In recent years, sports psychology has emerged as a specialised field that many are opting to make a career in. With increasing mental health awareness, the idea that sportspersons of all genders and backgrounds need a reliable psychological support system has solidified. Players from across the globe, from Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka to Virat Kohli and Abhinav Bindra, have also become more vocal in the last few years about the support they need and deserve. All of this has highlighted the fact that sports psychology is a field that needs more attention, especially in countries like India, where its still a budding field.If you are looking to enter this emerging field and make a career out of it, heres everything you should know.The evolution of sports psychologyTo put it simply, sports psychology is an amalgamation of psychology and sports science. Proficiency in sports psychology equips you to assist and address the optimal performance and mental health of sportspersons, as well as those who make up their support systemthis may include family, friend circles, coaches, administrators, etc. Sports psychologists also provide assistance to recreational athletes and amateurs.While many suggest that the field may be as old as sports themselvesthink the foundation of the Olympics in ancient Greeceothers suggest that as a concrete field of study, it only started emerging in the 1920s. Dr Carl Diem, the German sports administrator who first started the Olympics torch relay, established the first sports psychology lab in Robert Werner Schultes Deutsche Hochschule fur Leibesubungen (the German College of Physical Education) in Berlin.The Russians started formal sports psychology departments in the 1930s, and after the Second World War, both Russia and the USA focused on the field to be able to enhance the performance of their respective athletes. With sports psychology increasingly being used to support players through international competitions, like the Olympics, the importance of the field was soon recognised globally. In recent years, many leading European and American universities offer advanced courses on the subject, in order to train more professionals.Sports psychology in IndiaIn India, sports psychology made a rather late entry. The Faculty of Sports Science (a first of its kind in India at the time) was established at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NSNIS), Patiala, in 1983. Here, sports psychology was a part of the larger field of sports science and medicine. Over the years, quite a few other universities have come up with courses on the subject, but the growth of this field hasnt been without its obstacles. According to a 2020 study in the Indian Journal of Mental Health and a 2010 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the following are some key obstacles that hinder the development of sports psychology in India: Lack of awareness about mental health Stigma around getting help Lack of trained personnel Dearth of formalised academic courses to create a pool of professionals Exclusive focus on personality and image management of recognised athletes Following traditional methods of coaching, without integrating sports scienceWhile its true that any student hoping to enter this field will have to face and break down these barriers in India, the growing demand of sports psychologists is bringing more focus, funding, and formalisation. The development of sports psychology has also been aided by the formalisation of sports as a career in India. Its important to note that the sports industry in India today is worth around $6 billion, and its an ever-growing industry too. The more sportspersons we create, the greater the demand for trained personnel who can support them through their journeywhich is why the scope of a career in sports psychology is likely to increase in the coming years.What you need to start outIts very important to understand that sports psychology is a specialized branch of psychology, so you will need a bachelors degree (B.A. or B.Sc.) in psychology to be able to pursue a career in the field. There are quite a few universities in India that are now offering full-time courses in the subject on the masters and doctoral levels, but with courses more formalised and integrative in developed nations, you might want to look at taking it up at a university abroad to cover your bases.Here is a list of Indian universities and institutes that provide masters and doctoral degrees in sports psychology:Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, PunjabGNDU has one of the most well-established Departments of Sports Sciences and Medicine. This department offers an M.A. in sports psychology, which is a two-year-long course. Every batch has 16 seats, and given that the department also offers sports nutrition and physiology degrees, this course has more scope of being integrative and interdisciplinary.Central University of Rajasthan, Ajmer, RajasthanThis university has a Department of Sports Psychology, which offers a two-year M.A./M.Sc. programme with an intake of 15 students per batch. This programme offers students the chance to collaborate with sports academies and centres under the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) for their dissertation work. The students are also likely to get a one-year internship after their Masters degree in centres associated with SAI, MYAS, Khelo India, etc.Tamil Nadu Physical Education and Sports University, Chennai, Tamil NaduThis state university offers some of the most integrative courses on sports psychology through its Department of Sports Management and Sports Psychology Sociology. The department offers a two-year M.Sc in sports psychology and sociology, a year-long M.Phil in sports psychology and sociology, and a two- to three-year-long Ph.D in the same field.National Sports University, Koutruk, ManipurAffiliated to the Department of Sports, MYAS, NSU offers an M.A. degree in sports psychology, which is handled by the Department of Psychology. Though supported by a small faculty of four, the two-year-long postgraduate programme offers more access to national-level career avenues due to its association with the government of India. The department itself announces on its website that graduates can look forward to careers as teachers, researchers, counsellors, and therapists.Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, Gwalior, Madhya PradeshThis deemed-to-be university has a Department of Sports Psychology, which offers a two-year-long M.A. programme in sport and exercise psychology. This is a relatively new department and course started by the institute, but with 15 seats per batch available, and a NAAC accreditation of A++, the institute appears to be one of the best in India.The Sports School, Bengaluru, KarnatakaRun by JGI, The Sports School is a deemed-to-be university that offers a two-year M.Sc. course in sports psychology. While the precise student intake per batch is not known, the programme does promise participation in workshops, labs, and hands-on training and application opportunities.Institute of Sports Science and Technology, Pune, MaharashtraThe IIST is a private, autonomous, and industry-oriented institute that offers both classroom and distance learning courses. The sports psychology ones are, however, diploma courses and distance learning ones at that. The institute offers a six-month-long Distance Diploma in Sports and Exercise Psychology, and a month-long Distance Certificate in Sports Psychology and Mental Training.Its important to note that in case you want to do a PhD in sports psychology, heading to NSNIS Patialas reputed Department of Sports Psychology may be a good choice. No matter where you complete this formal training, it is best to become a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) to be able to start a practice in India and elsewhere. The AASP is an international organisation, based out of Indianapolis, USA, with members in more than 55 countries. This organisation provides the most widely accepted certification for professionals in the field of sports psychology, so becoming a member will definitely boost your career.