Sport and exercise psychology is the study of psychological factors that influence, and are influenced by, participation in sport, exercise and physical activity, and the application of this knowledge to everyday settings.
As a scientific discipline, sport and exercise psychology explores diverse areas of human behaviour, such as excellence in sporting performance, motivational processes, motor learning, psychological considerations in sport injury and rehabilitation, leadership and group dynamics, talent identification, and the design, implementation and evaluation of performance enhancement strategies.
As a field of psychological practice, sport and exercise psychology is concerned with the application of psychological knowledge and skills to understanding and positively influencing people's behaviour. Sport and exercise psychologists draw upon a specialised body of knowledge and a diverse range of evidence-based assessment and intervention skills to assist their clients to optimise performance, to work effectively within sport settings and organisations, and to overcome cognitive, emotional, behavioural or practical obstacles to peak performance in sport.
Many sport and exercise psychologists extend their practice to other areas of human endeavour, working with clients seeking to maximise their performance in business, the performing arts, and other domains. While performance psychology is a field in which a broad range of psychologists now practise, the specific training of sport and exercise psychologists has provided them with a strong foundation for the delivery of high quality, effective interventions to clients with diverse goals.
Some sport and exercise psychologists work with clients with clinical problems, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, weight management problems, aggression, and substance use. Others assist athletes with issues related to career transitions, and those undertaking rehabilitation from injury. Many sport and exercise psychologists in Australia work with elite athletes through the State and Territory institutes or academies of sport, while others provide services to individuals or teams at any level of sporting performance, from the professional level to amateur and those in youth sporting organisations.
Australia has worldwide recognition for excelling in the training and use of sport and exercise psychology, with strong representation at world sporting events and the Olympics Games. In 2005, Australia hosted the World Congress of Sport Psychology, which attracted around 600 delegates from more than 50 countries. National governing bodies of sport and institutes/academies of sport across Australia consistently rely on the services provided by sport and exercise psychologists, and other nations have utilised the skills of Australian sport and exercise psychologists in the preparation of their Olympic athletes and national representative teams.
The APS College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists aims to represent, promote and advance sport and exercise psychology in Australia. It develops and safeguards the standards of practice and supervised experience. It sets the quality of service in sport psychology, and advises on the education and training of sport and exercise psychologists. It provides practitioners and researchers with the opportunity to interact and to further their personal and professional capabilities. The College also acts as a focal point for inquiries from the media and the general public on matters relating to the psychology of sport and exercise.
The College maintains a program of high quality professional development, through contributions to the annual conferences of the APS and Sports Medicine Australia, as well as by its annual Visiting Scholar Scheme, which supports international and local speakers to provide workshops and seminars around the country. The College also has active State sections around the country, which initiate local events for members.
The College is active in liaison with international sport psychology organisations. All members of the College are also members of the Asian South Pacific Association of Sport Psychology (ASPASP), and the College maintains links with the International Society of Sport Psychologists (ISSP), the Association of Applied Sport Psychologists (AASP), and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). Locally, the College is one of the constituent professions of Sports Medicine Australia, and contributes to its annual Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport, and to its State-based activities.
There are 221 members in the APS College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists. Attaining full membership typically requires a minimum of six years of university training, plus two years of supervised practical experience in sport and exercise psychology. Members are required to undertake a program of continuing professional development, with a particular focus on sport and exercise psychology.
Sport psychologists usually complete a minimum of six years of full-time study, including an undergraduate degree in psychology and a postgraduate qualification in sport psychology.
Currently, there are two Australian universities running accredited programs in sport and exercise psychology: