My response to “Stacey” will be similar in nature to that of my colleagues. I’ll expound upon one point in particular below.
How do I get my name out there?
By getting your name out there. I mean no disrespect or condescension with this comment. I am a young practitioner and only very mildly experienced in the consulting field. But this action-focused approach has seemed to work well. You gain exposure by actively exposing yourself as a competent professional to the kind of people you wish to be working with. You “do” sport psychology by choosing to do it!
Think of most any professional industry – jeweler, accountant, dentist, personal trainer, pizzeria owner, street performer, insurance broker, chiropractor, etc. In order for each specialist to successfully ingrain oneself into the professional landscape, one must have the ability to captivate an audience (promote the product) and deliver the goods (effectively provide the product). The Italian-raised pizzeria owner who uses only the freshest of ingredients, the most savory of spices, and the most succulent of meats & cheeses may be out of business in a matter of months if he remains secretly tucked away at the corner of a side street out of public awareness. The shrewd businessman who buys space at the same corner and builds a pizzeria, allocating all funds towards the promotion and marketing of the business while disregarding the actual making of the pizza may also be out of business fairly quickly once the public discovers the inauthenticity of the food. A beautiful harmony of product promotion and quality must exist for the pizzeria to thrive. This is true of sport psychology, too.
Sport psychology remains a field of self-promotion. The same cannot be said of other performance-enhancing arenas in as literal a manner like nutritional counseling and strength & conditioning. Coaches may say, Our team is too slow/has too many non-contact injuries/has no energy while competing. I must employ a speed coach/fitness coach/nutritional coach to address these issues. Most coaches aren’t as readily willing to acknowledge the potential benefits of a mental skills coach. It is, then, SO important for us to make ourselves known by going out there and speaking about mental skills training, as Ed says, and its obvious benefits to athletes. This can be done as an independent consultant (your first job, Stacey, may very well be consulting independently, without the security of an employer).
A personal account: when I first entered the consulting field four years ago, I did so with the narrow vision of doing applied work. For months I called professionals in the local sports community, left messages, wrote emails, set up meetings, left more messages…I was persistent bordering on irritating. My goal was to convey the importance of mental skills training in such a way that these coaches/trainers/physical therapists would leave our meeting feeling like they simply COULDN’T survive without me working with their athletes. How did we go all these years without using this guy? I would picture them say. Then, the first shred of interest: a high school coach returned my call and suggested that we set up a workshop for his team of 35 boys highlighting a particular topic on which I had some scholastic familiarity. And at that moment, all I could experience was sheer, unadulterated, defecation-inducing panic. …Oh no, know what? What the hell am I doing? I don’t know the first thing about running workshops…I’m not equipped to do this. There are so many consultants that are so much better than me. I can’t do this.
Part of my feeling this way could have been attributed to the inharmonious balance I created between promotion and quality (I had been spending a greater percentage of my time promoting my services than doing the work, like reading and writing, to become proficient). But much of it was due to my inexperience. I wasn’t comfortable giving workshops, so I immediately resorted to panic. I – and I suppose we as a species – tend to worry more about things that matter to us, so at least I knew this was important to me. The truth is, going out there and doing sport psychology may at first be scary and intimidating and overwhelming and uncomfortable. But wasn’t that the case in riding your bike for the first time, or taking your first steps, or shaving? It all gets more comfortable. Stacey, go out there and promote yourself with as much self-assuredness you can muster, and don’t allow unanswered messages to act as an immediate deterrent. It sounds like you love the field – you’ve got to love the process that accompanies it. Go out there and do it.