Each Tuesday I chat to two trainee or student  Sport Psychs to offer advice on getting started (you can book your own session here ) and reflected afterwards there a number of things I wish I’d figured out earlier when starting out as a sports psychologist. Here are ten that I would offer as advice:

  1. Build contacts early – especially with other trainees. They are not your competitors, they will be peers, cheerleaders and help you out often in tricky moments.
  2. Try to figure out early on what your niche might be. Grasp every opportunity (essential for hours and the experience) but ideally know the client group, issue or approach you would like to be your niche further down the line.
  3. Don’t expect to be completely clear on your philosophy. Examiners like to ask but I am still not sure I am clear on mine a number of years in. It feels like we get rushed to figure it out but I would take your time.
  4. Use your supervisor. When else in your career do you have a close at hand expert that you can pick their brains when you get stuck? Make the most of their knowledge.
  5. Plan your safety – mentally and physically. Set out your boundaries as a psychologist and stick to them.
  6. Create session plans (to give you confidence) but follow your client’s lead and expect to regularly divert away from them.
  7. Don’t try to have answers or ‘fix’. Many of the best answers come from inside an athlete – we are just there to offer a framework. We want to justify our fee yet the client sessions I’ve had the best feedback on are the ones which felt least structured.
  8. Take a counselling course. An ‘Intro to counselling’ course from a local college was a brilliant investment to learn how to listen.
  9. We work in sport – so get active. A workshop consisting of a slide deck, theories and references is the quickest way to get yawns. Find ways to get everyone moving and engagement will increase.
  10. Do the reflections. They feel a right pain in the bum at the time, but they are such a brilliant way speed up your development. You can learn so much through that self-analysis.