The Future of Sport Psychology

Dave Kearney
6 min readOct 21, 2021

With thousands of athletes and many top U.S. college sports teams like UCLA, Arizona State, Rice and Duke using the Champion’s Mind app to help their athletes train mental skills, Champion’s Mind is now firmly established as the #1 sport psychology training app for all competitive and amateur athletes and their coaches.

In working with these teams, we’ve spoken to hundreds of coaches, athletic directors, sport psychologists and other mental health professionals about the athletes they work with. Many of the same concerns voiced by sport psychologists revolve around the role that technology can play in helping athletes to develop their mental skills and whether it can be leveraged to help them and the work they do with athletes.

The goal for this article is to discuss some of the feedback raised by the sport psychologists we’ve talked to and to break down how technology might be leveraged rather than feared when providing sport psychology training for athletes.

Feedback #1: Accessibility of Sport Psychology

Only a tiny fraction of all athletes ever get to work with a professional sport psychologist. For those who do, it normally only starts after the athlete has reached a certain age and level in their athletic development. Access to sport psychology best practice before that time is mostly left to the best efforts of coaches and parents. Despite positive intentions, best practice is often poorly interpreted, loosely adhered to or totally non-existent and these bad practices can be retained by athletes for many years.

Let’s look at the same problem from the athlete’s perspective. Millions of young athletes are failing to reach their potential because they are not developing the sport psychology skills they need earlier in life. They may have all the physical and tactical attributes needed to climb through the levels from a young age, but inexperience with mental skills during their developmental years becomes a roadblock to achieving their full potential as an athlete. Access to sport psychology resources during this time could help many of the next generation of athletes develop in a way that they were previously unable to. All they need is a service that is effective, available and within budget for the stage of their development - but therein lies the first major problem.

It’s not financially feasible for most parents or age grade teams to engage with a qualified sport psychologist for dedicated 1:1 sessions or regular team training. It’s only later in each athlete’s career that they begin to engage with a sport psychologist for the first time, and normally only after they have been identified as a high potential candidate. An early educational opportunity is lost and many athletes that might have reached a higher level are left behind because their sporting mental skills were slower to develop than other athletes.

That’s the first reason I feel that an app/technology can useful: it enables sport psychology best practice to be scaled for athletes, coaches, parents and sport psychologists at all ages. For the monthly price of a coffee, every athlete can work on their mental game every day. It’s not replacing the work that a sport psychologist does, but rather casting a wider net to involve athletes that have not yet had the opportunity to work with a sport psychologist. Anything is better than nothing if the quality is good. That leads to the second piece of feedback.

Feedback #2: Efficacy of automated solutions

Many sport psychologists I talk to worry about the efficacy of mental skills training via an app. A lot of the work that is done in sport psychology is with individual athletes: building relationships, identifying specific needs and creating personalised solutions to help each athlete. That can’t be done in any way except by providing 1:1 attention to each athlete — this is true. There is no way that an app can replace the quality of service provided by a dedicated expert working individually with each athlete. That’s not the battle that needs to be fought however.

When an organisation is developing their sport psychology function and with each new athlete that joins it, the sport psychologist almost always needs to provide an introduction to what sport psychology really is and how it can be used to build and maintain a higher level of competitive performance. In organisations with restricted budgets, this high level overview is often the sum total of what the sport psychologist can ever accomplish given the constraints.

If a team based sport psychology training app can provide this basic level of education and skill development earlier in an athletes’s career, it creates a stronger basis for sport psychologists to work from and improves the understanding of what a sport psychologist can provide. By having these repeatable basics already covered in advance of working with an athlete, the sport psychologist can more quickly triage where they can be most valuable to the organisation and deliver greater overall value.

Feedback #3: Fear of being replaced

Advancements in technology change what jobs exist, but this is far from the most significant problem faced by the sport psychology industry at this time. With so few athletes ever getting access to what is now a scientifically proven enhancement to their sporting prowess, huge opportunities still remain to grow the industry. The sport psychologists that succeed will be the ones that most effectively deliver training to athletes and organisations at scale and in a cost effective manner. Every other profession uses technology to augment their efficiency, sport psychology needs to do so too.

Sport psychology is still working to prove that it has now emerged from the realm of academia and become a discipline that can deliver a program to athletes and teams in an engaging and effective way. It also needs to educate the broader sporting community about the value of sport psychology. Budget allocation for sport psychologists in sports organisations still lags far behind other performance roles like strength and conditioning, physiotherapy and even sports nutrition. Only when the effectiveness of sport psychology is recognised as a critical piece of the puzzle by the broader sporting community will organisation budgets be reallocated in a way that ensures sport psychology is well enough resourced to have the impact that the science shows it can have.

This can only happen by proving the efficacy of sport psychology and delivering a service that athletes, coaches and sporting directors value. This increase in value in the longer term will grow the overall market for sport psychology services and create more and better paid jobs for all practitioners.

Feedback #4: Isn’t Champion’s Mind just for Athletes and Coaches?

This is one we need to do a better job communicating, but we definitely don’t see Champion’s Mind as a tool usable only by athletes and coaches. With organizations like Black Hills State and Cal Poly, the Champion’s Mind app has been shown to enable a single sport psychologist or health and wellbeing counselor to provide a complete mental skills training program to hundreds of athletes at the same time (all with the support of the coaches and athletes of course).

Can you help?

CHampion’s Mind App and Sport Psychology Coaching Tools

Our mission at Champion’s Mind is to make mental skills training based on sport psychology best practice accessible to all athletes everywhere. We’d love your support. If either of the following sound familiar but aren’t going to turn into business for you, maybe you could help by recommending the Champion’s Mind app at the appropriate time:

  • When parents come looking for advice about additional tools and resources to help their children develop their mental game.
  • When teams ask for your expertise but don’t have the budget to provide meaningful support for their athletes.

And if you are interested in learning more about scaling what you already offer, I’d also always love to chat — email me at dave AT champsmind DOT com. Think Gold!



Dave Kearney

Making mental skills training based on sport psychology best practice a normal thing for all athletes