Congrats Grads: It’s Now Time for the Ten and Ten

By:  Juplimpton

One of my mentors told me the other day that a Master’s Degree and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee.  When applying this phrase to the practice of Applied Sport Psychology, you could add a Ph.D., Ed.D. and a Psy.D., as well.  A few years ago at an AASP Conference, I stood amongst group of professionals presenting to graduate students about how to succeed in the field.  The unanimous answer was to have a back-up plan.  Of course, I was the only one on stage with no such plan.

We all know by now that the backup plans in the field are some form of licensure as a psychologist/counselor and/or pursuing an academic position.  There are no official studies, but I estimate that 90% of all professionals in the field financially rely more on their everyday job then they do from their private practices.  Which brings me to a talk given at the St. Louis AASP Conference by Dan Gould, Ken Ravizza, Gloria Balague and Charlie Hardy in 2008. 

In this talk to 600 or so students and professional members, each of these four professionals stood on the stage and pronounced how successful their private practices were.  Dan Gould reminded everyone to put 1/3 of your consulting fees away for income taxes and he discussed how he made enough money to pay for his son’s tuition, room and board for that year of college.  Charlie Hardy, Ken and Gloria all furthered this discussion and everyone walked away from the room full of hope that, they too, could be just like the legends on stage and have a successful private practice.

But, what nobody realized, is that each of them already had a stable, consistent form of income in place, which would allow them to financially benefit from any applied work they did on the side.  Ken, Gloria and Dan were all professors and Charlie Hardy was recently retired from teaching.  Standing in the back of the room, I could not help but roll my eyes.  I was coming to the end of my worst financial year since I had graduated in 1998. 

The economic crash killed my business, as disposable income disappeared.  I was struggling to pay the bills, find work and at a crossroad with my private practice.  After a run of ten good years, was it all going to come to a quick and sudden end?  Was I going to have to go out and get a “real” job?  I was on the brink and I knew that my reality did not even match that of Ken, Dan, Gloria and Charlie. 

In sharing these brief stories, I want to convey my belief that our field will never evolve until more professionals dedicate 100% of their efforts in developing and creating employable positions, which will help legitimize and grow the field of Applied Sport Psychology.  We have always compared our profession to that of athletic trainers, physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches. 

It is clear that over the past twenty years, professionals from these related fields have focused their efforts on working directly with athletes and getting into the trenches.  The science of athletic training is on the verge of re-defining how athletes train (see and professionals in our field are still squabbling over the now twenty year debate of who is better trained to work with athletes, psychologists or academic professionals.

No matter your training, I argue that too many Sport Psychology professionals treat their applied work as a side venture, something to do after their day job.  They get excited about the “extra” money and their work stays fresh and exciting, because they do little of it, do it on their own terms, and only when the work can fit into their existing work and life structure. 

But what about the professional who has to pay his or her mortgage and bills based solely on their ability to provide such services month after month, year after year?  All at the same time, working with the philosophy of doing our job with integrity, ethics and good business sense, just so we can ultimately work ourselves out of a job.

When applying sport psychology and making the commitment to assisting performers achieve excellence, how can we (as professionals in our field) claim to assist them in this process when most of us cannot and/or will not commit to the same process ourselves?

My training in graduate school could not prepare me for the failures, pain, frustration, let-downs, disappointments and other difficult lessons I have learned over the past 12 years.  I feel like I am a grizzled veteran of trench warfare, as I have had to earn everything I have by doing quality work.  We talk with athletes about learning how to appreciate the struggle, yet we seldom place ourselves in a similar position.  Ninety percent choose to take the safe route and apply to that academic position, become a licensed psychologist or go get a job in the real world, unrelated to their education, training and passion.  

As long as this mentality persists, those who seek to employ Sport Psychology Professionals will continue to view us as part-time professionals. only necessary when “problems” arise.  Generations of graduate students have now entered this field with the dreams and aspirations of working with athletes at the highest levels of sport.  The difference between today’s graduate student and those of past generations, is that today’s student has unrealistic expectations and thinks their education has earned them the right to work at the highest levels of sport, without first paying their dues and truly learning their craft.

10 years, 10,000 is so true…

See, investment builds character.  How much investment are you willing to make in you?  Don’t we ask this to our athletes?  Well, I think it is time that you ask yourself the same question about your career.  How bad do you want it?  What are you willing to do?   What sacrifices are you willing to make?  Regardless of your profession, doesn’t it take commitment, over the long-haul, to make it? 

When I began my work with the Boston Red Sox in 1998, I soon learned that the path of the minor league baseball player was no different than that of graduate students in Sport Psychology.  In professional baseball there is a 93% failure rate.  Only 7% of all individuals who sign a professional baseball contract will ever sniff the major leagues.  I believe the numbers in our field parallel those of baseball, in terms of working at the highest levels…Most likely, the numbers are even worse.

So, go to work, start getting your 10 years and 10,000 hours in.  Work at your craft.  Practice what you preach and commit to yourself and your continual growth and development.  If you don’t, your athletes will see right through you.

2 Responses to “Congrats Grads: It’s Now Time for the Ten and Ten”

  1. 1 Mason Astley May 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Wow. Such a great article. I am two years out of BU, and really none of my income comes from PS counseling. That isn’t to say that the training wasn’t very useful, but I’m using in part-time tennis coaching (college and teaching lessons) rather than as a consultant. You think the money dried up for experienced pros? Try cracking in to the business in this economy!

    Anyway, thanks so much. I wish I’d read this two years ago (not before I went to grad school); I think it would have really set my expectations about what I need to do.

    I think I’m on the right path, spending time with the other teams at my college, and using my BU intern to institute some structured PS work with my own teams. I’m hoping to figure out how I could be part of an institution on a more full-time basis. Not there yet.


  1. 1 Congrats Grads: Practice What You Preach « Professional Sport Psychology Symposium Trackback on May 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Share This Article

Bookmark and Share

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 94 other followers

On Twitter @ahnaylor

On Twitter @MentalCoachMatt


%d bloggers like this: