Common Question Pertaining to Sport Psychology

Greg Norman on The David Feherty Show

Feherty - If you could go back and change anything in your career, what would you have done differently?

Norman - ".........I would have brought in a sport psychologist because to be quite honest, I recognize the fact that I needed it back then. Back then I'm saying, A sport psychologist? He doesn't know how it feels like to stand there at 188 out, uphill at the 72nd hole at Augusta. He's never done it, so how's he going to tell me what to do, right? Well, it wasn't that. It was how you prepare yourself for that shot."  

Greg was right about 1 thing. A sport psychology consultant would never tell a client how to play their sport. He was wrong about another thing he said. As far as I know, there is only 1 sport psychology consultant who DOES know how it feels to be standing 188 uphill during a professional golf tournament (just not at Augusta, however). 

I offer mental conditioning services for every Level of athlete. Most athletes fall into 1 of 3 different categories: 

  • Level 1 - Beginner or Novice - A person in the initial learning stages of a sport still learning motor movements.
  • Level 2 - Intermediate Athlete - An athlete who is starting to investigate the finer points of their sport. Not quite at the advanced level but moving in that direction. This athlete has moved on from the basic fundamentals and into the experiential stages of learning. 
  • Level 3 - Expert athlete focusing on the details of improvement. There are 3 Levels within Level 3. Those include;
    • Level 1 of 3 - Top amateur or professional. On the brink of discovery.
    • Level 2 of 3 - Seasoned player (No age inferred). Perhaps a journeyman but certainly highly skilled.
    • Level 3 of 3 - A top 10 athlete in whatever sport they play. An elite player with extraordinary talent. 

These are the most common questions I am asked concerning sport psychology.

  • What is sport psychology? 

Here are 2 different answers to that question from WIKI and AASP.

Sport Psychology involves the study of how psychological factors affect (athletic) performance and how participation in sport and exercise affect psychological and physical factors. In addition to instruction and training of psychological skills for performance (enhancement), applied sport psychology may include work with athletes, coaches, and parents regarding injury, rehabilitation, communication, team building, and career transitions. (WIKI)

Applied sport and exercise psychology involves extending theory and research into the field to educate coaches, athletes, parents, exercisers, fitness professionals, and athletic trainers about the psychological aspects of their sport or activity. A primary goal of professionals in applied sport and exercise psychology is to facilitate optimal involvement, performance, and enjoyment in sport and exercise. (AASP)

  • I'm not crazy. Why do I need a sport psychology consultant? 

Sport psychology is not about treating those with mental illness. That is a clinical diagnosis. People that are challenged with mental illness, eating disorders, drug or alcohol addiction or things like debilitating depression use clinically trained psychologists to hopefully overcome those types of challenges. Sport psychology is the art of applied theory specifically designed to help athletes perform better in their sports with the use of cognitive training techniques. In other words, sport psychology consultants work with athletes who want to improve their mental game in an effort to perform at their best in their sport. Sport psychology consultants do not treat or evaluate people with mental disorders. They would refer that kind of diagnosis to another qualified professional. A sport psychology consultant focuses on performance enhancement and utilizes performance psychology techniques to help the athlete maximize their potential with the use of many different cognitive techniques. If you have the desire to perform at your best, consider utilizing a sport psychology consultant. Your competitor does.  

  • What is a sport psychologist and what kind of education does that require?

There are several ways to become qualified as a mental skills coach. A qualified coach has an academic background in sport psychology. Why? Because that provides credentials and credibility. What kind of education is best? One that provides the coach with exposure to experienced professionals. The Internet is full of people who claim to be experts in performance psychology due to personal experiences or a special understanding of life. Do not trust anyone without accredited academic credentials. Without those, a consultant cannot understand the theoretical foundations of sport and exercise psychology.   


There are basically 2 kinds of degrees for sport psychology. There are those with a Masters degree (M.Ed, MA or MS), and a Doctoral degree (Ph.D - Doctor of Philosophy, Psy.D - Doctor of Psychology, or an Ed.D- Doctor of Education). If someone has earned one of those degrees that has a Sport Psychology emphasis, that person could be qualified to call themselves a mental skills coach. The level of their expertise is something you need to research to make sure you are working with someone who knows what they are talking about. 

  • What kind of athlete uses sport psychology?

Most Olympic athletes use some sort of psychological training. Those are the best-trained athletes in the world and are usually ahead of the learning curve when it comes to training. Any athlete looking to gain a competitive edge over the competition uses performance enhancement skills. Whether they learn to use them from self-research or hiring a consultant, all great athletes must control their mental processes to overcome and cope with the everyday things we all must contend with. Great athletes use their learned mental training in helping them achieve their full athletic potential. But, they are not doing it alone.  So, instead of asking what kind of athlete uses sport psychology; a better question might be: "Why would an athlete NOT use sport psychology?"  Think about this: Your competition is looking for any competitive edge in order to defeat you. Sport psychology is just another tool they can use to achieve that. You can use it too.

  • Do people working in sport psychology need credentials and if so, what are they?

They absolutely do! Would you let your mailman clean your teeth or would you allow your barber to give you coaching advice?  This is one of the challenges to both qualified sport psychology consultants and to you; Everybody thinks they're an expert in what you are trying to do! Writing books and blogs do not make a person an expert in sport psychology. Check out everyone's credentials to measure credibility.

  • Let's talk about credentials and who has them and how they are earned.

There are the academics, who are people that teach sport psychology in a classroom setting. Many times these are professors in colleges and universities. But are they qualified to help you? Many times they are not qualified even though they have the educational credentials. How is that possible? How many sports have they played competitively? How many athletes/teams have they coached?  It's one thing to teach theory in a classroom environment and another in applied experience. Ultimately, you would want to hire someone who has had experience in coaching and playing sports. The best scenario for you would be to put someone on your team that has academic credentials, coaching experience, and has played your sport competitively. That triple layered consultant will be almost impossible for you to find ). In terms of golf, I am one of the most qualified people in the world to consult with you or a member of your golf team. Why? I am triple layered in that sport. 

What percentage of your sport is mental in nature? 50%? 90%? If we can agree that a percentage of playing any sport is cognitive, how much time do you devote to working on your mental game as opposed to the physical mechanics? Think about it and when you are ready to take your game to the next level, call me. 800-919-7506

I can RELATE to you and your situation.