Integrating Sport Psychology and Sports Counseling: Developmental Programming, Education, and Research

By Hinkle, J. Scott | Journal of Sport Behavior, March 1994 | Go to article overview

Integrating Sport Psychology and Sports Counseling: Developmental Programming, Education, and Research


Hinkle, J. Scott, Journal of Sport Behavior


The need for developmental programming and education in the fields of counseling and sport psychology is presented. Clinical issues, programs for children and adolescents, career development, and research are discussed.

Sport psychology and sports counseling professionals are concerned about the development as well as the athletic performance of athletes with whom they work. These clinicians are searching for solutions to problems associated with this special population (Hinkle, 1989a). While sport psychologists concentrate on performance enhancement (Butt, 1987) and mental skills training (Burke, 1989), sports counselors focus on the athlete's psychoemotional difficulties and development as an individual (Hinkle, 1989b). In the 1990s colleges and universities will need to develop educational programs and research agendas that will assist athletes with performance, as well as with psychoemotional problems and life development. Although the disciplines of sport psychology and sports counseling have traditionally been distinct, the integration of these areas will be necessary for the effective continuity of associated services and interventions. This paper will present an educational programming and research agenda with an integrated sport psychology/sports counseling emphasis.

Developmental Programming and Education

Sport psychology programs have historically included performance prediction and enhancement (e.g., Millslagle, 1988; Suedfeld & Bruno, 1990; Taylor, 1987), mental rehearsal, motivation and arousal, pain tolerance, and peak performance (Bunker & McGuire, 1985). Although these are important aspects to quality performance in athletics, 5 to 15 percent of American athletes suffer from psychosocial problems appropriate for counseling (Brown, 1978; Bunker & McGuire, 1985). Coaches and traditional sport psychologists are typically not prepared or qualified to meet the needs of the athlete experiencing emotional difficulties (Burke, 1989). Likewise, counselors may not be sensitive to the unique needs of athletes and the impact their sport has on everyday living. Although counselors have excellent skills in assisting with developmental problems, self-enhancement, lifestyle consultation, program organization, competitive stress reduction, and clinical issues (Butt, 1987), they may lack a knowledge base including information about a particular sport (Burke, 1989) and the psychoemotional difficulties associated with it.

Athletes can benefit from integrated programs provided by sport psychologists and sports counselors. Certainly athletes may improve their performance by working with a sport psychologist. And, educational programs and counseling can help with prevention, coping skills, relaxation training, decision-making skills, crisis intervention (Bunker & McGuire, 1985), and life management (Danish & Hale, 1981). Often, however, performance enhancement and counseling services are provided piecemeal with little collaboration between service providers. This lack of connection or integration, however, is beginning to improve. Counseling and sport psychology students are obtaining their doctoral cognates in the other, respective field. In addition, the Sport Psychology Training Bulletin has recently presented clinical is sues on communication fundamentals and anxiety as major topics.

Clinical Issues

Burke (1989) has indicated that professionals working with athletes must get across the message that the quantifiable measures associated with sports, such as speed, distance, and score, are not all that is important in sports. It must be emphasized that improvements in personal qualities such as confidence, self-control, and even sport enjoyment are important. In fact, athletes need to be educated that such improvements can provide consistently good performances.

Athletes encounter a variety of psychosocial and emotional difficulties as a function of participation in sports.

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