Archive for May, 2013

Novitiate Sport Psychers: Learn and Be Genuine

This is only my second springtime post dispensing advice to new sport psych grads.  This, in part, because I’m the most recently included PSPS contributor, but also because I’m not too far beyond the novitiate designation myself, having only graduated with an advanced degree in sport psychology six years ago.  My perspective, then, differs slightly from the seasoned views of the two gentlemen who came before me (in sport psych practice and in this blog topic).


I include several points that were particularly personally challenging upon graduation, and yet once I began following them they became some of the most effective steps for me as a young professional.


Network with vigor.  Assume none of your friends, family, or family friends who claim to be well-connected in sport and to have access to the most desirous jobs is telling the truth.  Plus, you present as a more attractive and competent job candidate when you create the relationship and not your great uncle.  I’ve owned a youth summer sports camp for seven years, and I’ve never once hired a coach whose mother reaches out and sings her 18 year-old son’s praises.  Don’t rely on others to do your work – take any help you can get, but don’t rely on it.  Once your praises have been sung by someone who doesn’t share significant genetic material, you know you’re doing good work. 

You may feel alone once degree is in hand.  After all, once you’ve returned home, the constant presence of like-minded budding sport psychers, the stimulating in-class conversations, the fluid face-to-face access to advisors and professors – it’s gone.  It’s at this very point you should begin your networking pursuits, and that includes keeping in touch with former colleagues and professors.  Think about organizing tele-discussion groups as a forum for you and other interested graduates to share ideas and practices.


Read at least 540 seconds of sport psychology material every day.  From valid, peer-reviewed sources: educational journals, clinical articles, grad textbooks, books by respected players in the field.  Nine non-negotiable minutes of reading is far better than nothing, which could very well be the case if you’re “just not in the mood” and decide to take the day off.  Commit to keeping up with the latest research and commentary; it may be useful when you finally land an interview with a coach or athletic director debating whether to render your services. 


Don’t overplay your accomplishmentsIt’s a function of insecurity.  As a new grad, you probably have few, if any, marked professional achievements.   This probably won’t happen until you’re at least a few years into the game.  For now, focus on being a nice, likeable person while fulfilling #1.  During networking pursuits, dedicate more energy showing interest in the person with whom you’re speaking than in making sure they know about your impressive background.


Here’s to taking those first few steps in a positive direction,


Novitiate Sport Psychers: Relationships

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Relationships are the foundation of all satisfying and enduring endeavors

Athletes rely on each other in the realm of sport. Partnership seems to be a defining factor of all great teams. It’s the emotion which stems from these positive relationships that drives motivation to surge forward. Young people get involved and then stay involved in sport (or teams) when relationships work. When those same ties begin to erode, moving on is the next logical step. The same is true in the professional world.

It’s not always the relationship that gets someone hired, but it’s the relationship that provides the opportunity to interview. It’s not simply the relationship that keeps business partners together, however, a strained team does not stick through the hard times.

Individuals who pride themselves on building strong relationships consistently have a support system both professionally and personally. At the beginning, middle and end of a career it’s this support system that breeds opportunity and allows success to endure. My questions to the new sport psychers of 2013 are:

  1. Who is your support system?
  2. What are you doing on a daily basis to maintain this support system?
  3. What are you doing on a daily basis to continue building your future support systems?

All the best in building strong relationships,

Matt Cuccaro

Novitiate Sport Psychers: Differentiate Between Profane Emotion and Caring Regard

May is here and novitiate sport psychers are about to hit the sports world with newly embossed masters and doctoral degrees in hand.  The PSPS gang is aging… and has been successfully working with athletes on the mental side of the game in one form or the other for almost two decades.  Time for our somewhat annual thoughts for newly minted sport psych practitioners.  I’ll take the first crack:

Give Before You Try to Get  Sport psychology may not always look like traditional teaching or counseling, but the fact remains that it is a helping profession.  Wharton School management professor Adam Grant examines the role of giving is his now book Givers vs. Takers.  The bottom line is that giving is valuable.  The goals of sport psychology are to help individuals find their potential on (and off of) the playing field.  To be able to serve as this resource, it strikes me that generosity is at the core of an athlete-center approach to service.

Look to Learn Before Asking for a Job  It can be quite off putting when a young professional asks me if I have a job for them.  The request leaves me wondering if they have any sense of my approach, philosophies, and experiences.  A request for a job without a discussion leaves me little opportunity to be generous and support the young professional in any genuine way.  Fielding an unsolicited job application feels to me much like an ATM transaction – insert the card and if there is enough money in the account bills roll out, if not I hit the gas and drive on my way.  Cold, unemotional, and purely transactional.  Some of the best professional work has come out of discussions that are simply curious and growth focused.  Listen to stories and share stories.

Fandom and Passion for Performance are Different  The analysis and talk of fans are great fodder for sports radio and barbeques, but they are not professional.  They can actually be cruel and grossly misinformed.  Working in sport psychology and player development can be fun, but it is work and is actually not terribly glamorous.  Be thrilled when you see a client stepping on the field for the first time as a collegiate athlete.  Enjoy the excitement of the lights dimming, music rising, and athletes bursting onto the field of play.  Yet set your fandom aside, be a pro and show unconditional positive regard for the athletes, coaches, and athletes with whom you interact.

Sports is a funny place to work and thrive.  Take time to step back from the profane emotions of sport and get in touch art of caring and thriving professionally.


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