How We Picked The Top Undergraduate Programs in Sports Psychology

Every sports psychology program is unique. That can make identifying the best a challenge—when there is no broad industry agreement on educational models for sports psych, who gets to make the call about which is best?

Our approach is to use good old-fashioned human judgement and a rational evaluation process that returns to the fundamentals: great instructors, coverage of the basis of psychology, access to the right resources to study, opportunities to engage with real-world professionals in the field. It’s an intensive process that takes us through school websites, industry publications such as the Journal of Performance Psychology, and even the press releases and personnel rosters for big-name professional sports teams.

We considered it all in performing our evaluations and making our selections of the programs we feel represent the best opportunities for psychology grad students interested in learning about the intersection where the psyche and athletic performance meet.

Regional Accreditation To Establish Academic Credentials

It should go without saying that the basic undergraduate education of any school we look at should conform to the essential and expected elements of an American college education. But just to be sure, we verify that each school on this list has been accredited by their respective regional accreditation agency, designated by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education (USDE) to validate administrative, policy, faculty recruitment, and scholastic standards.

Instructors Who Have Got Some Game

In an intensely interpersonal field like psychology, who you are learning from can make or break your collegiate experience. In sports psychology, we like to see instructors with impressive backgrounds, as well as those actively engaged in the field as practitioners or doing work related to  research efforts designed to further our understanding of how the psyche affects performance. Being regularly published in scholarly journals doesn’t hurt, and is something that certainly gets our attention.

Access to First-Rate Sports Facilities and Resources

One thing that sports typically require is equipment. And at the level where sports psychology comes into play, it has to be the best—cutting edge training facilities and gear to support the top athletes in their respective fields.

Diagnosing either mental or physical issues is a holistic matter, which means any school that hopes to compete in either area has to put together the right kind of environment and expertise to cover both. That’s why we look for programs that have excellent facilities for both research and treatment.

Partnerships and Internships To Get Skin in The Game

Studying sports psychology successfully means getting outside the classroom and engaging with actual athletes and sporting events. The only way to do this is through internships, and we sought out schools who have partnerships with the right programs to get you the real-world experience you need to put your learning into practice where it counts: out on the field.

Educational Options For Further Explorations

Because sports psychology has broad applications at numerous levels in the sports and fitness industry, many undergraduates in the field will go on to careers in areas only tangentially related to sports psychology. This is why we looked at the other options available for adding to or continuing studies—not only master’s and doctorate level sports psychology programs, but also minor options in business or other associated fields to allow you to shape your skills toward your ultimate career path.

Extra Elements To Aid Success

Some of the most important aspects of programs we selected aren’t necessarily so clear-cut. Our personalized evaluations of schools sometimes turned up elements in programs that don’t easily fit into a specific criterion, but at the same time, show a flair and benefit that helps the degree stand out from the pack. Whether it’s additional concentration studies, such as leadership, within the sports psychology program, or special courses not available elsewhere, like sports law, or overseas study options that offer outside perspectives, a little twist sometimes made all the difference for the programs that ended up making our list.