What is Sport Psychology?

Have you ever wondered how successful athletes and sportspeople get to the top?
What gives them their cutting edge?

The science of sport and exercise psychology may provide an answer. “Sport psychology” is an area of psychology which focuses on essential mental skills that complement the tactical and technical skills of sport to improve performance.

Gaining that mental edge requires many mental skills including self-confidence, realistic goal setting, motivation, commitment and self- discipline, assertive communication and team work, lifestyle and wellbeing management.

Helping an athlete to keep their mind on side to get ahead is the essential work of Sport Psychology. 

How are those practising as a 'Sport Psychologist' in NZ trained?

We get many enquiries from those interested in pursuing a career as a Sport Psychologist asking us how to train.  In NZ,  the professional title "Psychologist" is a legally protected title.  As such only those who are currently registered by the New Zealand Psychologists Board can practice under this title.  If you want to work as a Sport Psychologist then the best pathway is to complete the requirements of becoming regisitered as a Psychologist first.  Currently this involves completing a minimum of a Masters Degree in Psychology from an accredited educational organization and a board approved practicum or internship involving 1500 hours of supervised practice. 

In NZ many universities offer Bachelors and Masters Programs in Psychology and also offer specialized programs in Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology.   Any of these pathways provide a way forward to working with psychological principals and methods in the sport context.  However as there is no specialized program in Sport Psychology here in NZ, including undergraduate and post graduate papers in sport psychology topics and sport science is helpful.  After completing the requirements to get registered as a Psychologist, the next step in developing expertise in sport psychology involves practising in a sport related setting under the supervision and guidance of a experienced Psychologist who has or is working in a sporting context.

There are also many other career pathways in sport and exercise psychology.  Some universities in NZ offer papers specific to these career pathways.  For example working as a Mental Skills Trainer and helping individual athletes and teams with mental skills, or as a Human Resources Consultant  who works with staff/corporations applying sport/performance psychology skills to business or as an Exercise Consultant applying exercise psychology skills for motivation and maintainance.  If you are interested in finding out more, contact the various universities in NZ directly to find out what they currently offer.



Paula has provided excellent and professional advice to develop the necessary tools needed not only for international sport but more importantly for life itself. Her humility and ability to understand situations and provide clarity and context have been hugely beneficial for me both on and off the field.

Hockey Rep 2015 and NZ Olympic Representative