Sports Psychologist: Working With Athletes

Successful performance at sports competitions very often depends not only on the level of physical fitness of the athlete but also on their tactical and psychological readiness for the upcoming match. Sports psychology is one of the most critical areas of social and general psychology. The position of a sports psychologist appeared relatively recently before sports coaches coped with their role.

Psychological preparation was mistakenly associated only with the problem of athletes’ performance during competitions when they experience the most significant pressure, and they need to have nerves of steel. Also, coaches and athletes turn to a sports psychologist for help when they encounter a problem, believing that they will provide quick and straightforward solutions, if not magical. They should understand that a sports psychologist is a magician who can solve problems in a few sessions.

There are several examples of how psychological help to athletes is only harmful; here are some of them:

  • During training and competitions, athletes constantly use psychological factors that do not fully understand their impact on behavior and results.
  • Psychological skills should develop instantly and physical skills; otherwise, inequality will arise, which can become a source of problems at any age of athletes. Very often, an athlete cannot emotionally comprehend what he can achieve biologically.
  • The lack of adequate and adaptive methods at the stages of development to solve problems makes it difficult to promote or change these methods at an older age. It is widely recognized that coaches, like athletes, work psychologically during training. However, sometimes they miss or do not have systematic planning and evaluation of the psychological training program.

A sports psychologist applies various methods and strategies in athletes to facilitate and maximize the results of an athlete. In addition, a sports psychologist cooperates with an athlete’s coach to enhance the effect of these methods and strategies and create an effective environment during training and competitions (Rebecca, Christopher, Valerie, et al., 2020). The main activity of a sports psychologist includes an assessment of the emotional state of an athlete, familiarization with various psychological skills, and then their assessment and impact on a sports career.

Finally, the work of a sports psychologist can be divided into three areas:

  • Cooperation with an athlete. First, a sports psychologist records the psychological characteristics of an athlete during training and competitions, selects critical aspects, and teaches them respiratory control, relaxation methods, and mental preparation.
  • Cooperation with a coach. A sports psychologist informs the coach about the psychological characteristics of an athlete and the use and integration of the results of psychodiagnostic.
  • Cooperation with parents. A sports psychologist is focused on solving common problems related to a child’s behavior outside of sports processes, such as school, special interests, or hobbies of athletes.

The role of a sports psychologist is multidimensional and regulated by the requirements of a young athlete. This role should meet complex needs that meet the high requirements of modern sports and psychological training programs. The psychological training program consists of providing psychological services to an athlete, solving problems related to their training and athletic qualities, and issues of an athlete in everyday life. The program aims to develop the mental skills of an athlete to resist negative emotions, demonstrate self-confidence, develop the athlete’s internal motivation, self-awareness and improvement of interpersonal relationships and communication.


Rebecca. F. H., Christopher, R. D. W., Valerie, A., Sarah, G., & Richard, C. T. (2020). Better preparing sports psychologists for the demands of applied practice: The emotional labor training gap. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 32(4), 335-356.

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