Public Perceptions of Sport Psychologists
Adam H. Naylor
Professor of Sport Psychology - University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Doug E. Gardner
ThinkSport - Sport Psychology Consultation
Recently there has been considerable debate by professionals in our field concerning licensure. It is an interesting debate, but one that has become increasingly frustrating. We believe that it is missing the point. We understand that the mission of the discourse is to grow our field/profession, but it has become more and more clear that licensure is not the solution to this problem.
We believe that there is little doubt that all who are interested in practicing in this field ought to be competently trained. This training ought to include appropriate coursework, research and teaching experiences, training in the implementation of psychological skills, as well as, basic counseling techniques and social skills, and comprehensive internship experiences that include contact with athletes of various levels. To be successful in a field as challenging as ours, it is critical that one is diverse in knowledge and experience.
With all of this said, our frustration came to a point this morning. We encourage you all to go to this web page. This is one of many such articles that can be found in papers, magazines, and on the web. We think that these are well intentioned articles, but ones that illustrate the true challenge that faces our field. As a field, we have spent too much time worrying about ourselves and too little time worrying about the people for whom we strive to serve and work. We have been egocentric and short-sighted.
Why does the public know so little about what sport psychology is and its aims and intentions? We have had the good fortune to have excellent mentors and colleagues in this field. They have had success in professional, Olympic, collegiate, and youth sport. Our experiences and theirs have shown that in very few instances has any organization or athlete that has dwelt on their degrees, licensure, or lack thereof. Sport has been far more concerned with how a sport psychology consultant will help the team, organization, or individual. Furthermore, how does the consultant bring something new to their athletic training and development? Why will we not step on the toes of their coaches, life-skills coordinators, or employee assistance psychologists? The bottom line is that we must do a better job at educating the public. What different roles that sport psychologists play? Right now, how do organizations and athletes know what they are getting?
What does this have to do with the brief article that we have lead you to? NFL combine time has rolled around again. We are all aware that psychologists and psychological testing plays and important role in the NFL combine and draft. Every year many articles are written about the psychological testing that goes on at the combine. Little (if anything) is said about the reliability, validity, or utility of these tests. Furthermore, nothing is said about other roles that sport psychologists play in NFL organizations. Exceptional stories of psychologists selling snake oil and waving magic wands are what make headlines and educate the public about what we do. Is this fair? Does this help our field move forward? Is it the selling of a false bill of goods? Have we each done our part to accurately depict our field, support one another, and move this profession forward? We will leave you with these questions to ponder.
We are not suggesting that we begin to get ourselves onto the front pages, this is surely not where we ought to be. Yet we are suggesting that we begin caring more about others and less about ourselves. There is a world beyond our organizations. Do they understand us, care about us, or need us?