Last Updated on June 8, 2022
Sport Psychology Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Sport Psychology Undergrad Guide
In today’s world, the value of Sport Psychology (also known as sport and performance psychology, or SPP) has become widely accepted as a key part of success for teams, athletes, and beyond. With the growing awareness of mental health issues in the U.S. and across the world, expertise in exercise and sport psychology and mental health issues has become a highly sought after skill set.
Another emerging factor about this field is its versatility. The insights of sport and performance psychology can not only help teams and athletes achieve their best, but it has been proven to help athletes achieve their goals off the field as well. What’s more is that sport psychology is also being used throughout the professional world to help companies and individuals achieve their goals while maintaining a high level of morale amongst workers.
This guide will explain how a degree in sport psychology can help you define and achieve your professional goals. It will also make a strong case for the growing value of treating athletes (and individuals) as whole people as mental health concerns continue to rise throughout our society.
What Can You Do With a Sport and Performance Psychology Degree?
Sport psychology can be applied in a wide variety of contexts – from youth sports to world champion athletes and teams, and everything in between. An education in sport psychology will help you be a better manager, mentor, and motivator. It can help individuals and organizations be the best versions of themselves while improving results
Equally as important, the principles of sport psychology will help the team enjoy themselves and build positive life skills that will serve them well for years to come. It can have remarkable effects on everyone involved in your organization, whether it be a youth team, student athletes, a local fitness center, or a professional sports franchise.
Sports Degrees Online recently had the chance to speak with Indiana University professor Jesse Steinfeldt, who put it this way when reflecting on how effective Sport Psychology best practices can be when put into practice,
“I have been successful – my teams have won state championships and league titles and all that jazz – but my biggest successes are best measured in the smiles I help kids put on their faces and in the transferrable skills that former players of mine are able to use as they strive to become the best versions of themselves on and off the courts.“[Source]
A Degree in Sport Psychology Can Put Your Career Goals in Reach
Earning a degree in sport psychology can take graduates in a number of different directions, depending on the career goals of the individual. As standards continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of teams and athletes, many schools and teams are now required to have Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) on staff, which highlights the growing demand for these skills.
While many careers in sport and performance psychology require advanced degrees, the best way to prepare for success in the field is to get a head start at the bachelor level. There are some psychology degree programs out there which offer students the chance to take courses related to leadership in sport and coaching athletes that provide an invaluable foundation for future pursuits.
A bachelor’s degree in sport psychology will provide you with the skill set you need to be the very best professional version of yourself. These skills can be applied in a wide variety of contexts.
A degree with a major or a concentration in sport psychology can be the qualification that gets your foot in the door to working with teams or athletes. Gaining real world experience provides exposure to different kinds of roles and work environments that will help you determine what type of role might suit you best. Once you have an idea where you would like to focus within Sport and Performance Psychology, you will be able to choose a graduate program in Sport Psychology that will suit your needs.
At the very pinnacle of the field are clinical sport psychologists and PhD level sport psychology graduates. Clinical sport psychologists are trained to help athletes cope with any mental issues that they may encounter, which may include things like eating disorders and depression. For those who aspire to teach at the collegiate level or conduct cutting edge research in the field, a PhD in sport psychology is also required. But for the vast majority of people who will be working in related fields in the coming decade, a degree in sport psychology will be a huge step toward their professional goals.
Due to the growing need of sport and performance professionals, the requirements elsewhere in the field are evolving. Young people keen to work in physical education, coaching, strength and conditioning, or consulting with collegiate or professional athletes are sure to find that a degree in sport psychology or a CMPC certification will make them instantly more marketable.
Indiana University Professor Jesse Steinfeldt explains why he expects the demand for Sport Psychology graduates to steadily increase in the coming years,
“As society continues to recognize the importance of mental health – and as the Stigma Monster loses its powers and people normalize help-seeking as a strength – opportunities/jobs will open and these necessary services will be provided to all athletes.”[Source]
What kind of student should study a degree in Sport Psychology?
For young people who dream of working with teams, athletes, and organizations to help them be the best they can be, Sport Psychology is an excellent field of study to consider. What exactly is it all about? Despite being a broad field, the heart of the field is about helping individuals overcome obstacles to meet and exceed their goals.
Sports Degrees Online recently spoke with Professor Mark Aoyagi, Director of the University of Denver’s Sport Psychology Program. Professor Aoyagi shared some valuable insights about his view on Sport Psychology, and his personal reasons for choosing his path into the field:
“I realize that athletes, high level performers, CEO’s, these people have an outsized influence on our general, social, cultural experience. That’s my goal – is to work through the medium of sport and performance domains to influence the people in those domains and learn how the journey toward being a more complete, whole, and satisfied person can also be compatible with a highly successful, high-achieving, tip-of-the-sward performer… [That’s a summary of how I use Sport Psychology now – thinking about] how to optimize people, systems, and ultimately society to get the most out of themselves both individually and collectively, and to use high-pressure and high-stakes environments as a testing ground and a proving ground for how to do that.”[source]
If any of this sounds relatable to your career goals, then pursuing a degree in Sport Psychology might take you where you want to go.
What are some courses to expect in a Sport Psychology Major or Concentration?
At the undergraduate level, many universities offer the opportunity to earn a major, a minor, or a concentration in Sport Psychology. Courses are commonly offered through departments including psychology, kinesiology, exercise science, and health science. Common undergraduate course offerings include:
Intro to Sport and Exercise Psychology
Psychology of Sport
The Psychology of Injury and Recovery
Introduction to Biometrics
Psychology of Coaching
Physiology of Exercise
Applied Health and Wellness
When comparing programs, students should be sure to consider which elective courses are offered regularly. Keep in mind that many relevant minors, concentrations, and courses are offered through kinesiology departments.
Five Steps for Choosing the Best Sport Management Bachelor’s Degree Program For You
1) Specific Course Offerings Related to Sport Psychology – Since Sport Psychology is still a relatively young field, it is important to choose a university that has enough related course offerings. The more varied the course offerings within sport and exercise psychology, the better you will be able to gauge what areas you are interested in pursuing at the next level. Equally important is to thoroughly review the faculty members who teach these courses, and what their areas of expertise are. If you are intrigued when investigating the backgrounds and interests of the faculty members, it could be a good sign that the program may be a good fit.
2) Admissions Requirements — Of high importance to consider is how competitive the admissions requirements are for the programs that you are considering. It is always a good idea to create a basic spreadsheet that will help you keep an eye on important deadlines for applications. Once you have this information in one place, you can work backwards from there to make sure you have plenty of time to complete essays, ask for recommendation letters, etc. Many programs have evolving requirements related to standardized test scores, so it is good to know what different colleges and universities are requiring before you apply. Remember that both the SAT and the ACT can be taken several times, so plan well ahead to ensure that you give yourself the best chance at success.
3) Budgetary and Financial Aid Considerations — It is common knowledge that some colleges and universities cost an astronomical amount of money while others are extremely affordable. However, depending on your personal financial situation and academic history, some schools offer financial aid to an impressive number of students. Be sure to do your due diligence looking into what different colleges and universities can offer in terms of financial aid, because the old saying remains true – those who don’t ask, don’t get.
It is important to consider the reputation of each school you are considering, and a well-respected university program may very well be worth the price tag in the long run. But it is important to consider that you might need a Master’s or PhD to get where you want to go in the field, and if so it might be worth waiting to pay the premium price until further down the road.
4) Networking and Internship Resources –– Programs that prioritize exposure to real-world work environments help students get a better idea of where they might fit once they graduate. Be sure to ask questions about the types of structured internship opportunities that currently exist for the programs that you are considering. Also inquire about how the alumni network functions, and whether shadowing opportunities and mentoring programs are common. Connections made through these types of activities can lead to opportunities down the road.
5) Credit Transfer Policies –– Finally, it is important to consider how transferable the credits that you will be earning at a given college or university are. In case you discover that the program you have chosen to attend is not the perfect fit, it is important to know that the work you have done won’t go to waste. This is particularly important if you choose to take a number of inexpensive courses online to get ahead – be sure to make sure those credits will be transferable to your programs of choice. Take time to learn how different credits reciprocate with other schools so you can be confident in your flexibility in the future if needed.
Online Sport Psychology Degree Vs. Sport Psychology Degree on Campus
With more online learning options becoming available all the time, keep in mind that it might be even easier to find a degree program that suits your interests. Likewise, if a local university program doesn’t feature a robust mix of sport psychology courses, keep in mind that you might be able to supplement your program with online courses offered elsewhere.
While online learning is a convenient – and cost effective – option for some people, it is not for everyone. It is extremely hard to replicate the on campus learning environment, but colleges and universities have now gotten very good at delivering their degree programs remotely.
The Importance of Experiential Learning in Sport Psychology
Regardless of which type of degree program you choose, keep in mind that the ability to put your skills into practice in a supervised environment is an important part of the journey. Remember that even the top sport psychologists working with professional athletes had to work their way up to where they are, so don’t be afraid to dive in at the youth level to get your journey started.