tariff: 180 - 280 points usually including a relevant science subject
- A-level: BC - BBC usually including a relevant science subject
- SQA Highers: CCCC - BBCC
- SQA Advanced Highers: BC - BBC usually including a relevant science subject
- International Baccalaureate: 24 - 28 points including a relevant science subject at higher level
- BTEC National Diploma: MM - MMP in a relevant subject
- You may also have to provide evidence of your participation in sport to a good standard (for example, club or county standard), of working in sport, or of your commitment to one or more sports.
For your application or interview, evidence of the following could be useful:
- Participation in sports and passion for sport and exercise
- Knowledge of the physical and psychological demands of sport
- Work experience/work shadowing in, for example, leisure and sports centres or gyms
- Further information is available from The British Psychological Society
To find out more about the typical subjects you will study, potential career paths and further information useful for your application log-on to Course Discover at www.coursediscoveronline.co.uk*
*NB: Your school or college will need a subscription to Course Discover in order for you to gain access, for further information go to:www.coursediscover.co.uk
Some of this article was developed from You Want to Study WHAT?! Volume I, 2nd edition by Dianah Ellis, published by Trotman & Company Ltd, 2003.