Advice for a Recent Sport Psych. Graduate

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Here are my BIG 3 SUGGESTIONS for Stacey:

1) Define (and maintain) your Role – Sport psychology and it’s merits can be difficult to measure.  In the reality of the business world decisions are made by how much something is “worth” to customers.  So then, what exactly is sport psychology worth?  The answer…there is no answer!!?  It’s worth nothing and everything at the same time.  Mental success is difficult to define, much less measure, so good luck defining it’s “worth”.  So then, as a practitioner (especially a neophyte) what leverage do you have to convince someone to hire you?

My suggestion is to generate a firm and well founded philosophy that will become your product.  What do you truly believe enhances performance…and HOW will you put this philosophy/product to use with the population in question?  From there it may be effective to create a timetable of how much time and how many sessions will it take to educate the population on your product until they truly “get it”.  It’s one thing to get in the door, and another to stay in (which is a discussion for another post), but it is imperative to stay true to the mission established at the beginning.  I have heard too many disaster stories of recent graduates who end up filling “other roles” with the same population they are trying to do sport psychology work with.  Not only do you tend to lose credibility, but you also lose the ability to develop your sport psychology product and refine it to become successful in the long-term.

2) Maintain a High Standard of Ethics – It’s human nature to want people to like you.  Be aware of that and do not confuse high quality and effective work with the desire to be liked.  Yes, we are hired to listen to and support those around us, but there are professional boundaries that must be established.  As a young practitioner you will likely not be much older than (and you may actually be even younger than) the population you work with.  Be a professional first…and be a professional second.  Period.

3) Establish a Support System – You will need help.  After 5+ years of working with athletes on player development and the mental aspects of performance every day, I still rely very heavily and continue to develop a support system for myself.  Thanks mostly to my colleagues on this blog!!  But there are other local clinical psychologists, family members, and friends who support my professional and personal needs so I can stick my role (see #1) on a daily basis.

Like any other pursuit in life, developing a quality sport psychology product takes highly channeled effort.  Hopefully these BIG 3 SUGGESTIONS assist you to channel that effort effectively Stacey!!

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