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KSU looking to hire sports psychologist

By Kelly McHugh

When Kansas State athletics director John Currie arrived in Manhattan four years ago, stepping into the world of sports psychology was just a thought.

Timing is everything, though, because while Currie was curious about psychology in athletics, Dr. Quinten Lynn had just arrived at K-State.

Back in 2008, Lynn was a post-doctoral fellow working in K-State’s counseling center. It wasn’t until a year later that he would spark an interest in sports psychology and begin working with the athletics department part-time, splitting time with the counseling center.

Then this past year, Currie decided Lynn should be hired on a full-time basis with the focus on sports psychology. It didn’t take long before everyone began seeing the advantages of having a full-time sports psychologist on staff.

“I think it is proper and progressive for athletic programs to use sports psychologists from a performance standpoint,” Currie said. “Maybe 30 or 40 years ago there was some kind of taboo about it, but I think now people embrace professional athletes who have used sports psychology to help performance.”

But Lynn did so well at K-State that other programs began to seek out his services, ultimately moving on to LSU, leaving a vacancy here K-State is now trying to fill.

“We’ve been on a search to fill that spot,” Currie said. “But there’s a difference between clinical psychology and sports psychology. Sports psychology is about performance and about mental training for performance. Clinical psychology is dealing with standard issues on any college campus.”

Jill Shields, senior associate athletics director at K-State, said finding someone to fill the position isn’t as easy as one may think.

“The person that we’re looking for in this position is one that’s actually licensed as a psychologist, but also has a background and is trained in sports psychology,” she said. “So, it’s really kind of a small pool of candidates that do this type of work. It’s a relatively new field, a new field for athletic departments.”

According to Shields, currently only three schools in the Big 12 have full-time sports psychologists on staff.

Offering assistance with team bonding and team building, coaches can use sports psychologists in many ways to enhance camaraderie within their teams.

While Shields said some coaches here were skeptical of using a sports psychologist in the beginning, the results have been positive and helpful, offering a new way to help gain an edge over K-State’s opponents.

“Over a period of time, coaches did see the positive results of a student-athlete using a sports psychologist, whether that is visual imagery with their golf swing, or getting over the high jump bar,” Shields said. “Coaches, obviously, are always looking for any advantage at this level to improve sport performance, so they absolutely utilize this person.”

K-State has conducted phone interviews and campus visits from a handful of candidates who applied for the position. Shields said the department hopes to have a full-time sports psychologist on staff by the spring semester.

“It’s an evolving field and I think administrations and coaches are looking at, ‘how do we support athletes at this level?’ and, ‘how do we help them with the adjustment to a new environment?’” Shields said. “We’re always looking for something, anything to help the student-athletes. This is a unique individual that can really wear a lot of different hats.”

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