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Life Coach vs. Sports Psychologist

Mark Seliger of Jeff Levin at Holy Cross

How is a Life Coach Different from a Sports Psychologist?

Working with athletes is a regular part of my practice, so one question I get all of the time is “how are you different from a sports psychologist?”

Like a sports psychologist, I deal with the mental side of the game, but our approaches are quite different. Say a player is missing shots. A sports psychologist talks with the athlete about the problem or challenge the athlete faces on the field and then provides ideas and interventions on how to manage that problem. The operative word is “how” because that’s what sports psychologists focus on: how can you focus better so you stop missing shots?

I, on the other hand, am more focused on the “why.” Why is that player missing shots? Are they nervous? Worried they’re going to miss? Thinking about what their teammates, or the refs, or the opponents are doing? Or is their grandmother dying of cancer?

Although discussion centers, naturally, around the game, the athlete’s approach and experiences in the game and so on, I’m always listening for and learning about the tapestry of the person’s whole life and experience. It’s clearly not just about performance on the field; for me, that performance has to be seen in the larger context of the athlete’s entire emotional life. Read more