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What Does a Sports Psychologist Do?

Psychology, the study of behavior with regards to thoughts and feelings.  We all have them, positive and negative and everything in between.How we handle the situations of life and how we fit into these situations can cause a variety of thoughts and feelings that are normal but sometimes confusing and self-limiting at times.

From the anger we may feel when someone cuts us off while driving, the sadness we feel after a breakup in a significant relationship, and the happiness we experience when we pass an exam or get a great job, every one of the numerous thoughts and feelings we process daily is normal and not cause for alarm.









A trained psychologist studies and observes the behaviors of their patient with regards to relationships with others and the world around them.  They interpret what it is they see and may counsel the person on how to better associate within any given relationship, with another person, with themselves or their world.

When we relate this to a Sports Psychologist there can be some questions or even confusion as to what they do or how they can help an athlete.

A Sports Psychologist is a person who is specially trained beyond the basic Psychology degree.    They use their knowledge and training to tackle the difficulties of being an athlete.  After they become a psychologist, they become educated and a specialist in this area. 


By being proficient in one area it ensures that a person gets the help they need from a skilled professional.  With regards to Sports Psychology they work to assist the athlete meet the internal and external challenges that come up pertaining to playing a sport and being an athlete.

Athletic participation in sports is a gift that should be welcomed by and for all.  It enriches our lives by helping us build strong social skills with others and assist us in building our talents as a person within society.  Healthy participation in a sport has the capability to tackle a variety of issues by challenging our physical bodies but also giving a reliable positive outlet for channeling our thoughts and emotions. 


It can foster a positive association with likeminded individuals who have similar goals and life achievements.  Sportscan teach us how to be part of a team, modeling how to be dependable and hard working for the team, and to know you can depend on those around you.  It also teaches us about ourselves, who we are, what our strengths and weaknesses are within a team setting as well as individually.

Some areas that may be covered by a Sports Psychologist can include:

Developing the Person

Whether team or individual sports are the choice, development of the person is the most important part of success in sports and life, mental, physical, spiritual and emotional.  A Sports Psychologist can assist the athlete in identifying strengths and weaknesses, seeing the positive side of themselves with regards to the sport and addressing issues of failure vs. success, competitiveness and mental or emotional challenges.  Giving them the tools, they need to handle the challenges of any sport and succeed in their life goals.


They work with the athlete by having them visualize doing something.  If the person is a football player, they might have them focus their mind, thoughts and visions on catching the ball and running for a touchdown.  Having the individual use as much detail as possible, seeing them wearing the team shirt, jumping over top an opposing player, running zigzag. 


By having the athlete visualize completing a task pertaining to their sport successfully, it gives them the positive energy and feedback mentally and emotionally that it is possible.  Relaying the message to them that they can achieve that goal, they can do what it is they set out to do.

The Cheering Squad

We all need motivation to accomplish whatever goals we have in life.  There are both internal and external motivators.  Sports Psychologists can help implement both, enabling the individual to see the positive external points of playing sports but also their own positive internal perspectives that can have a direct relationship to how they achieve their own personal life goals. 


Their wish to win or succeed and the pride that comes from achieving a goal would be internal motivators and external would be social recognition, trophies or medals or possibly even money.  By helping them define their own inner motivations and see the external motivators, a Sports Psychologist gives them the tools they need to fuel their own personal success.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Sometimes we all have an inability to focus, distractions are a part of daily life.  However, when an individual is working to achieve a goalsometimes, they need to learn coping skills that pertain not just to life in general but to the sport they are participating in. 


A Sports Psychologist can teach them how to tune out the distractions that may surround them.  Think of all those screaming, cheering, popcorn and hot dog eating fans who are there to watch every move an athlete makes, tracking every success or failure with a BOO or YEAH. 


Teaching an athlete, the ability to focus on the sport and the task they are performing,

forgetting those well-meaning distractions is key to every athlete’s success.  We can’t change what sometimes goes on around us, but we can change how and if we react to it.  Positive focus increases success in all areas of life, sports included.

Social Issues

This area can pertain to how others view the athlete, their success or failure.  Well meaning criticism, thoughts and ideas from outside sources other than coaches and teammates.  Discuss these situations with a trained professional and how they affect the athlete’s thoughts and feelings about themselves and the sport can have a positive affect on the health and well being of the athlete. 


Without a proper channel for what is thrown at them daily, as in every part of life, they can become bogged down by thoughts and feelings that are not their own.  This can lead to disconnection with themselves and stop a potential chain of events that could lead to behavior that is destructive in nature to their bodies. 


Possibly pushing themselves harder than they are physically able to handle just to please someone or succeed.  This type of behavior can lead to injuries physically as well as emotionally and mentally not to mention the effects it can have on their long-term athletic goals.  A Sports Psychologist can help them handle criticisms and the feelings that may come up stemming from that.  They can teach them how to positively take that well-meaning criticism and turn it into their own personal success.

In Conclusion

In every part of life, sports or otherwise we all have the capability to be self-limiting and self-sabotaging at times.  Our thoughts and feelings can become overloaded by outside sources, and sometimes how we view ourselves can limit our abilities in life. 


The sooner we seek help, potentially early in life before these difficulties arise, the better we can positively handle those challenges.  Sometimes we need the help of a trained professional to put our thoughts and emotions in better perspective and teach us the tools to cope with life’s ups and downs.

Call Dr. Clare Albright, Psy.D., Psychologist CA License PSY11660 at (949)454-0996 at

Sports Psychologist Orange Couny CA
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