Sports psychology is a relatively new field, but there are degree programs popping up all over regarding this career path. Sport psychology really encompasses two basic areas. The first is studying the psychological effect that participating in sports has on us. The second area, and the one that is most used as a career, is the study of how psychological and mental factors affect our performance in sports.

As you can imagine, sports psychologists are often employed by professional athletes and athletic teams to help them maximize their performance on the field, using psychological techniques. Sports psychologists help athletes and teams learn goal setting, relaxation, visualization, self talk, concentration, confidence, etc. along with their physical training to get the most out of each performance.

To be a sports psychologist, you must understand general psychology, but you must also have a good understanding of sports, training and fitness, and sports injury and medicine. There are some degree programs available for sports psychology.

If you’d like to learn more about the field before entering a degree program, check out these 10 open courseware classes that are relevant to the subject. All are free and they come from some of the best universities in the country.

  1. General Psychology: This course from UC Berkeley gives you the basics in psychology.
  2. Confronting Injuries: This class in sports medicine from Johns Hopkins explores injury control and prevention.
  3. Stress Management: This course from Weber State University explores stress management as it relates to human performance. It focuses on causes of stress, recognizing personal stressors and life changing management for stress control.
  4. Musculoskeletal Pathophysiology: This course from Tufts University focuses on disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system.
  5. The Chemistry of Sports: This course from MIT focuses on swimming, cycling and running, and introduces students to the chemistry of their biological systems.
  6. Sports Media and Culture: This course from Learning Space looks at the media coverage of sports. Learn how media coverage has impacted some of the greatest moments in sports and how media coverage in general can affect sports performance.
  7. Introduction to Cardiovascular Fitness: A healthy cardiovascular system is critical in all sports. This course from Wikiversity explores getting fit for a strong heart.
  8. Clinical Psychology: This course from Berkeley offers an introduction to clinical psychology concepts.
  9. Developmental Psychopathology: A general class in developmental psychology offered by the University of California at Berkeley.
  10. Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology: Nutrient Function and Metabolism: This course from Berkeley covers diet and nutrition, including required nutrients and their function in the diet and metabolism.

For More Information

Sports psychology is still relatively new as a career field, so it’s not as easy to find information as on some other fields. There are, however, some publications that can help you in addition to the open courseware classes listed here. Take a look at the following:

  1. The American Journal of Sports Psychology: This is a great resource for finding articles, info about sports, and even jobs in sports fields. It’s a resource you’ll use over and over again.
  2. Athletic Insight: This is a new online journal of sports psychology. You can read articles, find conferences to attend and keep up with all the news in the sports psychology arena from this site.
  3. The International Journal of Sports Psychology: This online journal publishes empirical and theoretical contributions in the human movement sciences from all over the world. You can find a lot of statistical and medical information related to sports medicine and sports psychology here.
  4. The American College of Sports Medicine’s Home Page: This is a great resource, focusing primarily on sports medicine. However, there are some great articles and resources related to sports psychology, too.
  5. The Journal of Applied Sports Psychology: This journal is a paper publication that is published four times a year. However, you can access back issues online, too.
  6. The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology: This publication publishes research articles about the interaction between the mind and body in the psychology of exercise and sports. It is published bi-monthly. Many of the articles are available for free online, but you can get a full subscription with a fee.

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