The Differences between a Coach and a Sports Psychologist

In addition to the formation of both professionals, the purpose a coach and sports psychologist is also different. However, they’re both essential to athletes’ performance.
The Differences between a Coach and a Sports Psychologist

Last update: 20 April, 2020

Many people think that a coach and sports psychologist have the same role in athletes’ lives. However, although they do similar things, there are many differences between a coach and a sports psychologist.

For starters, we should clarify that a coach can’t be a sports psychologist, as they lack proper training. However, a sports psychologist can be a coach. Below, you’ll discover more of the key differences between these professionals.

What does a sports psychologist do?

An athlete with a coach.
A sports psychologist’s goal is to motivate athletes.

Sports psychologists first study psychology and then specialize in this particular area. The tools they have are accurate. A psychologist is responsible for studying the psyche, cognition, and human behavior and emotions.

This is why it’s a good idea to have a sports psychologist in the playing field. They’ll examine the attitudes of an athlete or a group of athletes. This way, they’ll be able to try to enhance their skills or correct certain behaviors that may be affecting their performance.

A sports psychologist is a professional that motivates and helps each athlete give the best of themselves. However, at the same time, they not only help them learn how to work in a group but also grow personally. A sports psychologist knows that individual work is also required.

The functions of a sports psychologist

A coach and sports psychologist aren’t the same because the specific functions they execute are completely different. Below, you’ll see the functions a sports psychologist executes:

  • Evaluation. Injuries or family problems can affect athletic performance. A sports psychologist must evaluate the situation to be able to guide the athlete in the best possible way.
  • Advice. After evaluation, they proceed to counsel them. For example, imagine that an athlete is unable to cope with the media healthily. The psychologist can help them learn how.
  • Intervention. This consists of giving the athlete the tools they need to deal with the problem that’s affecting them.
  • Athlete training. Sports psychologists also train athletes. This helps them learn to manage stress, as well as motivating them and enhancing their skills and abilities.

You don’t want to miss this article: 5 Motivational Phrases to Start the Day

The role of a sports coach

Two people exercising.
A coach seeks to develop the capacities of individual athletes.

A coach has no training in psychology. Therefore, their way of proceeding will be quite different from that of a sports psychologist. Their course of action is different. This is what a coach does:

  • Motivation. Coaches help every player give the best of themselves and achieve better teamwork.
  • Communications. Coaches use dialogue as a vital tool. They discuss each player’s strengths and weaknesses to enhance the latter.
  • Perspectives. They try to change the perspective that an individual may have regarding their capabilities.

In short, a coach seeks to enhance every athlete’s skills, make sure they’re motivated to improve and perform their best both individually and in teams.


Although there are some similarities between a coach and sports psychologist, both perform different functions. A sports psychologist has certain tools supported by strategic analytic methodologies. However, a coach doesn’t have this specialized training, but they’re good at communicating and motivating. Thus, they’re important because they can help a team or an individual athlete reach their goals.

Both professionals are equally important, as they aim to make athletes reach their goals by giving the best of themselves. However, coaches and sports psychologists act or work from different angles.

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