Duration of the Pilot Project from July 2019 until July 2023
Given the diversity of programmes for sports psychology across Europe, standardisation is needed
Sport psychology is:
- a unique field
- a growing field
- a differentiated training and practice pathway in many countries in Europe following undergraduate education; and
- a specialism that requires competencies that are specific to sport psychology
Sport Psychology has a well-established training and practice pathway. It is a distinct sub-discipline within both psychology and sport sciences, that has its own academic curriculum and training path for entry level into the profession of sport psychology. There are specific theories applied in the area of Sport Psychology theories (e.g., cognitive and behavioural bases of sport, psychomotor learning, exercise to enhance wellbeing and mental health) and specialised skills (e.g., sport specific psychological assessment and mental skills training for performance enhancement). Additionally, research within Sport Psychology requires unique ethical considerations(e.g., managing confidentiality in sporting environments, being seen in public with clients, working with coaches and athletes simultaneously).
What is Sport Psychology:
Sport Psychology covers specific and differentiated roles and social activities, not covered by other specializations. Sport psychologists work with a variety of groups within the context of sport such as athletes, coaches, teams, parents, referees and officials. In health environments, the Sport Psychologist may work with other professionals in medical, education and health industries as well as individual clients.
What does a Sport Psychologist do?
A sport psychologist;
- May focus on performance enhancement, including psychomotor skills.
- Deals with clients who are psychologically healthy and stable, but also with clients in psychological crises (e.g., career termination, injuries).
- Deals with reasons for sedentary behaviour addressing barriers to physical activity engagement (e.g. motivation, wellbeing, anxiety, body image) or reasons for dependence on exercise (body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorder, overtraining).
- Addresses the benefits of regular physical activity involvement for physical (e.g. non communicable diseases), mental (e.g. depression, anxiety) and social (e.g. prosocial behaviour, reduced isolation) health conditions.
- Requires complementary competencies in sport sciences (e.g. training sciences, physiology, nutrition, biomechanics, sport sociology, sport management, sport pedagogy).
Clients expect specific knowledge and skills from sport psychologists. Research highlights that clients (e.g. athletes / teams, coaches, parents, and organizations) demand specific knowledge related to the contexts of sport and exercise not covered in a general psychology degree, for example:
- doping and substance abuse
- management of disordered eating and weight regulation
- prejudice and discrimination
- abuse of power including sexual harassment
- aggression and violence
- inactivity, behavior change and exercise dependence
- overtraining, burnout, career termination
- injury, rehabilitation and return to sport / exercise
- organizational culture and systemic change
growing interest in sport psychology
In recent years in Europe as well as worldwide, the number of applied sport psychology positions with professional teams, national and Olympic training centres and universities has grown dramatically. This rapid expansion of opportunities and growing interest in sport psychology is also demonstrated by numerous articles, publications of textbooks, speciality books for the general public and commentaries by specialists in the media. Furthermore, sport psychology is increasingly being recognized by national governing bodies in sport and medical associations as a unique area of practice and the recognition of exercise and physical activity in the treatment and care of mental health conditions and non-communicable diseases by think tanks, government departments and international agencies (e.g. World Health Organisation).
Examples of growth in the area of Sport Psychology
- Growth in the area of education
There are currently more than 30 national and regional sports psychology associations with an approximate total membership of 6000-8000 people. There has also been an increase in master programs in Sport Psychology (36 programs: see list by Huttervi in appendix).
- Growth in the attendance at conferences
There has been a growing number of individuals attending conferences in the area of Sport Psychology. For example, there has been growth in the numbers attending the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) Congress from 600 in 2007 to 1000 participants in 2019; the International Congress in Sport Psychology celebrated in Sevilla-Spain in 2017 had 1100 registered. Growth has also been noticed in the association of young practitioners in sport psychology, with 150 participants at the latest European Network of Young Specialists in Sport Psychology (ENYSSP) conference.
- Growth in research
In the area of research, there has also been a notable increase in the number of studies, both original research and meta-analytic reviews, demonstrating the effectiveness of sport psychological skills training in the optimization and enhancement of competitive performance published in peer-reviewed journals. The number of journal submissions to the European leading journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise has increased from about 200 in 2005 to 650 in 2018.
- An increased demand for Sport Psychology services
An increased demand for sport psychological services has been recognised (e.g. some countries such as Spain and Germany, require a full-time sport psychologist in their talent development programs). There has also been growth in corporate responsibility to provide greater physical activity opportunities and reduce sedentary time in the work place. The increased demand in services, has also been facilitated by a growth in mobile and health technology that incorporate the measurement of physical abilities, and psychological strategies to increase physical activity.
With the expansion of Sport Psychology services, improved provision of services have been developed (e.g. concussion protocols, mental health awareness training in sport). This has followed the publication of consensus statements involving Sport Psychology experts on athlete welfare issues within sport.
The importance of having agreed standards for the education and training of Sport Psychologists
There are varying programmes throughout Europe for the education of sport psychologists and a unified minimum standard of practice is necessary to ensure quality and protect clients from malpractice and harm. Having agreed standards of education and training for sport psychology in Europe would help to further develop the profession in Europe, in particular to help countries who are working towards higher standards in their negotiations with educational institutions and state bodies. We argue that establishing a field of practice will protect the field from self-defined “mental coaches” and will help build a job market that provides quality sport psychological services in Europe. Clients will be protected against receiving services from “mental coaches” and will be assisted in identifying educated and qualified sport psychologists. Providing a list of sport psychologists who have met agreed standards will be the way of the future when athletes, coaches, sport clubs and sport associations search for high quality sport psychological services in Europe.
A number of European countries have already established specific training programmes in sport psychology following a Bachelor or Degree level in Psychology and undertake a differentiated postgraduate training in sport psychology. Having a designation of sport psychology for Basic EuroPsy psychologists protects the public by helping clients identify who is trained to a particular standard endorsed by EFPA.