Have you found that you perform better in practice instead of competition? Or you have a hard time dealing with pressure situations? Or you know that the mental game is just as important as the physical. Sport psychology consultants are a great addition to your team behind the team. These experts help athletes and coaches bring their A Game by educating and training mental skills. There are several people out there that operate under several titles, but it is important to understand what to look for when hiring someone to help you with the mental side of sports. Here are the 3 C’s to look for when hiring a sport psychology consultant; competence, compassion, and commitment.
Whoever you hire should be competent. Competent consultants have the knowledge and skills to get the job done. There are a couple of ways to determine if your sport psychology consultant is competent. The first way is to look at his/her formal education. Sport psychology consultants should have received a graduate degree (Masters or PhD) in sport psychology, psychology, or a related field from an accredited university. Additionally, it is helpful to ask if he/she is involved in any professional organizations such as the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) or the American Psychological Association (APA). Currently there is not a licensure option for sport psychology but the Association for Applied Sport Psychology does certify consultants that have received a graduate degree in sport psychology or a related field, taken required courses, and have undergone supervised hours working with athletes under a mentor. If you would like to find a certified consultant in your area check out AASP’s consultant finder.
While competence is important as a foundation, compassion is what separates a good consultant from a great consultant. A consultant with compassion shows that he/she is able to understand your experience as an athlete or coach. It is difficult to determine immediately if your consultant truly relates to you and might take a while to see if this relationship is a good fit. Bruce Wampold wrote an article for the APA entitled, “Qualities and actions of effective therapists.” He determined that effective therapists have a sophisticated set of interpersonal skills such as warmth and acceptance, empathy, focus on others, and good communication skills. Having a sport psychology consultant that is compassionate towards you and understands your situation allows for a more effective experience when it comes to mental skills training.
Lastly you should observe the commitment level of your sport psychology consultant. I do not mean if they are going to be at your beck and call at all moments of the day. What I mean is, how committed are they to the field of sport psychology? Do they demonstrate traits of lifelong learners? Are they reading to keep their knowledge current? Are they attending conferences to learn the new and improved techniques? When looking for your sport psychology consultant, you want someone that practices what they preach. A person that is committed to excellence and improvement inspires others to do the same.
Looking for the 3 C’s in your potential sport psychology consultant will aid in your search to find someone that is dedicated and fits with your personality. There are many professionals out there doing great work. The most important factor though is if you believe that the work you will do together will yield positive results.