Sport Psychology in South Africa

What is Sport Psychology?

The field of Sport Psychology addresses a wide array of psychological aspects with the aim of assisting athletes, parents, coaches and management staff. Not only does the field address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, but it also focuses on the developmental and social aspects of sports participation, as well as systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations.

Studying Sport Psychology?

In order to become a Sport Psychologist, individuals need to follow the same path as Clinical and Counselling Psychologists. There is currently no recognized sport psychology category in South Africa; this means that Sport Psychologists need to be registered with the HPCSA as either a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist before they can legally call themselves Psychologists.

There are a limited number of universities that offer sport psychology as a qualification but simply completing an undergraduate degree will not allow one to register with the HPCSA. Follow this link to view the route to becoming a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist. IMPORTANT: it may take roughly 7 years to become a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist in South Africa.

Certain universities do offer some training in sport psychology, but this is most often just in the form of a short module. Having said this, I am not convinced that at this point it’s a good idea to limit oneself by focusing exclusively on sport psychology anyway. The reason for this is that there are only a handful of people in the world making a living practicing only sport psychology. Most practitioners supplement their sports work with either academic, corporate or other non sports-related consulting.” – Clinton Gahwiler of Performing Mind.

How to specialize in Sport Psychology?

As mentioned above, one would need to study Counselling Psychology and specialize in sport-related fields in order to become a Sport Psychologist. While there are university programmes designed specifically around Sport Psychology, they are limited.

Specializing in Sport Psychology would mean focusing any project, research, or report, in sport-related areas during a students’ journey through tertiary education. Opportunities to specialize may be limited but could certainly be done at an Honours or Masters level while writing a thesis or dissertation.

What career opportunities are available for a Sport Psychologist?

We’re sure that everyone interested in this field would love to be the Springbok or Bafana Bafana Psychologist, but jobs like that aren’t going to be listed in the local newspaper. Graduates will need to be proactive in terms finding and creating opportunities for themselves.

However, due to the HPCSA registration requirement, Sport Psychologists would need to be Clinical or Counselling Psychologists, which provides a number of options for alternate career paths.

Where can I study Sport Psychology?

Students can follow the same route as other psychology students. Any university that is accredited to provide training for Clinical or Counselling Psychologists would be suitable for someone looking to pursue Sport Psychology.

Cognition & Co was able to find one university that offers an undergraduate programme in Sport Psychology specifically, whereas other universities offer Sport Psychology as a module in Honours.

Where can I find out more?

We highly recommend that students do their research before registering for any courses in any psychological fields. For more information on Sport Psychology, please visit Performing Mind and read the articles published by Clinton Gahwiler. Clinton has run the psychology practice of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) in Newlands, Cape Town since 1995.

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