APA Sport Psychology Proficiency

In February, 2003, APA's Council of Representatives approved a proficiency in sport psychology. This designation indicates that sport psychology is now recognized as a particular aspect of psychology practice. An abstract of the proficiency appears below, detailing recommendations for specialized knowledge, populations typically served, problems and challenges addressed by the proficiency and procedures of practice employed by the proficiency.

Abstract of the Proficiency

Sport psychology is a multidisciplinary field spanning psychology, sport science and medicine. The APA proficiency recognizes specialization in sport psychology as a postgraduate specialization after a doctoral degree in one of the primary areas of psychology. The proficiency encompasses training in psychological skills of athletes, in the well-being of athletes, in the systemic issues associated with sports organizations and in developmental and social aspects of sports participation. (The proficiency should not be confused with the doctoral degree area of sport psychology, which has a long tradition within departments of sports science and kinesiology.)

Specialized Knowledge Required for the Proficiency

In addition to the foundation of competencies required for licensure, it is recommended that psychologists who desire to gain this proficiency obtain sport-specific educational experiences in the following areas:

  • Knowledge of theory and research in social, historical, cultural and developmental foundations of sport psychology
  • Principles and practices of applied sport psychology, including issues and techniques of sport-specific psychological assessment and mental skills training for performance enhancement and satisfaction with participation
  • Clinical and counseling issues with athletes
  • Organizational and systemic aspects of sport consulting
  • Understanding of the developmental and social issues related to sport participation
  • Knowledge of the biobehavioral bases of sport and exercise (e.g., exercise physiology, motor learning, sports medicine)

Persons and Groups Served by the Proficiency

Those who are served by the APA proficiency in sport psychology include:

  • Youth/junior sport participants and organizations
  • High school athletes and athletic departments
  • Intercollegiate athletes and athletic departments
  • Professional athletes, teams and leagues
  • Masters/seniors sport participants and organizations
  • Injured athletes
  • Elite athletes and sports organizations (e.g., Olympic athletes and National Governing Bodies)
  • Recreational athletes
  • Athletes with permanent disabilities
  • People who are involved with, but not directly participating in, sports (families, coaches, administrator, officials)

Problems and Challenges Addressed by the Proficiency

The APA proficiency in sport psychology addresses two critical challenges in the field. First, it provides protection to the public. Uniform standards for proficiency in this area that include both an examination to demonstrate knowledge in the field and extensive supervision help to insure that those seeking services are receiving them from qualified individuals. Athletes, coaches, parents, administrators and others will be able to turn to a recognized set of standards to evaluate the training of psychologists offering services in sport psychology.

The problem addressed by the proficiency is to assist current psychologists and those in training who are interested in the field, in obtaining proper training and experience to practice sport psychology. As a recognized proficiency within psychology, the sport psychology proficiency provides a model for appropriate training in the field.

Procedures of Practice Employed

Many strategies and procedures exist within the field of sport psychology for addressing the problems faced by athletes and sports participants. Some of the principal areas include:

  • Psychological skills training for athletes
  • Goal-setting and performance profiling for athletes
  • Visualization and performance planning for athletes
  • Enhancing self-confidence for athletes
  • Cognitive-behavioral self-regulation techniques for athletes
  • Concentration and attentional control strategies for athletes
  • Poise and emotion management training for athletes
  • Attribution interpretations and self-assessment in sport
  • Eating disorders and weight management interventions for athletes
  • Substance abuse interventions for athletes
  • Dealing with the use of ergogenic aids to athletic performance
  • Grief, depression, loss and suicide counseling for athletes
  • Overtraining and burnout counseling
  • Sexual identity issues in sport counseling
  • Aggression and violence counseling in sports
  • Athletic injury and rehabilitation
  • Career transitions and identity foreclosure in sports
  • Team cohesion training
  • Team building
  • Leadership training
  • Moral and character development in sports, and sportsmanship
  • Development of self-confidence, self-esteem and competence in sports
  • Interventions to address parental and familial needs involved in youth sports participation
  • Coaches’ education regarding motivation, interpersonal and leadership skills
  • Education of coaches and administrators regarding early identification and prevention of psychological difficulties such as eating disorders or serious anxiety reactions