Tips to Find a Top Sport Psychologist
When I started doing mental training in the late 1980’s with professional golfers and collegiate teams, you couldn’t find many qualified mental game coaches. Today, if you want to find a top sports psychologist or mental coach, you have many options to pick from – some good and bad options.
Back in the 1980s and 1990, there was only a handful of top sports psychologists and mental game coaches including people such as Bob Rotella, Ken Ravizza, and Jim Loehr. I personally learned from all of these mental game experts and several others as a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton, The University of Virginia, and at conferences.
Many people today call themselves a mental coach, peak performance expert, or sports psychologist, but might not have the qualifications to back up the title. From my experience as a student in sports psychology and a mental training expert for the past 25 plus years, the most import criteria is to find a mental game expert who has experience in working with athletes at all levels—not just professional athletes.
You don’t necessarily need to find a top sports psychologist or mental coach in your specific sport, but sports-specific mental coaches do exist. These are mental coaches that specialize in one specific sport. For example, I started my career working primarily with golfers, but found it easy to adapt to working in many sports and today work with athletes in all sports. As long as you find a mental training expert that works in or understands your sport, he or she can help you.
What are the qualifications you look for to find a sports psychologist that fits your needs? First, does the individual work with other athletes you know and have at least a two-year history of helping athletes with the mental game? Second, does the mental coach have experience as an athlete, coach, or sports parent? Although not critical, my opinion is that a mental coach with sports experience can understand your needs better than a psychologist-turned-sports-psychologist that has not been and athlete or sports coach.
To find a top sports psychologist, does the mental game expert need to have a Ph.D. or be a licensed psychologist? The answer is no. I know some very fine mental game experts who are successful with their athletes and are not a licensed psychologist or have a Ph.D. in education or sports psychology. A university Ph.D. degree is primarily a research or teaching degree and not really an applied sports psychology degree.
Do you need to work with a mental coach in your area, face-to-face? Some parents and athletes prefer face-to-face meetings even today, however with the advent to video conferencing, Skype, and FaceTime you can meet with a qualified mental coach from across the country. As a matter of fact, I work with athletes via Skype of FaceTime just across town because they like the convenience and the fact they can save travel time meeting via video conferencing technology. The experience is very similar to face-to-face meetings.
How To Find a Top Sports Psychologist?
I suggest you do some research on the Internet and talk to other athletes and coaches who have experience working with mental training experts. In addition, you’ll find many good qualified sports psychology professionals teaching at major universities. Contact the universities’ department of Kinesiology, Physical Education, or Human Performance. Even some psychology departments have a sports psychology program today. In addition, you can look for sports psychology professionals that have qualified certifications in mental coaching, such as Peak Performance Sports’ certified Mental Game Coaching Professionals (MGCP). However, please beware because not all certification programs have the same standards or quality.
Based on my experience as a student in sports psychology and now a Mental Game Coaching Professional, I can recommend who I think are top sports psychologists and mental game experts today. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of mental training experts, but these are individual I personally know and can highly recommend to athletes, coaches, and parents if they asked me.
Dr. Ken Ravizza
Dr. Ken Ravizza is a recently retired professor of Applied Sport Psychology at the California State University at Fullerton. He is one of the top Peak Performance Consultants in the world today. I studied with Ken for my masters in sports psychology while attending CSUF. Ken is an expert stress management skills and coping strategies, as well as Peak Performance. He’s worked with some tops athletes, organizations, and coaches in the world the New York Jets, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Galaxy, and the Toronto Argonauts.
Dr. Bob Rotella
Dr. Bob Rotella has been a mental coach to more than 74 major championships winners in men’s, women’s and senior professional golf. Dr. Bob Rotella also works with winners in tennis, baseball, basketball and other sports. Rotella’s book, “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect” is a best-selling golf psychology book of all time and one of the three best selling golf books in history. I did my Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in the last 1980s under Bob before he retired from teaching.
Dr. Jim Loehr
Dr. Loehr has worked with hundreds of world-class athletes from sport, business, medicine and law enforcement including Fortune 100 executives. Later in his career, he works more with corporate clients, such as Procter and Gamble, The Estée Lauder Companies, Dell, FBI, GlaxoSmithKline, PepsiCo, and Citigroup Smith Barney. He’s also worked with many professional athletes including golfers Mark O’Meara and Justin Rose; tennis players Jim Courier, Monica Seles, and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario; boxer Ray Mancini. He’s known well in the tennis community for his work with top professional tennis players.
Dr. Tim Gallwey
Tim Gallwey, the author of The Inner Game of Tennis, was doing sports psychology before anyone even called it sports psychology. Around the mid 1970’s Tim produced a series of bestselling books, including The Inner Game of Tennis and The Inner Game of Golf, which at the time was a new methodology for the personal and athletic excellence. For the last twenty years Gallwey has been introducing the Inner Game approach to corporations including ATT, IBM, Arco, Anheuser Busch, Apple Computer, and The Coca-Cola Company. Today, Tim helps people who work in teams to learn how to work together more effectively.
Dr. Robert Nideffer
Dr. Robert Nideffer is the founder of Enhanced Performance Systems. He’s written several sports psychology books, and authored over 100 research articles. His first book, The Inner Athlete, was published in ’76. He also wrote Psych to Win. He also wrote The Ethics and Practice of Applied Sports Psychology. He has worked with Olympic teams in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and participated as a sports psychologist in the ’84 and ’88 Olympic Games. He’s the founder of The Attentional and Interpersonal Style Assessment — that’s the TAIS, an assessment tool used worldwide by performers, in sports, business, sales, and the military.
Jim Fannin is an author, professional platform speaker, a former professional tennis player, and life strategist and sports and business consultant. He has 35+ years of professional coaching, consulting and public speaking experience. Jim Fannin is the World’s #1 Coach of Champions. Jim has coached more champions – in sports, business and life – than anyone on earth. As a mental performance coach to some of the world’s top athletes and most successful company CEOs, he has been called the “Change Your Life” Coach.
Pia Nilsson has enjoyed an extraordinary career that has led her to be world-renowned as co-creator of the VISION54 principles, best-selling author of Complete Golf Coach. She’s the co-author of smash hit Every Shot Must Have a Purpose, The Game Before the Game and Play Your Best Golf Now. Golf Digest #1 ranked Women Teacher in America in 2010. Pia works with Lynn Marriott, a leader in how golf is taught. Lynn is today globally recognized as co-creator of the VISION54 principles, best-selling co-author and world-renowned coach.
Dr. Patrick Cohn
Yours truly. I’m the president and founder of Peak Performance Sports, LLC in Orlando, Florida. We offer mental toughness training to individual and team athletes. I’m also also a mentor to many others in the field of mental game coaching and performance with the MGCP certification program for coaches and psychologist—the first of its kind in the year 2004. As a mental toughness specialist, I’ve worked with many high-profile athletes and teams such as the Miami Dolphins, NASCAR winners, NHL Players, National Motocross Champions, as well as PGA Tour professional golfers such as Brian Watts and J. L. Lewis.
Other Mental Coaching Resources
- Visit this page for a list of certified mental game coaching professionals.
- Visit this page to read about Dr. Cohn’s sports psychology coaching programs.
- Go here to learn more about how sports psychology works.
- Contact us or call us at 888-742-7225 to inquire about mental training for athletes or team seminars.