Is the Profession of Sport Psychology an Illusion?

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The overarching purpose of the current article was to examine the status of sport psychology as a profession in 4 ways. First, the author characterizes the profession of sport psychology as an illusion because there is so little demand for sport psychology services and because there are so few full-time practicing sport psychologists. Second, paradoxically, it appears that many people assume that applied sport psychology is a healthy and viable profession, so the author comments on why this is the case. Sidestepping the lack of jobs does a disservice to graduate students who believe they can easily become practicing sport psychologists. Third, it is clear that few athletes or teams want to pay for sport psychology services, so some reasons why this is the case are presented. Fourth, the author speculates about the future of the sport psychology profession, followed by some recommendations that would rectify his claim that the field’s relative silence on this issue does a disservice to students.

The ideal sport psychology career is not going to be something you apply for in a newspaper advertisement. It will never happen. . . . But you’re going to have to create it yourself. (Simons & Andersen, 1995, p. 462)

There are only a few individuals in the entire United States who maintain full-time sport psychology consulting positions. Even with years of experience, sport psychology is likely to be only a fairly small proportion of one’s practice. (Hayes, 1995, p. 39)

Despite increasing interest in the field, full-time consulting positions in applied sport psychology remain rare. (Wilson, Gilbert, Gilbert, & Sailor, 2009, p. 405)

Few professionals reported making a living doing such work. The reality of a limited applied job market has been documented in the literature, but the results of this study indicate there might be a disconnect between students’ expectations of career opportunities and the realities of the field. (Fitzpatrick, Monda, & Wooding, 2016, p. 22)

The opening sequence of quotes spans over 20 years, and similar conclusions have appeared elsewhere in the literature in a handful of publications when the research focus is specifically on careers as sport psychology professionals (SPPs; e.g., Andersen, Aldridge, Williams, & Taylor, 1997; Fitzpatrick et al., 2016). These quotes clearly indicate that full-time positions as SPPs are rare and would require tremendous personal initiative to acquire and maintain. There are, however, few studies on career opportunities and employment (i.e., 15–20) relative to the abundance of articles on other applied sport psychology topics (e.g., mental skills, ethics, competence, and professional practice). Information about the scarcity of applied sport psychology positions is almost never found in studies examining other topics involving SPPs. Over the last 50 years hundreds of articles on applied sport psychology have appeared in The Sport Psychologist, the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, and related journals (e.g., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport), and rarely do the authors acknowledge that obtaining a career as a full-time SPP is extremely unlikely. It is quite reasonable that authors writing on a goal-setting intervention or the ethics of professional practice do not mention job market considerations.

However, when the authors of a large number of journal articles and textbooks on the sport psychology profession do not mention job scarcity, or it appears as an afterthought, it is understandable that such articles, and the unintended consequence of what they imply (i.e., a healthy profession), drown out the few articles focused on the reality of the state of affairs (e.g., Andersen et al., 1997). It should not be a surprise that the limited career opportunities come as a complete shock to many students who enter the job market as aspiring SPPs. For instance, in one study, seven U.K. sport psychology master’s students with an applied focus were interviewed (Owton, Bond, & Todd, 2014). The authors reported that, in regard to working with Olympians,

Many perceived that this was a viable, easily accessible career path and that there “must be quite a few opportunities with the Olympics coming up.” . . . Most participants envisaged that completion of the MSc would allow them to access employment opportunities as practitioners. (Owton et al., 2014, p. 246)

Knowing how few full-time SPP careers are available makes the enthusiasm I often see in students at sport psychology conferences disheartening. Students’ limited knowledge about the sport psychology profession, understandable given their inexperience, exacerbates my uneasiness about this state of affairs. This situation has puzzled me for a number of years. Part of my puzzlement is because I view the limited career opportunities as a very serious problem, yet I often feel like many (not all) of my colleagues do not share my opinion, or if they do they rarely verbalize such concerns. For instance, in one article on the professional development of applied sport psychology in Europe, the authors (Wylleman, Harwood, Elbe, Reints, & de Caluwe, 2009) identified three major challenges: developing a professional identity, understanding the best educational route to becoming an SPP, and ensuring high-quality sport psychology service (Wylleman et al., 2009). The authors extensively discussed all three challenges despite noting earlier in the article that full-time sport psychology jobs in Finland, Flanders, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were rare (e.g., 7 out of 124 positions in Finland at that time). Apparently, Wylleman et al. (2009) did not see the few full-time jobs as a major challenge to the profession. In the recently published Handbook of Sport and Exercise Psychology, two excellent chapters discussed training, credentialing, and ethics of SPPs, yet nowhere did the authors make the slightest mention of how few full-time positions there are or how small the demand is for full-time services (Petrie, 2019; Watson & Etzel, 2019).

There are some authors out there warning us about this issue. For instance, Owton et al. (2014) suggested that sport psychology educators need to help students manage their job expectations and provide a realistic picture of career opportunities, and over 20 years ago Andersen et al. (1997) suggested, “Periodically, any responsible profession needs to monitor its growth and success at placing graduates” (p. 327). Finally, Portenga, Aoyagi, and Cohen (2016) are quite blunt: “Considering that many of these students attended programs under the auspices of professional preparation, it is unfortunate at best, deceptive at worst, that so many students are unable to make a living as a professional” (p. 47).

Concerns periodically raised over the last 25 years are clearly relevant today. An article that every aspiring SPP and academic involved in the profession should read, in addition to Andersen et al.’s (1997), was also published over 20 years ago by Hale and Danish (1999), who wrote a reply to Silva, Conroy, and Zizzi (1999). In their article, Hale and Danish directed a question to Silva et al. (1999) that I think applies equally well to many of my colleagues today: “They [Silva et al., 1999] have sidestepped the most critical issue: does the need for applied sport psychologists really exist?” (p. 322).

For instance, despite the astute observations about the ethics of preparing students for a sport psychology career that may not exist for most of them, Portenga et al. (2017) also sidestep the issue of whether there really is a need for applied sport psychology by focusing almost exclusively on clearly defining the profession of sport psychology as a means to building the profession and helping it grow. Portenga et al. drew parallels to the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) and the development of careers as clinical exercise physiologists and health and fitness specialists. They also noted some common criteria for the development of professions, such as established academic standards, standardized exams taken by graduates of accredited schools, a national organization to advocate for the profession, and a unique body of knowledge. What is absent in their article is any extended commentary on why most students will struggle to make a living as SPPs.

A blunt way of interpreting the limited number of full-time SPPs employed is that few athletes or people (e.g., coaches) in the sport world feel they need sport psychology services. When teams or athletes are open to working with an SPP the financial resources are often not present (Pain & Harwood, 2004) unless it is a profitable professional athlete or team or a tax-payer-supported enterprise (e.g., Olympic athletes).

In brief, the overarching purpose of the current article is to examine the status of sport psychology as a profession by discussing four topics that are rarely addressed in the literature. First, I characterize the profession of sport psychology as an illusion. At best, it is an emerging profession or a boutique profession—albeit one that has been “emerging” for at least 40 years (Gilmore, Wagstaff, & Smith, 2018). Second, many students and professionals appear to assume that sport psychology is a healthy and viable profession. This assumption is misguided, in my opinion, so I comment on why I believe it exists. Third, it is clear that few athletes or teams want SPP services so I offer some reasons behind why I think this is the case. Fourth, I briefly speculate about the future of SPPs, followed by some research and applied recommendations that, if implemented, would address my claim that our relative silence on this issue does a disservice to students.

Despite my misgivings about the profession, I am a strong proponent of sport psychology and of SPPs. I suspect that most athletes (as well as parents and coaches) can benefit from the expertise of qualified SPPs, and there is ample anecdotal and research evidence to support their value (e.g., Murphy, 1995). During my career as a professional runner, I relied on my mental skills on a daily basis. This paper is my attempt to shine a bright light on the fact that sport psychology services are not in strong demand, that few sport psychologists can make a living out of being full-time SPPs, and, just as important, why this state of affairs exists.

The Illusion

Readers may wonder about this article’s title, when there are clearly sport psychologists working with professional and amateur athletes. I simply do not believe that 100–200 full-time practicing SPPs constitutes a profession. This number of full-time jobs is so low that it is specious to claim that a profession of sport psychology exists. Clearly, my belief is a subjective judgment, and SPPs meet many of the traditional criteria of a profession (Winters & Collins, 2016). To soften this judgment, I assert a less extreme claim by suggesting that sport psychology is not yet a viable or healthy profession.

Winter and Collins (2016) have examined whether sport psychology is a profession based on common criteria such as the presence of a scientific knowledge base. In this paper I have a simpler premise, that sport psychology is not a viable profession, based on one of Hall’s (1968) criteria for a profession: the creation of a full-time occupation. In turn, full-time-occupation status is linked to a second criterion noted for accrediting professions—that a significant portion of society needs the service offered (cited in Hale and Danish [1999] as personal communication, December 8, 1998, via SPORTPSY on the Internet).

Because most of the research and my commentary is directed to sport psychology in the United States, I note that full-time employment for SPPs in other countries (e.g., one SPP in the Netherlands) is also low (Johnson, Andersson, & Fallby, 2011; Wylleman et al., 2009). In the following sections I report on some research that sheds light on the restricted full-time jobs for SPPs by examining the research on working SPPs (in absolute and relative terms) and how SPPs are perceived.

SPP Employment

One area that seems to generate optimism about sport psychology in the United States is the increased number of SPPs working in college sport, and much of the research I discuss next is from U.S. college-sport contexts. I also report on research conducted with graduates of sport psychology programs and their experiences.

Silva (1984) conducted one of the earliest studies in this area that should have, in retrospect, been seen as a red flag. High school and college coaches (N = 236) reported their perceptions about SPPs. Although many respondents (68.2%) expressed a desire to work with SPPs, almost as many (64.8%) indicated they would not pay for such a service. Waite and Pettit (1993) sought to obtain data about SPPs’ work experiences so that advisors could “effectively advise students in their quest to make informed career decisions in the field of sport psychology” (p. 235). Based on the responses of 34 recently graduated doctoral students, Waite and Pettit reported that there was a low demand for services, and a particularly disconcerting finding was that coaches were not receptive to sport psychology services. In a 1997 article, Andersen et al. reported that only 7 out of 92 graduate students were working as SPPs. Williams (2003) found that performance enhancement was listed as the most popular area of emphasis, but only 2 of 116 respondents listed their jobs as “sport psychology consultant.” Fifty-five respondents indicated that they spent an average of only 16% of their time consulting with athletes (Williams, 2003).

Voight and Callaghan (2001) examined responses about sport psychology services from 96 NCAA Division I universities. About half the schools used SPPs, but only seven employed a full-time SPP (Voight & Callaghan, 2001). Kornspan and Duve (2006) obtained survey responses from a large sample of athletic directors (ADs) that included all NCAA divisions. Among the 286 respondents, they found that 67 used SPPs, but only four used full-time SPPs, 11 part-time, and 36 on a consultant basis. Ten SPPs provided services for free. Also, the perceptions of the need for SPPs decreased from Division I through Division II to Division III (Kornspan & Duve, 2006). Wilson et al. (2009) later reported that only one of 110 reporting ADs at Division I universities indicated that they employed a full-time sport psychologist, with another nine employing part-time SPPs.

Wrisberg, Loberg, Simpson, Withycombe, and Reed (2010) conducted a study of 815 NCAA coaches (as opposed to ADs) that is also revealing. The coaches were generally supportive of their athletes’ seeing SPPs and of making their athletes available to work with SPPs. Only 43% of the coaches were supportive of having SPPs at practice or competition. Wrisberg, Withycombe, Simpson, Loberg, and Reed, (2012) surveyed 198 ADs and 58 university presidents to determine their views on SPPs in their athletic departments. Fifty-one of the participants responded to an open-ended optional section of the survey. Answers from this subsample indicated that 15 respondents were unsupportive of SPPs; 20 were supportive but could not afford to pay, and the remaining 16 were considered supportive of SPPs. Somewhat alarming was that only 18.3% of respondents provided “high” ratings for SPPs’ having a role at athletes’ practices and competitions. Wrisberg et al. (2012) concluded that “NCAA D-I ADs and presidents perceive sport psychology services to be beneficial, particularly those that are performance-related, yet remain unable or reluctant to commit the funds necessary to employ SPCs [sport psychology consultants] on a full-time basis” (p. 26).

Connole et al. (2014) asked 2,976 U.S. college ADs to respond to a survey on their preferred characteristics in a sport psychologist. Among the 478 (16.1% of the pool) responding, 190 (39.7% of respondents) reported that student-athletes and coaches had access to the use of an SPP at their institutions. Connole et al. (2014) concluded that “the most preferred position for a SPP identified by ADs in this study was that of a part-time athletic department employee” (p. 415).

In one of the more illuminating studies in this area, Meyers, Coleman, Whelan, and Mehlenbeck (2001) surveyed 433 participants who were members of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 47 or the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), working in academic or in clinical or counseling practices. In regard to the respondents who were trained in clinical or counseling psychology, Meyers et al. (2001) concluded, “Very few professionals earn generous incomes from sport psychology work. The evidence suggests that most professionals would be wise to consider sport psychology involvement as a limited, adjunctive portion of their work activities” (p. 10). In regard to sport scientists in academia, they concluded, “If a student’s interest is focused on a full-time sport psychology career, then an academic position in a sport science department would be the most productive goal” (p. 10). It should be noted, however, that a full-time sport psychology career in academia will be largely devoted to teaching, providing service, grant writing, and conducting research.

Applied sport psychology work by an academic can easily be viewed as service. Unfortunately, such activity does not make a major contribution to career advancement (i.e., promotion and tenure), particularly at research-intensive universities. Meyers et al. (2001) reported that on average only 2.5 hr/week was spent on sport psychology delivery by academic sport-science-trained SPPs. Across six categories (sport scientist–academic, sport scientist–applied, clinical–academic, clinical–applied, counseling–academic, and counseling–applied) the range of time spent in delivery of sport psychology services was 2.5–12.5 hr/week (Meyers et al., 2001). Consistent with Meyers et al.’s (2001) findings, in the Pain and Harwood (2004) study the authors reported that only five sport psychologists worked with English Premier Soccer League teams (during the 2002–2003 seasons), and those were on a contractual basis.

Another way to gauge the health of the profession is to determine if SPPs are leaving the profession after a short period of time, and for what reasons. In one study, Australian SPPs (N = 7) were interviewed 4 years after completing their sport psychology studies (Tod, Andersen, & Marchant, 2011). Out of the seven SPPs, two were working full-time seeing athletes and two were no longer pursuing careers as SPPs. The remaining three SPPs spent most of their time (96%) seeing nonathletes (Tod et al., 2011). Information about why the seven SPPs’ careers took such divergent paths was limited, although Tod et al. (2011) suggested that the two SPPs who were no longer practicing had a history of doubting their competency, which they implied might have led to their nonpracticing status. In summary, although SPPs are perceived positively, very few are working full-time.

Related Sport Professions

So why have athletic training and strength and conditioning flourished over the years, while sport psychology remains a relative backwater that appears to suffer from a retarded development (by about a factor of 15!) in comparison to these other professions? (Andersen, 2009, p. 13)

It is illuminating, for the purpose of providing perspective, to contrast the robust professions of athletic training and strength and conditioning in the United States with the observations on sport psychology in the preceding section. Graduates of kinesiology/exercise science programs who major in athletic training can typically find jobs in their field, as almost every professional, semiprofessional, and college team in the United States employs at least one AT, as do many high schools. In the United States, certified ATs are members of the National Athletic Training Association (NATA), and they can access NATA’s career center to find job openings. NATA membership currently stands at approximately 44,000, with 256 jobs advertised in their career center (https://www.nata.org/, accessed February 7, 2019). Positions in strength and conditioning are also common among the teams noted that employ ATs. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) membership stands at approximately 30,000, with over a 1,000 jobs advertised in their career center (https://www.nsca.com/, accessed February 15, 2019). The same observations cannot be made for the sport psychology profession. AASP’s membership stands at approximately 2,500 across 55 countries (https://appliedsportpsych.org/about/, accessed February 28, 2019), with fewer than 100 active fellows and only 29 jobs advertised in their career center (https://appliedsportpsych.org/about/aasp-fellows/, accessed February 15, 2019). Many of the advertised positions are not for SPPs (e.g., personal trainer, exercise specialist, performance coaches).

It also provides perspective to consider the number of individuals employed in some example professions in which graduates from kinesiology/exercise science, health and human performance, and psychology departments (and related departments) can seek careers. In 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals employed in the United States included health educators (58,040), coaches and scouts (235,400), physical therapists (225,420), occupational therapists (126,050), recreation therapists (18,490), massage therapists (103,300), fitness trainers and aerobics instructors (280,080), recreation workers (352,350), and ATs (25,010; https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_stru.htm#00-0000). The estimates for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists for the United States (2017) is 108,060 (https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes193031.htm#nat). These numbers vary tremendously, but the lowest is 18,490, with many professions over 100,000. In contrast, a generous estimate for SPPs is a few hundred in the United States.

A major premise for this paper revolves around the practice of preparing SPPs for careers that most will not obtain or will obtain only with difficulty. In addition to the original research data based on graduate students presented throughout the current paper, a brief comment on AASP membership and graduate student programs seems relevant. The AASP website notes that there are over 100 graduate programs in sport psychology, and many of these programs have been around for over 25 years. If every program graduated only 1 or 2 students a year for 25 years that would total 2,500–5,000 graduates, yet AASP membership is only 2,500. While speculative, it is not unreasonable to think that graduate students who cannot find careers as SPPs are likely to leave AASP and the sport psychology profession. I should note here that I recognize the very valuable role that sport psychology courses serve in educating students in other disciplines (e.g., coaching) who are not interested in becoming sport psychologists.

In conclusion, based on these numbers I find it puzzling how anyone can categorize the sport psychology profession as healthy or recommend it, without many reservations and qualifications, to graduate students. In the next section I provide some observations about how the profession started and why there seems to be a default assumption that sport psychology is a viable and realistic profession.

Sport Psychology as a Profession

The Start

Understanding how the profession of sport psychology sprang out of the discipline, when set against the context of how other professions develop, may be enlightening. Definitions of professions tend to focus on factors such as a body of special knowledge and an ethical framework for practicing, among other criteria. Many definitions of a profession also include a reference to meeting a broad societal need (Pellegrino, 2002). There is no evidence that the leaders of the profession of sport psychology considered whether there was a societal need for its services. Most SPPs in the United States view AASP as the leading organization for the profession of sport psychology. AASP was partly developed in response to the decision by the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) leadership to not consider sport psychology professional issues. In reading a variety of documents related to the start of AASP, a dominant theme that emerges was an assumption, as stated by Silva (2010), that “the practice of sport psychology was rapidly expanding” (p. 6). At the same time, Silva had expressed a legitimate concern that the field was unregulated and that sport psychology would be damaged by charlatans and unqualified individuals masquerading as legitimate sport psychologists (Silva & Stevens, 2002).

During the writing of this paper I have not found any research from the 1970s and 1980s that supported the creation of a profession of sport psychology that was needed to address a societal need (e.g., high rates of suicide among retiring professional athletes or high rates of depression among college athletes). The first study (Silva, 1984) that, in hindsight, should have been a harbinger of a limited job market indicated that almost two-thirds of high school and college coaches would not pay for SPPs. It appears no one seemed to consider the obvious: SPPs are not needed or wanted, then or now (at least in sufficient numbers to claim we have a healthy and viable profession). It seems that the founding leaders of AASP either did not consider this factor or, based on the research presented in the current paper, seriously misjudged the “societal need” for sport psychology services—or were simply overly optimistic about the future of SPP.

Examining the history of other professions suggests that they grew and developed in response to an obvious societal need that was well recognized by many people (e.g., the public) and not just a few individuals. For example, clinical psychology grew tremendously in response to the foreseeable need for psychological services before, during, and after World War II (Benjamin, 2005).1 A major justification for the profession was to meet an obvious need, and lacking such a justification has been grounds for criticism. For example, vocational education leaders have stated that “vocational education has very little, if any, value to the individual, community, or to the economy unless the skills that are learned enable people to get and hold jobs” (Miller, 1984, p. 40). Careers in the performing arts (i.e., music and dance) specifically as performance artists are also very scarce (Bennett, 2009a; 2009b), and Brown (2007) questioned whether graduate educators who admitted far more students than jobs available may engaging in “fundamental dishonesty” (p. 46). Given the numerous writings on preparing ethical SPPs (e.g., Watson & Etzel, 2019), sport psychology graduate educators should also consider the ethics of preparing future SPPs for a career that most will not obtain.

Why Do We Think Sport Psychology Is a Viable Profession?

It appears that many people (e.g., AASP members, the public, students, including some university administrators) assume there is a strong profession of sport psychology. Most full-time SPPs (certainly not all; e.g., Andersen et al., 1997), as well as those who pursue it on a part-time basis, however, appear strangely silent on the matter in the public fora in which I take part (e.g., AASP website, conferences, journal articles, listserv discussions). In this respect I am not as confident as Fitzpatrick et al. (2016), who asserted the opposite and suggested that there is “important dialogue . . . taking place on college campuses between faculty and students, as well as professional conferences, and via email listservs” (Fitzpatrick et al., 2016, p. 14). What I perceive to be a limited discussion on this topic is particularly disconcerting because it appears that many students want to become practicing sport psychologists (Fitzpatrick et al., 2016). Students enter graduate school with the goal of doing so, only to be disappointed when they find out that obtaining a full-time career will be either impossible or quite difficult (Andersen et al., 1997). High levels of disappointment and frustration in graduate students who feel mislead are exemplified by the following quote: “Do not believe what the university or the department has to say about their program” (Andersen et al., 1997, p. 340). Student sentiments like these do not speak well of some university faculty in applied sport psychology graduate programs.

Students might reasonably be castigated for not doing their homework before entering graduate school about the job prospects awaiting them when they graduate. Nevertheless, such foresight might be a bit much to ask of most students (certainly it would have been for myself 30 years ago). I believe that graduate program directors and the faculty representing applied sport psychology programs are ethically obligated to make it crystal clear to prospective and current students that their sport psychology career prospects are problematic.

Students seem to see the profession of sport psychology as a viable career choice for at least three broad reasons. My belief is that these reasons (and others I have likely missed) create a gestalt impression that a viable and healthy profession of sport psychology exists. These three reasons are the social media, academic writings, and a failure to distinguish between the discipline and the profession of applied sport psychology. These reasons have a limited empirical base but reflect my many years of internal cogitating and external musings about the mysterious nonprofession of sport psychology with like-minded colleagues.

Social Media

Sport psychology is often viewed as the new hot topic in sport and as a result receives lots of press coverage. Through frequent headlines such as “Young Athletes Turn to Sports Psychology” (Pennington, 2007) and similar anecdotal stories, the mass media endorse the sport psychology profession as healthy. In the absence of contradictory information (that has to be found in a dozen disparate and isolated academic journal articles), it is easy for readers to incorrectly assume that sport psychology is a realistic career choice.

In a study examining sport psychology coverage in the media, three newspapers mentioned sport psychology 574 times over a 9-year (1985–1993) period (Brewer, Van Raalte, Petitpas, Bachman, & Weinhold, 1998). I believe that such strong media coverage sends an implicit message that a viable profession of sport psychology exists. In a 2000 edition of US News and World Report, Tolson, Kleiner, and Marcus (2000) reported of SPPs,

The U.S. Olympic team had only one in 1988, but it had 100 by 1996. There are now over 100 academic programs specializing in sports psychology, at least three academic journals, and over 1,000 members listed by the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sports Psychology. And elite professional and amateur teams and athletes seem to be increasingly using their services. (p. 40)

As noted in a later section, the preceding quote conflates the discipline with the profession and implies that the number of practicing SPPs is far greater than the reality (Tolson et al., 2000). Media reports of professional athletes benefiting from working with sport psychologists are also becoming somewhat ubiquitous. For example, headlines such as “Sports Psychologists Aim to Help Miami Dolphins Win Mind Games” (https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nfl/miami-dolphins/article42749475.html) implicitly endorse sport psychology as a profession. When uncritical readers are exposed to such headlines on a consistent basis, and when such headlines are enthusiastically forwarded to sport psychology listservs, it is understandable how potential future students not already involved in the discipline or profession might believe that becoming an applied sport psychologist is a reasonable goal, akin to wanting to become an AT or a physical therapist.

Nonscholarly sources of information such as those noted herein are not the only culprits. It is particularly worrisome when an organization like the APA asserts that careers in sport psychology are widely available. In a recently published article on its website titled “Hot Careers: Sport Psychology” (https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2012/11/sport-psychology.aspx), the following appeared: “At least 20 NCAA Division I universities have a sport psychologist on staff and another 70–100 contract with outside specialists, and one conclusion reached was that ‘The field is strong.’”

It is probably safe to assume that more NCAA Division I schools are currently employing SPPs than were 20 years ago. But according to the NCAA website there are 351 Division I schools, 308 Division II schools, and 443 Division III schools with athletic programs (http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/ncaa-101/our-three-divisions). In addition, there are over 250 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic (NAIA) schools with athletic teams (http://www.naia.org/fls/27900/1NAIA/membership/2018-19_NAIA_Member_Institutions.pdf) and over 250 junior colleges with athletic teams in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA: (http://www.njcaa.org/member_colleges/college-directory). When over 1,500 postsecondary schools employ only 20–30 sport psychologists full-time it is difficult to see how one concludes that “the field is strong.” Given that many SPPs employ a cognitive-behavioral-therapy perspective in their work, it might resonate with the reader to suggest we are guilty of overgeneralization.

Academic Writings

During the preparation of this commentary I have been pleasantly surprised that at least a few authors have noted the lack of full-time job opportunities. At the same time the fact that the best summary I found, by Andersen et al. (1997), is over 20 years old was disappointing. Although forwarded decades ago, Andersen et al.’s observations are so applicable today that every aspiring SPP and sport psychology academic involved in preparing SPPs should reflect on their conclusions:

(a) Students should ensure that they have diverse training and skills for work other than consulting athletes; (b) career opportunities in the traditional [sport psychology] field for professionals with master degrees are limited; (c) the number of individuals with doctoral degrees earning 50% or more of their income from consulting with athletes remain low . . . ; (d) academics, probably because of other job demands, do not do much consulting; (e) there is little evidence to suggest that the market for consulting will improve significantly in the near future; and (f) for doctoral graduates, sport psychology may appear to be solid in academic institutions, but there seems to be few opportunities in the field outside of academia. (p. 342–343)

Based on the absence of in-depth commentaries, the limited number of full-time positions available appears to be of little concern to many people in the field. Most people commenting on sport psychology appear to be academics or full-time SPPs, so I wonder if their own full-time academic or professional status has blinded them to this significant issue. I also believe that a focus on professional issues related to training, competency, ethics, research support for mental-skills training, and/or other important topics has effectively deflected attention away from this critical issue. There has been more than the occasional heated debate at conferences and on listservs, full of passion, about kinesiology/exercise-science-trained versus psychology-trained sport psychologists. I often wonder why there is not an equally passionate discussion and debate about the poor prospects for full-time sport-psychology-specific jobs awaiting our sport psychology graduates regardless of their disciplinary training background.

Back in 2002, John Silva wrote, “The professionalization of the field was occurring at a rate few professionals anticipated and some wished to ignore” (p. 17). Although this statement is a bit ambiguous, one reading of it is that sport psychology careers were becoming available. The assertion, however, did not come supported by empirical data or with any cited evidence, and given the current lack of full-time SPP positions it appears that Silva’s declaration was more wishful thinking than fact. Major issues to be addressed identified in Silva’s commentary related to graduate education, accreditation of graduate programs, integration of sport organizations, ethics, and job opportunities. Ironically, the section on job opportunities was not about limitations but instead about “the myth of the lack of jobs.” Unfortunately, Silva conflated the discipline with the profession of applied sport psychology and knocked down his own straw man by asserting that plenty of academic jobs existed. The next quote is another example of an overly optimistic portrayal of the job market:

Possible employment opportunities for sport psychology consultants exist in a variety of settings. For example, sport psychology consultants may locate employment in university athletic departments (Leffingwell, Wiechman, Smith, Smoll, & Christensen, 2001), university counseling centers (Flowers, 2003), private training facilities (King, 2002; Young, 2002), golf clubs (Zuckerman, 2001), cardiac rehabilitation centers (Taylor, 1991), Olympic training centers (Murphy, 1996), sports medicine clinics (Petitpas, 1998), professional sports organizations (Dunlap, 1999; Gardner, 2001), health and wellness settings (Smith et al., 2002), or other performance related arenas (Williams & Scherzer, 2003), or as employees for sport agents (Berardino, 2003). (Kornspan & Duve, 2006, p. 20)

The key word in the preceding quote that can easily be glossed over is possible. It is not hard to imagine that an uncritical reading of such a passage could lead readers to think that careers exist in all of the noted areas. All of the citations in the quote (N = 13) linked to each setting report on the experiences of a small number of SPPs. To be fair to Kornspan and Duve (2006), they also indicate that we know little about the specifics of SPPs’ work in these areas or what the future need might be. In their article promoting the marketing of sport psychologists and the value in targeting alternative markets, DeFrancesco and Cronin (1988) stated, with no empirical data to support their assertions, “The opportunities for sport psychology consultants to expand their services to alternative markets is overwhelming” (p. 37). Mixed messages are also a problem. For instance, Taylor (1991) was transparent in reporting the following: “Particularly in the early stages of a career, it is often difficult to find meaningful work opportunities” (p. 277). Just 1 page later, however, he inexplicably suggested, “With the growth of applied sport psychology during the past decade, the future appears bright for the field” (p. 279).

In many of the older, as well as recent, studies I read for the current article, there is much optimism expressed by many authors that seems to ignore the reality of limited work for SPPs. The expressed optimism has no empirical support, suggesting that such pronouncements reflect nothing more than wishful thinking. I have no doubt that full-time and part-time SPPs love their work and help many athletes, coaches, and parents. But enthusiastic predictions about the job market are not reflected in the reality that has arrived decades later. Whether or not the predictions were made in the best interests of students considering careers as SPPs can be debated, but perhaps continuing the legacy of wishful thinking should be debated instead.

Finally, combined with the observations herein, there also appears to be limited critical thinking about the status of the profession, as the next example illustrates. The NCAA reported that the percentage of NCAA football players who go on to play in the NFL (National Football League) is 1.6% (www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/estimated-probability-competing-professional-athletics. These conclusions are based on the number of jobs available (e.g., a roster size of 53 players on 32 teams). The NCAA reported this information on their website to indicate to their student-athletes that becoming an NFL player is not a realistic goal for almost all of them. Presumably the NCAA conveys this information, in part, from a sense of responsibility and an ethical obligation to their student athletes. Imagine the odds of being the one or two full-time SPPs for one of the 32 NFL teams if becoming a player in a league of almost 1,700 players is only 1.6%. Although my analogy is imperfect, given that there are likely far more potential NFL football players than potential SPPs, my take-home message should be clear: Few full-time applied sport psychology jobs exist at the professional level.

The Discipline/Profession Distinction

Another reason that future students (and some faculty) might assume that becoming a full-time sport psychologist is a viable career choice is the mistake of not making a distinction between the discipline and the profession of applied sport psychology. As noted earlier, even a key figure in the founding of AASP, John Silva (and colleagues), conflated the two when arguing that a lack of jobs is a myth (Silva et al., 1999). Silva et al. (1999) supported their contention that jobs were plentiful by noting that 20 university-based jobs were available in 1996. Relative to 1999, when Silva et al. wrote their article, in today’s corporatized university environments the emphasis on obtaining external funding leaves even less time to engage in applied sport psychology “on the side” for pay or as a community service. Even though universities are becoming more corporatized they are often simultaneously promoting community engagement (Weerts & Sandmann, 2010). Hence, valuable coach- or parent-education initiatives that SPPs often engage in as part of their practice or offer pro bono are important forms of community engagement. Nevertheless, relative to scholarship and external funding, especially at research-intensive universities, parent and coaching workshops will likely count little toward obtaining promotion and tenure.

A profession usually involves a service to someone, and often there is some form of licensure or accreditation by a formal organization that ensures high-quality service. In contrast, Henry (1978) defined a discipline as an organized body of knowledge where the pursuit of knowledge was considered valuable and important. Hallmarks of a discipline, all present for sport psychology, are as follows: university programs of study and the courses in them, academic journals, textbooks, national organizations and the conferences they sponsor, and, at the heart of it all, university professors who teach, provide service, and conduct research.

I believe that the ubiquitous, visible, and healthy nature of the discipline leads many students (and academics) to simply assume that an equally healthy profession also exists. Thousands of research and applied papers and presentations documenting the value of goal setting or describing the experiences of a master’s student working with a university sport team also contribute to an assumption that becoming a practicing full-time sport psychologist is a reasonable career goal. Finally, the existence of the AASP and a directory of graduate programs in applied sport psychology, noting which ones are “applied” in nature, surely sends the message that a healthy profession of sport psychology exists and one can realistically hope to become a full-time practicing sport psychologist. What would be the purpose of university applied graduate programs, AASP, and the directory if a profession did not exist?

In summary, the cumulative effect of the social media suggesting there is a healthy profession, academic writers ignoring some inconvenient truths, and confusing the discipline with the profession leads many people to assume there is a healthy and viable profession of sport psychology.

Why Many Athletes Do Not Want SPPs

In this section I discuss why many athletes, parents, coaches, and ADs express so little demand for sport psychology services. I rely on other authors who, over the years, have also speculated about professional issues related to inadequate training, poor marketing, and low competency levels. I do not find these reasons compelling, and they divert attention away from an explanation rarely discussed and likely hard to accept. This explanation is grounded in the idea that SPPs are not needed because mental skills can be learned through personal experience, self-help books, trial and error, conversations among teammates, and from coaches who know a lot about, and teach (at least the good ones), mental skills. I would also note that all the reasons I have typically heard over the years are not mutually exclusive and may certainly have merit depending on the athlete, sport, and context.

Competence and Marketing

One argument has to do with competence. If SPPs are competent there will be a demand, as Bob Rotella asserted (quoted in Simons & Andersen, 1995, p. 266): “I am absolutely convinced people who help athletes perform better will have plenty of work and marvelous careers.” The last 24 years have not supported Rotella’s optimism. Andersen (2009) offered a related argument when he stated that an overemphasis on performance enhancement and promising too much (e.g., better performance) that we cannot deliver has been the field’s downfall. Linked to this overemphasis on performance has been a neglect of the whole person and his or her welfare as a person and not just an athlete. The debate about effective training and the relative strengths and weaknesses of psychology- versus kinesiology/exercise-science-housed programs reflects a laudable concern for producing competent professionals who will be successful and help athletes. There is some evidence to suggest that coaches are more likely to develop an intention to use SPPs if they have confidence in the expected sport psychology consultation (Zakrajsek & Zizzi, 2007). Certainly there is anecdotal evidence that clients have been turned off of sport psychology by poor experiences with SPPs.

Some authors (e.g., DeFrancesco & Cronin, 1988; Wilson et al., 2009) have also claimed that if SPPs were simply able to inform individual clients and gatekeepers such as ADs and coaches of the valuable services SPPs provide, and how they can help athletes, this would lead to increased jobs. In 2002 Silva said that if we marketed SPPs’ services more effectively, organizations would seek them out. Silva reiterated this suggestion in his 2010 AASP keynote address and suggested that AASP’s failure to do this was one reason for so few jobs in the sport psychology profession. Although there have been individual success stories of full-time SPPs over the years, the minimal job growth in the last 40 years would suggest that this strategy has yet to pay off in any discernible manner for the field as a whole. I am unaware of any research linking SPP competence or marketing efforts to career growth.

Sport Psychology Is Frequently Done Without SPPs

In a survey of 72 ADs, Wilson et al. (2009) found that some respondents believed that coaches performed sport psychology. In addition, according to some participants, when there was a need for sport psychology services, other individuals (e.g., in psychology or kinesiology/exercise science departments) with non-SPP full-time job descriptions handled sport psychology responsibilities. Research with 585 counseling psychologists, many of whom worked in universities (55%), supports the perspective that sport psychology services in university settings are often provided by individuals employed at the university but outside of the athletic department (Petrie, Diehl, & Watkins, 1995).

Coaches clearly “do” sport psychology (e.g., employ motivational strategies) to assist their athletes (Hansen, Gilbert, & Hamel, 2003), and some researchers have reported that coaches believe they help athletes mentally prepare (Schell, Hunt, & Lloyd, 1984). In one study of 30 professional tennis coaches, 90% of them indicated that each week they devoted time to analyzing and discussing mental skills (Moran, 1994). Even counseling psychologists, many with no formal training in sport psychology, provide psychological help to athletes (Petrie et al., 1995). If counseling psychologists can do sport psychology with, presumably, knowing a lot about psychology and little about sport, it does not seem unfathomable that coaches and athletes can do sport psychology by knowing a lot about sport and a little about formal psychology.

Athletes have reported that they are more likely to seek out their coaches for sport-psychology-related issues than to consult any type of mental health professional (clinical psychologist) or sport professional (e.g., sport psychologist, sport counselor; Maniar, Curry, Sommers-Flanagan, & Walsh, 2001). Furthermore, friends and family were also much more highly rated than professionals, and the differences between family and friends compared with professionals were not trivial but were associated with large effect sizes favoring family and friends. These results were consistent across the sport scenarios of managing a slump, an injury, or a desire to perform optimally (Maniar et al., 2001).

In one study of soccer coaches and directors, the following quotes reflected the themes found in their remarks about sport psychology (Pain & Harwood, 2004): “Most of psychology is little more than common sense,” “There’s good psychology without a psychologist,” and “We use sport psychology unknowingly” (p. 818).

It is my contention (although I cannot claim credit for this idea) that many potential clients engage in mental training on their own, and they do not believe that SPPs, particularly for mental-skills education purposes, are worth paying for. Kinesiology-trained SPPs often argue that they do not need clinical training because what they provide, and what clients mostly need, are mental skills, which are inherently psychoeducational. It is not hard to envision that many athletes and coaches simply access one of the many mental-skills self-help books on the market (often written by successful SPPs) and learn all they need to know on their own.

There is ample evidence that self-help approaches are effective for a number of issues (Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013). For example, happiness and goal-setting assignments are effective in promoting self-efficacy and positive affect (Ouweneel, Le Blanc, & Schaufeli, 2013). In one meta-analysis of 33 studies, the authors found that self-help techniques (e.g., books, videotapes) were helpful in reducing anxiety (Hirai & Clum, 2006). In another meta-analysis of 15 studies, there was no difference between self-help approaches versus therapy-based interventions—both approaches were effective (King, Orr, Poulsen, Giacomantonio, & Haden, 2017). In another study based on acceptance-commitment therapy, reading a self-help book and completing weekly exercises proved helpful in reducing chronic pain and enhancing quality of life (Johnston, Foster, Shennan, Starkey, & Johnson, 2010).

Cognitive-behavioral approaches to mental health also include people becoming their own therapists. Although the cited studies are not sport psychology research, they do support the idea that people can effectively engage in self-therapy without the aid of a traditional therapist. It seems entirely plausible that athletes, especially smart, motivated, independent, and strong-willed ones, can solve their own sport-related difficulties or, at a minimum, think they can. Finally, some academic sport psychologists who have experience as SPPs explicitly believe that coaches can provide mental-skills training to athletes, as noted next in a text titled Sport Psychology for Coaches and endorsed by the American Sport Education Program:

The ultimate key to success with mental skills training is you, the coach. You must not only believe in the value of this type of training . . . . Ideally, you will teach and refine mental skills on a daily basis, just as you do with physical skills. (Burton & Raedeke, 2008, p. 45)

Furthermore, the simple publication of a text aimed at teaching coaches how to develop mental skills in their athletes is, in many ways, a strong and loud endorsement for coaches acting as SPPs for the psychoeducational part of mental-skills training. Burton and Raedeke (2008) are clear that coaches are not going beyond education when they state that coaches are not “filling the role of a psychologist” (p. 45). Coaches are not the only professionals targeted to deliver mental-skills training with the caveat that “sport psychologists” (i.e., licensed psychologists, not academically trained SPPs with PhDs in kinesiology) are also needed. For instance, there is a rapidly growing body of research where it is argued that ATs should know more about, and employ, mental skills in their work with athletes (e.g., Arvinen-Barrow, Hemmings, Becker, & Booth, 2008; Bartlett, 2012; Scherzer & Williams, 2008; Tracey, 2008). Authors of these studies never explicitly state that ATs are acting as SPPs but the message is clear that there is an expectation that they can deliver mental-skills training. In addition, the authors of these athletic-training-focused articles almost always suggest that a sport psychologist should be a member of the team (e.g., Bartlett, 2012). Finally, to a lesser extent, strength and conditioning professionals are also viewed as being able to deliver mental-skills training to their clients (Radcliffe, Comfort, & Fawcett, 2013). The applied sport psychology knowledge base clearly has value for future professionals in coaching, athletic training, and strength and conditioning, and it should be acknowledged that applied graduate programs in sport psychology serve students who have professional goals other than becoming SPPs.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that having coaches, ATs, and strength and conditioning professionals provide sport psychology services is an optimal approach. Kinesiology/exercise-science-trained SPP would likely help athletes develop stronger and more consistent mental skills than coaches or ATs would, but to address other serious difficulties (e.g., substance abuse), clinically trained SPPs would be the choice. Most college athletic departments lose money (contrary to the myth that college football teams support athletic departments because they make money), millions of adults engage in sport recreationally and are unlikely to employ SPPs, and the professionalization of youth sport is putting some parents into debt. Hence, it is not difficult to envision most athletes (or their parents) not wanting to pay for the services of SPPs if they believe they can solve their own sport difficulties through conversations with their coaches or teammates or through their own initiatives.

There are coaching parallels to these situations. For instance, although this is speculative, as a lifelong runner I believe that most adult recreational runners who regularly run and compete in local 10K races and marathons are self-coached. They talk to other runners in their running clubs and read Runners World, and based on those sources of information they develop training programs. Rarely do they employ full-time coaches or exercise physiologists. Similarly, most beer-league ice hockey players I know simply show up and play.

The Future

Given the marginal gains in employment in the last 35 years for SPPs, there is no reason to expect that all of a sudden the number of SPPs employed full-time will substantially increase. There is, however, reason for some optimism. First, employment opportunities seem to have increased marginally at big-time NCAA schools. Increasing research into the mental health of student athletes is likely one reason for increased employment opportunities (e.g., Wolanin, Hong, Marks, Panchoo, & Gross, 2016), but most of the position announcements are for licensed psychologists who are qualified to treat mental illness (e.g., depression, substance abuse) and not for kinesiology/exercise-science-trained PhD or master’s students who are focused on performance enhancement (Petrie, 2019). A second area of increased employment, which has also generated some optimism, is in military-related careers where SPPs teach mental skills to soldiers (Cornum, Matthews, & Seligman, 2011), but there is no evidence that military or college settings will generate full-time jobs in numbers large enough to make applied sport psychology a viable or robust profession similar to athletic training or strength and conditioning. Having said that, I have no doubt that in the future individual SPPs will continue to be successful.

A theme that emerges in some of the literature on SPPs and careers is that because of few career opportunities future SPPs have to be entrepreneurs (Balague, McGuire, Portenga, Berger, & Lesyk, 2011; Wilson et al., 2009). For example, “It’s just a case of going out there and selling yourself [and] try and [get] the opportunities for myself” (Owton et al., 2014, p. 247), and “applied sport psychology consultants . . . share their unique strategies for creating job opportunities” (Wilson et al., 2009, p. 419).

Although the cited authors note the need for entrepreneurial skills, it is imperative that the “need for entrepreneurial skills” be more loudly communicated to aspiring SPPs. Graduates of dance and music programs often become “enforced entrepreneurs,” and Yaniv and Brock (2012) have discussed the recent emergence of “reluctant entrepreneurs.” It would shed light on the sport psychology profession to determine whether any graduates pursuing applied sport psychology careers feel like “reluctant entrepreneurs” when they are unable to find full-time positions. Graduate program directors in charge of applied programs such as those listed in the AASP directory should be at the forefront of such messages.

Before providing some future recommendations, I will end with a brief comment on the future of accreditation, which was also addressed 20 years ago (Hale & Danish, 1999; Silva et al., 1999) but seems to still arise today, especially with AASP’s move to certification. Given the content of this paper, it should be no surprise that I think efforts devoted to accrediting programs would be misguided. I would be surprised if any astute kinesiology/exercise science department chairperson, in today’s higher education financial climate, would devote substantial university resources (e.g., hiring faculty, developing courses, managing internships) to a professional program where most graduates would be unemployed as SPPs or ineligible for full-time positions requiring licensure. Readers interested in a fuller critical discussion of accreditation are urged to read Hale and Danish’s (1999) paper.

Summary and Recommendations

In summary, the purpose of this paper was to examine the professional status of sport psychology. I first argued that the limited demand for sport psychology services and the lack of full-time practicing sport psychologists means that applied sport psychology is not a viable profession. I also claimed that a failure to more widely acknowledge and discuss this issue constitutes a disservice to graduate students who often believe they are entering a robust and healthy profession. I also speculated about why the demand for sport psychology services is so weak. In the next section I offer some research recommendations that, if followed, would shed further light on the status of sport psychology as a profession. Finally, I end with some more practical applied recommendations.

Research Recommendations

Before addressing some applied recommendations I offer five research recommendations. First, given that Meyers et al.’s (2001) paper is almost 20 years old, a similar comprehensive research effort would help determine whether full-time SPP positions have increased in the last 20 years and, if so, whether NCAA and military positions have contributed to the increase. Second, in-depth qualitative research asking athletes why they do not use sport psychologists would shed light on the speculations I have forwarded earlier in this paper. Third, given AASP’s move to certification and discussions over the years about accrediting programs in applied sport psychology, it would be illuminating to survey kinesiology department chairs about their knowledge of the sport psychology profession and their willingness to embrace accreditation.

Fourth, research on self-help approaches with athletes would provide sport-psychology-specific evidence on whether athletes can employ and learn mental skills on their own, as I have speculated. Fifth, I have suggested that on an institutional level the number of applied graduate programs in sport psychology, housed in kinesiology departments, produces far more graduates than there are full-time positions available. This conclusion is based on a diverse collection of research findings about the low number of full-time SPPs and the low demand compared with the number of applied graduate programs, combined with a few disparate research findings suggesting dissatisfaction among applied sport psychology graduates. Higher-quality direct evidence could be obtained if a systematic longitudinal research study targeting all or most applied sport psychology program graduates and their work experiences were conducted.

Applied Recommendations

A major motivation for writing this paper is the belief that graduate students are not as informed as they should be about the dismal lack of career opportunities available in the sport psychology profession and the need for entrepreneurial skills. This is not a trivial issue. In addition to the time, money, and effort students invest in graduate school and the university resources devoted to their education, the inability to obtain a full-time applied sport psychology position has significant negative career-identity issues. Given this belief I have the following recommendations.

  1. Similar to Gilmore and colleagues (2018), I believe that the profession of applied sport psychology should always be qualified as an emerging or boutique profession, which clearly alerts potential students that the profession is in its infancy. Even calling applied sport psychology an emerging profession seems misleading because we have been in this developmental stage for at least 35 years—if using the International Society of Sport Psychology (founded in 1965) as a benchmark, it has been 55 years.
  2. The AASP directory of graduate schools and the AASP website should have a strong and clear statement in the introduction and opening webpage, respectively, clearly indicating that full-time careers in applied sport psychology are rare and will, in many instances, require tremendous entrepreneurial skills to obtain.
  3. As articulated by Waite and Pettit (1993) over 25 years ago, graduate school directors of applied programs have a responsibility to pass on information to graduates and prospective students to “project an educated and realistic view of the field of sport psychology” (p. 250).
  4. Kinesiology/exercise science program directors should establish a list of articles, similar to the reference list for this article, as required reading. They should also strongly recommend to any student interested in an applied career that they consider a clinical or counseling program where they can become licensed. Such licensure would enable SPPs to qualify for positions such as those at NCAA institutions.
  5. Similar to Bennett and Bridgstock (2015), I believe that “institutions have an ethical responsibility to represent the career opportunities and challenges associated with their degrees, particularly if they are marketing their degrees based on vocational outcomes.” (p. 274). Bennett and Bridgstock offer suggestions that would seem to work for SPPs, and I include them here with some adaptations: (a) guest lectures and interviews with unemployed, part-time, and full-time SPPs and recent graduates on their employment challenges and (b) extensive class discussions about career opportunities based on pertinent readings (e.g., Andersen et al., 1997; Meyers et al., 2001).
Note
1.

 When Benjamin (2005) discussed the future of clinical psychology she cited Meyers et al. (2001) as evidence that sport psychology was becoming a “rapidly growing enterprise” (p. 25), which is a clear misreading of the data Meyers et al. (2001) reported and their conclusions about the field.

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  • Leffingwell, T.R., Wiechman, S.A., Smith, R.E., Smoll, F.L., & Christensen, D.S. (2001). Sport psychology training within a clinical psychology program and a department of intercollegiate athletics. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 531536.

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  • Maniar, S.D., Curry, L.A., Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Walsh, J.A. (2001). Student-athlete preferences in seeking help when confronted with sport performance problems. The Sport Psychologist, 15, 205223. doi:10.1123/tsp.15.2.205

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  • Meyers, A.W., Coleman, J.K., Whelan, J.P., & Mehlenbeck, R.S. (2001). Examining careers in sport psychology: Who is working and who is making money? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 511. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.32.1.5

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  • Murphy, S. (1996). The achievement zone. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

  • Murphy, S.M. (1995). Sport psychology interventions. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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  • Pain, M.A., & Harwood, C.G. (2004). Knowledge and perceptions of sport psychology within English soccer. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22, 813826. PubMed ID: 15513275 doi:10.1080/02640410410001716670

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If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

The author is with the Div. of Kinesiology, Health, and Sport Studies, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.

Address author correspondence to aa3975@wayne.edu
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  • Leffingwell, T.R., Wiechman, S.A., Smith, R.E., Smoll, F.L., & Christensen, D.S. (2001). Sport psychology training within a clinical psychology program and a department of intercollegiate athletics. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 531536.

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    • Export Citation
  • Maniar, S.D., Curry, L.A., Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Walsh, J.A. (2001). Student-athlete preferences in seeking help when confronted with sport performance problems. The Sport Psychologist, 15, 205223. doi:10.1123/tsp.15.2.205

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  • Meyers, A.W., Coleman, J.K., Whelan, J.P., & Mehlenbeck, R.S. (2001). Examining careers in sport psychology: Who is working and who is making money? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 511. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.32.1.5

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    • Export Citation
  • Murphy, S. (1996). The achievement zone. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

  • Murphy, S.M. (1995). Sport psychology interventions. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

  • Ouweneel, E., Le Blanc, P.M., & Schaufeli, W.B. (2013). Do-it-yourself: An online positive psychology intervention to promote positive emotions, self-efficacy, and engagement at work. Career Development International, 18, 173195. doi:10.1108/CDI-10-2012-0102

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Owton, H., Bond, K., & Tod, D. (2014). It’s my dream to work with Olympic athletes: Neophyte sport psychologists’ expectations and initial experiences regarding service delivery. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 26, 241255. doi:10.1080/10413200.2013.847509

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pain, M.A., & Harwood, C.G. (2004). Knowledge and perceptions of sport psychology within English soccer. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22, 813826. PubMed ID: 15513275 doi:10.1080/02640410410001716670

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    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Pellegrino, E.D. (2002). Professionalism, profession and the virtues of the good physician. Mt Sinai Journal of Medicine, 69, 378384.

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    • Export Citation
  • Pennington, B. (2007, August 5). Young athletes turn to sports psychology. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05/sports/05iht-GYMNAST.1.6987311.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Petitpas, A.J. (1998). Practical considerations in providing psychological services to sport medicine clinic patients. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 10, 157167.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Petrie, T.A. (2019). Education and credentialing in sport psychology: Who are we and what do we do? In M.H. Anshel (Ed.), APA handbook of sport and exercise psychology (pp. 801820). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Petrie, T.A., Diehl, N.S., & Watkins, C.E., Jr. (1995). Sport psychology: An emerging domain in the counseling psychology profession? Counseling Psychologist, 23, 535545. doi:10.1177/0011000095233010

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Portenga, S.T., Aoyagi, M.W., & Cohen, A.B. (2016). Helping to build a profession: A working definition of sport and performance psychology. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 8, 4759. doi:10.1080/21520704.2016.1227413

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Radcliffe, J.N., Comfort, P., & Fawcett, T. (2013). The perception of psychology and the frequency of psychological strategies used by strength and conditioning practitioners. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27, 11361146. PubMed ID: 22706577 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182606ddc

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schell, B., Hunt, J., & Lloyd, C. (1984). An investigation of future market opportunities for sport psychologists. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6, 335350. doi:10.1123/jsp.6.3.335

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scherzer, C.B., & Williams, J.M. (2008). Bringing sport psychology into the athletic training room. Athletic Therapy Today, 13(3), 1517. doi:10.1123/att.13.3.15

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Silva, J.M., III. (1984). The status of sport psychology: A national survey of coaches. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 55, 4649. doi:10.1080/07303084.1984.10630599

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Silva, J.M., III. (2010, October). No one told you when to run: The past and present is not the future of sport psychology. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, Providence, RI. Retrieved from https://lib.bgsu.edu/finding_aids/files/original/18d5eb39765245f2f68cc3479ed286eb.pdf

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Silva, J.M., III, Conroy, D.E., & Zizzi, S.J. (1999). Critical issues confronting the advancement of applied sport psychology. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 11, 298320. doi:10.1080/10413209908404206

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
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