Life On The Job: Sports Psychologist

Philip Lew, a sports psychologist tells gradmalaysia.com readers what it's like to be in his shoes!
Philip Lew
Philip Lew
Head of the Sports Psychology Centre at Institut Sukan Negara Malaysia
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My role

My daily work depends on the coaches and the athletes, whether they require me to be with the team or not. On the busiest days you will see me waking up around 5am so that I can get to the training grounds at 6am. This is when the athletes train for about 2 hours.

After the training sessions end around 8am, I usually have some debriefing with the athletes, and I might have a discussion with the coach for an hour and a half until around 9am to 10am. After that I head back to the office to do some research and paperwork, and maybe get some of the reports done. Around 4pm I’ll head back to the field with the athletes who will be in their training session until around 6pm to 7pm. This is how a typical day looks like being in my shoes.

Essential skills

Do you like to communicate with other people?
Do you want to sharpen your counselling and leadership skills?
Do you have the patience to talk people through their issues?
Do you have the ability to perceive the changes in emotions in people?
Do you like sports?
Do you like to travel? 

If you answered ‘yes’ to the questions above, then being a sports psychologist may be a good career path for you!

Specialisations

Studying sports psychology (or psychology in general) doesn’t mean you will be limited to being a psychologist. Many of my colleagues are working in HR, while some of them are working in recruitment too. Some of my friends have become policemen, doing something that is completely different! I think a psychology degree provides you with a lot of skill sets. How you want to use your skill sets is entirely up to you.

One thing to think about is that there is still a stigma about psychology in Malaysia. The questions ‘What do psychologists do?’ and ‘Where do I get a job?’ are not answered. At the moment, there isn’t an act that helps to regulate and propagate the psychology industry, unlike counselling which has the Counsellors Act 1998. This act helps people undergo the proper procedures before they can be qualified counsellors, but there is no such system like that for psychology in Malaysia.

Some advice

I have a motto that I use a lot: ‘Every effort is a step closer to success’.

The effort part of it is for aspiring youngsters who want to step into our shoes, or into the sports world. You need to do what the national athletes do – train every day! Sometimes it’s about getting qualifications or getting more skillsets into your toolbox, that is very important.

Another thing is to never be complacent, always keep trying. I would say that opportunities are everywhere; it’s all about you taking the initiative to look for it and to try to do it. Sometimes we think that things might not work, and that might deter us from trying.