Homepage for Dr. John Dunn

(Last updated: August 2017)



John G.H. Dunn




Physical Education & Recreation

Area of Study:

Sport Psychology










Click here to view my (1) 2017/18 teaching duties, (2) information for prospective graduate students, (3) publications, (4) applied sport psychology work, and (5) biographical information & general interests, and (6) considering a career in applied sport psychology?


My first Olympics: Torino 2006


1. Primary Teaching Duties For Upcoming Year (2017-2018)

I am teaching KIN.109 (Statistics, Measurement and Evaluation) and KIN.338 (Physical Activity and Sport Participation for Children and Youth) in the fall semester, 2017, and KIN.544 (Psychosocial Dimensions of Sport) in the winter semester, 2018.



2. Information for Prospective Graduate Students

At the outset of my career, my research focused on competitive sport anxiety and worry. However, since 2002 I have been pursuing a research program that examines the construct of perfectionism and how this personality trait relates to behaviour, cognition, and affect in sport. Given this current focus on perfectionism in sport, I give strong consideration to prospective students who express a genuine interest in studying perfectionism as part of their research program. I am also interested in measurement and psychometric issues relating to the process of scale construction in sport psychology. A list of my publications is shown later on this website.

Given my interests in psychometrics and scale construction, I am primarily interested in taking graduate students who have an interest in conducting research using quantitative research methodologies as opposed to qualitative research methodologies. I strongly encourage all of my graduate students to take a variety of statistics courses that are offered at the University of Alberta as part of their degree programs. Although I have used qualitative research methodologies in my own research, it has generally been conducted under the guidance of a qualitative methodology expert, and it is not an area in which I believe I can provide adequate supervision to students. Having said this, one of my colleagues in the Faculty (Dr. Nick Holt) has considerable expertise in this area (and especially in grounded theory), so supervisory collaboration is always an option for students who prefer to use qualitative methods.

Many students ask me if they will have opportunities to work with athletes as part of their graduate program. All of the research programs that I have supervised to this point in time have involved "basic" research aimed at theory development. In other words, I have not supervised any "intervention" research studies where students have delivered any type of mental skills training program to athletes. Moreover, it is important to note that I do not offer Masters students any sort of supervised practicum-based experiences in the area of applied sport psychology (i.e., working on performance enhancement issues with athletes). I have done this with only one Doctoral student in the past, and it was not an “official” part of the individual’s degree program. From my perspective we simply do not have the time or the resources (as a Faculty) to offer supervised training in the area of applied/intervention psychology at the University of Alberta at this time, although Dr. Nick Holt is an AASP certified consultant who is qualified to provide supervision in this area.

Lastly, I really encourage graduate students to conduct research that will be worthy of publication. My students have presented their graduate research at national conferences (e.g., SCAPPS) and/or international conferences (e.g., AASP), and most work with me (or should I more accurately say, “I work with them”) in the preparation and submission of manuscripts for consideration by peer reviewed journals. Thus, it is my goal that my students will leave the University of Alberta not only with an outstanding degree, but with a level of training that will have exposed them to the entire research process...beginning with the creation of an idea and ending with the submission (and hopeful publication) of a research paper that they can be proud of.

To give prospective students a better idea of the graduate work that I have been involved with, I have included a select list of thesis and dissertation titles of graduate students with whom I have worked. 

Supervisor for:                                                                                                    

  • MA thesis: “Perfectionism and Reactions to Mistakes in Competitive Curling
  • MA thesis: “Developmental Correlates of Perfectionism in Sport
  • MA thesis: “The Domain-Specificity of Perfectionism in Varsity Athletes.”
  • MA thesis: “Perfectionism and Parenting Styles in Male Youth Soccer.”
  • Doctoral dissertation. “Development of a Domain Specific Measure of Perfectionism in Sport.”
  • MA thesis: “Perfectionism and Slump-Related Coping in Female Volleyball
  • MA thesis: “Understanding the Psycho-Emotional Experience of Major Athletic Injury.
  • MA capping project: “The Relationship Between Perfectionism and Stress in High School Teachers.”
  • Doctoral dissertation: “Toward a Grounded Theory of the Psychosocial Competencies in Becoming a Professional Soccer Player. (Winner of the AAASP Dissertation Award, 2003)
  • MA thesis: “Perfectionism and Competitive Anger in Youth Ice Hockey.” (Winner of the AAASP Thesis Award, 2003)

Committee member for:  

  • Doctoral dissertation: “The Development and Validation of a Time Management Instrument for Exercise Adoption, Participation, and Adherence.”
  • MA thesis: “Perfectionism and Attitudinal Body Image in Developmental, High Performance, and Elite Figure Skaters.”
  • Doctoral dissertation: “Creating a Developmentally Appropriate Self-Report Instrument of Children’s Optimal Challenge During Physical Activity.”

Additional Important Information for Prospective Students:

Normally I have no more than two graduate students at any one time in my capacity as a supervisor. Given the way I work with graduate students, and given me teaching responsibilities, I do not feel that I would have sufficient time to devote to my graduate students if I assumed supervision responsibilities for more than two students at one time. Having said this, I would find it hard to turn away an application from a prospective student who I thought would be an excellent fit with me.

At the graduate level our Faculty only offers a couple of courses that specifically focus on sport psychology issues (KIN.540: The Psychology of Performance Enhancement in Sport and Physical Activity. KIN.544: Psychosocial Dimensions of Athletic Behaviour in the Competitive Sport Environment). We are also trying to implement a doctoral seminar in sport psychology, but the availability of this course is influenced by the number of doctoral students who show interest in this class at any one time. Generally, I encourage my students to take directed studies courses with me (or with other professors in the area) on specific sport psychology topics of interest, and to take classes from other Faculties across campus. Thus, the nature of the student’s program is very flexible and is designed (whenever possible) to fit the student's interests. It should also be noted that our Faculty has a very strong cohort of professors in the behavioural/social sciences including (but not limited to) Dr. Nick Holt (sport psychology), Dr. Amber Mosewich (sport psychology), Dr. Kerry Courneya (behavioral medicine) and Dr. John Spence (exercise/health psychology). I would encourage my students to take classes from these professors if interested, but I would make it clear that if I am to be their supervisor that their primary area of research interest remains within the field of sport psychology. 

Entrance Requirements and Procedures:

Students who are interested in getting specific information about the formal application process (including deadlines and application materials) should contact Dana Dragon-Smith (dana.dragon-smith@ualberta.ca). Dana is the Graduate Programs coordinator in our Faculty. Normally Dana (in conjunction with the Associate Dean, Graduate Program: Dr. Normand Boule [nboule@ualberta.ca]) will provide me with a package of completed applications from students interested in pursuing studies in the area of sport psychology sometime in early March each year, although she will also pass me individual files as they arrive. (The application deadline for admission to our graduate program is February 1st. However, students who wish to be considered for scholarships are encouraged to have their applications submitted by January 1st of each year). I generally look at all the applications at one time when making my own decisions about taking a new student (although as stated previously, I will also look at individual applications as they arrive). If I am undecided about a student, I may contact him/her and ask for a copy of a previous term paper to get a sample of the student's writing skills. Ideally, this piece of work would be in the area of sport psychology or the social sciences. If such a piece of work is not available, however, I may ask for a short 3-page paper on a specific topic of the student's choosing.

There is no perquisite entrance requirement to our graduate program with respect to undergraduate classes. In general, I like to take students who have demonstrated an interest in, and dare I say "passion" for sport. Consequently, I like to take students who have demonstrated an interest in sport psychology at the undergraduate level. However, I also consider students who come primarily from a psychology background where they may have had few opportunities to take sport psychology classes. In such instances, I particularly look at the student's previous interest in sport (as demonstrated by prior sport experiences as a competitor or coach). In fact, I look at this aspect of all applicants’ backgrounds because I am of the opinion that to study sport psychology, it is highly advantageous to possess a fairly high level of "contextual intelligence" (Sternberg, 1997). 

Our Faculty will sometimes require students who have no formal educational experiences in physical education or sport psychology to take some undergraduate classes (in physical education and sport psychology) in the student’s first year. Under these circumstances the student is admitted into the graduate program as a qualifying or probationary student. Successful completion of these classes (in addition to some graduate classes) then results in the student being fully accepted in the graduate program. These situations are considered on a case-by-case basis. The minimum GPA that is required for all students who wish to enter our graduate program is 3.0 (on a 4-point scale) over the last 60 credits of coursework.

Applications for Fall, 2018 (and 2019). I currently have one doctoral student (4th year), two MA students (1st year) and one MCoach student (2nd year). It is therefore very unlikely that I will entertain taking any new graduate students for the Fall of 2018, and I am hoping to take a sabbatical in the 2018/19 academic year (and would therefore likely not take any new students during that year).

Funding Opportunities for Fall, 2018 (and 2019). Unfortunately, I currently hold no major grants, so I am not in a position to directly fund any graduate students. However, most incoming students receive funding from our Faculty for Teaching/Research Assistantships. Inquiries about TA/RA funding opportunities should be directed to Dana Dragon-Smith (dana.dragon-smith@ualberta.ca), graduate programs coordinator in the Faculty of PE & Rec. As a point of interest, the last five MA students that I have graduated have all had their thesis research funded by small grants from the Sport Science Association of Alberta (up to $5,000) to offset their costs (however SSAA has recently been cut and my not be available in the foreseeable future).


Examples of Previous Grants

  • Dunn, J. G. H. "An Examination of Perfectionism in Sport." Three year grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
  • Causgrove Dunn, J., & Dunn, J. G. H. "Motivation Orientations of Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder in Physical Activity". Three year grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
  • Dunn, J.G.H., Lizmore, M., & Causgrove Dunn, J. “Motivational Orientations and Reactions to Failure in Competitive Curling.” One year grant awarded by the Sport Science Association of Alberta (SSAA).
  • Dunn, J. G. H., Causgrove Dunn, J., & Gamache, V. "An Examination of Personality Factors Associated With Slump-Related Coping Among Intercollegiate Volleyball Players." One year grant awarded by the Sport Science Association of Alberta (SSAA).
  • Dunn, J. G. H., & Sapieja, K.M. “Examining the Relationship Between Perfectionist Orientations and Perceptions of Parenting Styles in Male Youth Soccer.” One year grant awarded by the Sport Science Association of Alberta (SSAA).


3. Publications (chronological order)


Lizmore, M.R., Dunn, J.G.H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2017). Perfectionistic strivings, perfectionistic concerns, and reactions to poor personal performances among intercollegiate athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 33, 75-84.


Neely, K.C., McHugh, T.-L.F., Dunn, J.G.H., & Holt, N.L. (2017). Athletes and parents coping with deselection in competitive youth sport: A communal coping perspective. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 30, 1-9.


DeBeaudrap, H., Dunn, J.G.H., & Holt, N.L. (2017). Female varsity athletes’ perceptions of how they became optimistic in sport. The Sport Psychologist, 31, 30-41.


Dunn, J.G.H., Gotwals, J.K., Causgrove Dunn, J., Selzler, A-M., Lizmore M.R., Vaartstra, M., Sapieja, K.M., & Gamache, V.E. (2016). A multi-sample investigation of the higher-order latent dimensionality of the Sport-Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale-2. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 27, 150-156.


Neely, K.C., Dunn, J.G.H.., McHugh, T-L.F., & Holt, N.L. (2016). The deselection process in competitive female youth sport. The Sport Psychologist, 30, 141-153.


Lizmore, M.R., Dunn, J.G.H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2016). Reactions to mistakes as a function of perfectionism and situation criticality in curling. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 47, 81-101.


Rasquinha, A., Dunn, J.G.H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2014). Relationships between perfectionistic strivings, perfectionistic concerns and competitive sport level. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 15, 659-667.


Dunn, J.G.H., Causgrove Dunn, J.,  Gamache, V., & Holt, N.L. (2014). A person-oriented examination of perfectionism and slump-related coping in female intercollegiate volleyball players. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 45, 298-324.


Gotwals, J. K., Stoeber, J., Dunn, J G. H., & Stoll, O. (2012). Are perfectionistic strivings in sport adaptive? A systematic review of confirmatory, contradictory, and mixed evidence. Canadian Psychology, 53, 263-279.


Dunn, J.G.H., Causgrove Dunn, J., & McDonald, K. (2012). Domain-specific perfectionism in intercollegiate athletes: Relationships with perceived competence and perceived importance in sport and school. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13, 747-755.


Jones, M. I., Dunn, J. G. H., Holt, N. L., Sullivan, P. J., & Bloom, G. A. (2011). Exploring the '5Cs' of positive youth development in sport. Journal of Sport Behavior, 34, 250-267.


Sapieja, K.M., Dunn, J. G. H., & Holt, N. L. (2011). Perfectionism and perceptions of parenting styles in male youth soccer. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 33, 20-39.


Dunn, J. G. H., Craft, J., Causgrove Dunn, J., & Gotwals, J.K. (2011). Comparing a domain-specific and global measure of perfectionism in competitive female figure skaters. Journal of Sport Behavior, 34, 25-46.


Gotwals, J. K., Dunn, J. G. H., Causgrove Dunn, J., & Gamache, V. (2010). Establishing validity evidence for the Sport Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale-2 in intercollegiate sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 423-432.


Gotwals, J. K., & Dunn, J. G. H. (2009). A multi-method multi-analytic approach to establishing internal construct validity evidence: The Sport Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale - 2. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 13, 71-92.


Causgrove Dunn, J., Dunn, J. G. H., & Bayduza, A. (2007). Perceived athletic competence, sociometric status, and loneliness in elementary school children. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30, 249-269.


Vallance, J. K. H., Dunn, J. G. H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2006). Perfectionism, anger, and situation criticality in competitive youth ice hockey. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 28, 383-406.

Holt, N. L., & Dunn, J. G. H. (2006). Guidelines for delivering personal-disclosure mutual-sharing team building interventions. The Sport Psychologist, 20, 348-367.

Causgrove Dunn, J., & Dunn, J. G. H. (2006). Perceptions of the motivational climate, perceived competence, and participation behaviors of children with movement difficulties in physical education. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 23, 293-309.

Dunn, J. G. H., Gotwals, J. K., Causgrove Dunn, J., & Syrotuik, D. G. (2006). Examining the relationship between perfectionism and trait anger in sport. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4, 7-24.

Dunn, J. G. H., Causgrove Dunn, J., Gotwals, J. K., Vallance, J. K. H., Craft, J. M., & Syrotuik, D. G. (2006). Establishing construct validity evidence for the Sport Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 7, 57-79. 

Dunn, J. G. H., Gotwals, J. K., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2005). An examination of the domain specificity of perfectionism among intercollegiate student-athletes. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1439-1448.

Dunn, J. G. H., & Holt, N. L. (2004). A qualitative investigation of a personal-disclosure mutual-sharing team building activity. The Sport Psychologist, 18, 363-380.

Holt, N. L., & Dunn, J. G. H. (2004). Toward a grounded theory of psychosocial competencies and environmental conditions associated with soccer success. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 16, 199-219.

Holt, N., & Dunn, J. G. H. (2004). Longitudinal idiographic analyses of appraisal and coping responses in sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 5, 213-222.

Dunn, J. G. H., & Holt, N. L. (2003). Collegiate ice hockey players' perceptions of the delivery of an applied sport psychology program. The Sport Psychologist, 17, 351-368.

Dunn, J. G. H., & Syrotuik, D. G. (2003). An investigation of multidimensional worry dispositions in a high contact sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4, 265-282.

Gotwals, J. K., Dunn, J. G. H., & Wayment, H. (2003). An examination of perfectionism and self-esteem in intercollegiate athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior, 26, 17-38.

Dunn, J. G. H., Causgrove Dunn, J., & Syrotuik, D. G. (2002). Relationship between multidimensional perfectionism and goal orientations in sport. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 24, 376-395.

Dunn, J. G. H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2001). Relationships among the Sport Competition Anxiety Test, the Sport Anxiety Scale, and the Collegiate Hockey Worry Scale. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 13, 411-429.

Dunn, J. G. H., Causgrove Dunn, J., Wilson, P., & Syrotuik, D. G. (2000). Reexamining the factorial composition and factor structure of the Sport Anxiety Scale. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 22, 183-193.

Dunn, J. G. H. (1999). A theoretical framework for structuring the content of competitive worry in ice hockey. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 21, 259-279.

Dunn, J. G. H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (1999). Goal orientations, perceptions of aggression, and sportspersonship in elite male youth ice hockey players. The Sport Psychologist, 13, 183-200.

Dunn, J. G. H., Bouffard, M., & Rogers, W. T. (1999). Assessing item content-relevance in sport psychology scale-construction research: Issues and recommendations. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 3, 15-36.

Dunn, J. G. H., & Nielsen, A. B. (1996). A classificatory system of anxiety-inducing situations in four team sports. Journal of Sport Behavior, 19, 111-131.

Dunn, J. G. H. (1994). Toward the combined use of nomothetic and idiographic methodologies in sport psychology: An empirical example. The Sport Psychologist, 8, 376-392.

Dunn, J. G. H., & Nielsen, A. B. (1993). A between-sport comparison of situational threat perceptions in ice hockey and soccer. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 15, 449-465.

Bouffard, M., & Dunn, J. G. H. (1993). Children’s self-regulated learning of movement sequences. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 64, 393-403.


  4. Applied Sport Psychology Work

Since 1995 I have worked with a number of high performance athletes and sports teams as a performance psychology consultant. Until 2002 the majority of my applied work was at the intercollegiate level with the sports of ice hockey (University of Alberta Golden Bears) and field hockey (University of Alberta Pandas). However, in more recent years I have spent the majority of my time working with elite national/international and professional athletes. I have had opportunities to work with the Canadian women’s field hockey team, the Canadian men’s and women’s biathlon teams, the Canadian men’s alpine ski team, the Canadian men’s water polo team, Team Alberta/Canada (men’s Curling), and several NHL teams. This work has given me opportunities to “ply my trade” at major international events throughout the world including the Pan Am Games, World Championships, and Winter Olympics. I also have had opportunities to conduct performance psychology seminars with various branches of the military, law enforcement agencies, Own the Podium, and the Canadian Olympic Committee.




“Cooling Off” after winning the 1998/99 CIAU hockey national championship in Saskatoon. I’m the guy taking the Gatorade shower. (The players responsible for this little prank paid for their actions on the bus-trip home later that evening! The finger seen pointing in the bottom right hand corner of the photo belonged to a notorious member of “the Ghetto”--a Golden Bear Hockey subculture that occupied a dark corner of the dressing room at Clare Drake Arena.)



Koe World Champs Posing with Medals High Resolution.jpg


Team Koe/Alberta/Canada. 2010 World Curling Champions

The best thing about working with athletes is that they start as “your clients”, then they become “your team” and if you are lucky they sometimes become “your friends.” My 4-year journey with my friends (Kevin Koe, Blake MacDonald, Carter Rycroft, and Nolan Thiessen) ended with the team winning the 2010 Brier in Halifax followed by victory at the 2010 World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy).



The newest version of Team Koe (2016 Canadian “Brier” Champions)

(Left to right: Me, Scott Pfeifer, Ben Hebert, Brent Laing, Marc Kennedy, & Kevin Koe)

[Picture source: http://www.rds.ca/curling/kevin-koe-a-reconquis-son-trone-1.3127440]


5. Biographical Information & General Interests

I was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. I completed a B.Sc. in Sport Science and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science at Loughborough University in England. In 1992 I completed an M.A. in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, then in 1998, I completed my Ph.D. in the same faculty.

I have always had a keen love of sport—hence my interest in the area of sport psychology. As a schoolboy I represented Scotland internationally in the sport of fencing (sabre) and played volleyball in two Scottish schools finals (…then I stopped growing and entered the ranks of the "vertically challenged"). However, my first love always has been (and still is) football (a.k.a. "soccer" in North America). I played at the youth team level for several Scottish League clubs, then played varsity-level for Loughborough University and captained the University of Alberta Golden Bears soccer team. Now that my body has given out on me, my competitive sporting days are well behind me. I now enjoy running (when my knees allow it) and playing golf.

I have always had a strong interest in coaching. I hold the English Football Association Prelim coaching award and am a fully certified C-License soccer coach through the Canadian 3M National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). I also hold tennis coaching qualifications from the English Lawn Tennis Association. I have acted as a Level 4/5 course-conductor teaching sport psychology sections for the NCCP. Although I spend much of my time in the world of high performance sport, I have maintained my connection to “grass roots” developmental sport where I coached both my children in youth soccer for 12 years.


Cat Skiing 2006 cropped


Having fun “cat skiing” in the Caribou Mountains, British Columbia

(I’m second from the right in case you are wondering.)


6. Considering a Career in Applied Sport Psychology?


I am frequently asked questions by interested students about pursuing a career in the area of applied sport psychology, and about possible job opportunities in the field. The following is a brief synopsis of my typical response. Please note, however, that these are my opinions and views and they may not necessarily be correct or constitute the answer you would get from another practitioner in my field.


I usually start by delivering the bad news. I tell people that there are relatively few full-time opportunities to work in the area of applied sport psychology in Canada. Many students have a goal of ultimately working with an Olympic team or a with a professional sports franchise. While these jobs do exist, there are very few “full time” jobs in these areas, and breaking into the elite levels of competitive sport not only requires a high degree of competence but typically takes a very long time (and a little bit of luck). As in many walks of life, being in the right place at the right time often dictates the opportunities that come available to people. In my experience, the vast majority of sport psychology professionals who work with professional teams or Olympic teams hold appointments at universities or colleges. I know of very few people in Canada who make a full-time living practicing sport psychology with elite athletes (although a few people do work with the Canadian Sport Centres: http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1358276409781/1358276581852). In my own case (and as is the case with many of my colleagues), I hold an academic appointment at a university where my primary job responsibilities lie in the areas of teaching and research. (And in order to work at the university, I had to obtain a PhD.)


Education forms a huge part of the sport psychologist’s training. My own personal training (BSc, MA, and PhD) is primarily in the area of physical education and sport science (with a focus on sport psychology). In other words, all of my degrees have come from Physical Education or Sport Science faculties. As such, I am not legally (nor ethically) permitted to call myself a “psychologist” nor can I deal with any clinical or counseling issues that may be presented by my clients (e.g., suicidal tendencies, drug/alcohol abuse, eating disorders, marital counseling, etc). Although I have rarely encountered any of these issues in my work with high-performance athletes over the past two decades, in the event that these issues did come up, I would find a qualified psychologist who can assist the athlete. I always make it clear to my clients that I work in the area of “performance psychology” or “mental skills training” and deal solely with performance- enhancement issues relating to (but not limited to) motivation, team building, self-awareness, pre-competitive routines, etc.


To become a registered psychologist who can deal with clinical/counseling issues, an individual must undergo graduate training in the area of clinical/counseling psychology. The College of Alberta Psychologists (http://www.cap.ab.ca/frmPage.aspx?Page=Index) governs the registration/licensing of psychologists in the province of Alberta. Individuals who are interested in becoming a registered psychologist should contact the College. Any individual wishing to become a registered psychologist in Alberta must have a graduate degree from a recognized post-secondary institution (as defined by the College) and the degree must be in the designated area of “psychology.”


In North America, the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) (http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/) has a certification program in the area of sport psychology. This program is designed to give the general public some degree of assurance that practitioners in the field who claim to be working in the area of sport psychology do indeed have an adequate level of training. However, it is important to recognize that AASP certified consultants are not necessarily “registered/licensed psychologists” and as in all walks of life, certification does not guarantee that the consultant is competent! Nevertheless, AASP is internationally recognized as the leading professional organization in the field, and I would strongly recommend that people who are interested in pursuing a career in applied sport psychology visit the AASP website for specific details on certification criteria. Interested readers can also visit the website of the American Psychological Association: Division 47, where information about “becoming a sport psychologist” is also provided: http://www.apa.org/about/division/div47.aspx


Clearly then, individuals have a number of choices to make in terms of the training/education they choose to pursue. Staying strictly in the area of sport science, physical education, and/or kinesiology increases your understanding of the scientific basis of sport performance (and sport psychology). However, this restricts an individual’s opportunities to work with clients who present with clinical/counseling issues. Alternatively, individuals could choose to take their training from psychology or education psychology departments. This would provide the individual with training that would lead to opportunities to work in clinical settings, but may restrict opportunities to gain an understanding of the issues that relate to sport performance. Ultimately, it may be wise for an individual to pursue undergraduate and graduate training in both fields (i.e., physical education/sport science and psychology) but there is generally no pre-set path that one should or must follow. As such, people interested in pursuing a career in the area of sport psychology should consider all of their options and decide which combination of educational training best meets their long-term career aspirations. I would strongly recommend that people who are looking into graduate training in sport psychology purchase the Directory of Graduate Programs in Applied Sport Psychology (11th ed.) that is published by AASP (http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/publications/graduate-program-directory/). This book provides an extensive overview of graduate programs in sport psychology at universities and colleges throughout the world.


I always tell people who are interested in working in the field of sport psychology that they should be passionate about sport. While I do not think an individual needs to have been an elite or professional level competitor to work effectively in this area, I honestly believe that it really does help to have an implicit knowledge of the competitive sport environment. In other words, I believe that individuals who have had experiences as athletes (or coaches) are at a huge advantage in the field of sport/performance psychology. If you have competed (or coached) in sport you likely have a much better appreciation of the pressures and challenges that athletes face on a daily basis. Knowing what it feels like to perform in front of an audience, to let your team-mates down if you make a mistake, to be criticized by a team-mate or coach, to deal with the media, to make sacrifices, to stay committed to training for prolonged periods of time, to deal with injuries, to feel the frustration of defeat/failure and to feel the joy of success all help the would-be sport psychologist to better understand her/his client. Thus, experiences as an athlete or coach with higher levels of competition generally make it easier to understand the unique demands that higher competitive levels present.


Although I wholeheartedly endorse the need to pursue educational training in the field of sport psychology (or psychology), I also believe that the “art” of sport psychology is not learned from a text book: it is learned from working with athletes and coaches in their competitive environments. As such, I think it is very important that people spend time getting experiences working with coaches or athletes at different competitive levels to better understand the demands of the competitive sport environment. In my case, as I neared the completion of my PhD, I did many voluntary “educational sport psychology sessions” with young/developmental athletes, teams, or schools. As I slowly worked “up the competitive levels” I began to get a better appreciation for what worked and what did not work with athletes. Even when I had completed my PhD and had been hired as a tenure track professor, I still continued to volunteer my services to varsity athletes/teams at the University of Alberta. It was not until I had approximately 6 years of voluntary service under my belt that I felt comfortable charging clients for my services. Having said this, I am now in the privileged position to say that I have been paid to work in the NHL and to work at Olympic Games, World Championships, and Pan Am Games with a number of different sports. However, it would have been very difficult for me to obtain these opportunities had I not had my university position (and salary) to support me as I gained these experiences. 


I hope the information contained in the aforementioned paragraphs helps provide some guidance for people who are contemplating a possible career in the area of applied sport psychology.





“Another very special moment.”

Team Alberta (Koe) lifting the 2014 Tim Horton’s Brier in Kelowna, British Columbia.

(Team members from left to right in the picture: Kevin Koe, Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft, Nolan Thiessen, Jamie King, John Dunn)