A Brief History of Sport Psychology
Coleman Griffith is considered to be the ‘‘father” of sport psychology. He created and developed the first sport psychology laboratory based at the University of Illinois in 1925. He was also hired by the Chicago Cubs baseball team and acted as their consulting sport psychologist in 1938. But the field of sport psychology did not grow substantially until the 1960’s. It was at this time that books were written on the topic (see books written by Robert Singer as examples), universities began offering courses on the topic, and professional organizations were initiated (i.e. NASPA). The field has been growing ever since and today graduate degrees are awarded in sport psychology.
In the 1980’s two more important organizations were developed. Division 47 within the American Psychological Association when Exercise and Sport Psychology was added as a specialization. The other was the Association for Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP), now known simply as the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). The latter has one of the largest memberships of sport psychology professionals in the world.
The field of sport psychology has roots in both psychology and in sport sciences, such as kinesiology and exercise science. However, the term sport psychologist remains controversial because “psychologist” is a protected term and one must have a PhD in clinical or counseling psychology in order to be called a psychologist. Others may call themselves mental coaches or performance consultants as a means to avoid using the title of psychologist. This creates challenges in knowing who is truly qualified to deliver sport psychology services.
What to consider when searching for a Qualified Sport Psychologist or Consultant
The person should have training in both psychology and sport science and some background in sport. You also want to consider that the person is licensed as a psychologist because this means he/she has met certain school and training requirements. The controversy over the term and who can use the title of sport psychologist is still very prominent so stay tuned for any new developments on the topic. To read more on the the terms of sport(s) psychologist versus sport psychologist, see a very interesting blog posted by Dr. Kate Hays in Psychology Today.