Coaches versus Sport Psychology Consultants

I’m writing this post because there is some confusion regarding the role of a sport psychology consultant. For simplicity, I refer to any trainer, whether teacher or coach as a coach. Coaches teach skills. Coaches also help athletes to improve upon existing skills. Further, they provide feedback when an athlete executes a skill incorrectly or is inefficient in body motion and energy expenditure. Coaches also teach strategy and, and perhaps this is where the confusion comes from, they teach athletes mental skills. In essence, a coach provides EVERYTHING the athlete needs to perform well.

Unfortunately, despite all these benefits, it’s not enough. Athletes still under perform, particularly when forced to perform in the coach’s absence. The reason for this in my view is the athlete’s inability to manage performance without the coach. Essentially, the coach becomes the athlete’s ego, the captain guiding the ship safely to shore. To avoid a rough landing, some athletes need sport psychology consultants. Sport psychology consultants teach athletes how to manage themselves. Using the coach’s instructions, the sport psychology consultant teaches the athlete tools that will help the athlete perform well when the coach is not around. The athlete, then, learns to internalize the coach’s instructions. It’s really that simple.

What makes a good sport psychology consultant then? A good sport psychology consultant is a good teacher. This individual is pleased when clients don’t need the consultant any longer. Paradoxically, it’s only then (when the consultant is no longer employed by the athlete) that the consultant’s work is truly done.