Texas A&M University-Kingsville

College of Education & Human Performance Adds New Degree Plan to Kinesiology Program

KINGSVILLE - January 11, 2013

Contact: Adriana Garza-Flores
adriana.garza@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4979

Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s College of Education and Human Performance has added a new field of study in the department’s popular kinesiology program. The new undergraduate exercise science-performance psychology degree plan is one of only a handful in Texas and will offer students an opportunity to gain credit and experience that will prepare them to earn a certificate in the fast-growing field of performance psychology.

         According to the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, sport or performance psychology “focuses on research, theory and practice intended to improve performance in exercise and sport. This area is also concerned with the effects of sport psychology interventions on the well–being of participants in exercise and sport.”

         Dr. Stacey Gaines, an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology and coordinator of the exercise science-performance psychology program, oversees the new program and said performance psychology is a burgeoning field with a promising future.  

         “In the last 10 to 20 years, it has just exploded from something that was done in a lab to something that now is utilized by professional athletes on down. Most Division I athletic departments will have someone at least part-time dealing with psychological issues in training their athletes.”

         Athletes from all levels—professional, college and high school—are increasingly including elements of performance psychology as part of the training regimen, Gaines said. 

         “The negative stigma has been removed and performance psychology has become much more accepted,” she said.

         Performance psychologists generally work in at least one of three areas:

  • Applied psychology, in which psychologists work closely with athletes, teams and coaches to develop mental skills to help them on the field. They work with such concepts as imagery, relaxation, confidence and motivation, all with the aim of helping athletes to be their best when they perform. When these psychologists are trained in clinical psychology, they will also work with athletes experiencing more troubling issues such as eating disorders or substance abuse.
  • Research sports psychologists conduct research that helps to inform the practice of sports psychology. This includes conducting research and studies in the lab that help forward the practice of applied performance psychology.
  • Educational sport psychologists teach courses in the field, and may work with athletes or teams teaching them about performance enhancement through psychological skills. 

         The new program is available for students majoring in kinesiology with an emphasis on performance psychology. In additional to general education requirements, students will take courses in kinesiology and psychology. Undergraduates who earn this degree will then be prepared to attend graduate school programs in exercise science or psychology, helping them to work toward certification requirements established by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, a certification which Gaines currently holds.

         Gaines said interest in the new program is significant among current students. About 45 students have already declared performance psychology as their preferred degree plan.

         “Because this is one of two to three sports psychology undergraduate degrees in Texas, and certainly the only program in South Texas, we believe our program will be attractive to interested students,” Gaines said.

         Dr. Christopher Hearon, Department of Health & Kinesiology chair, said the addition of this program benefits the university and the South Texas community.   

         “As the flagship kinesiology department for South Texas, it is important that we be on the cutting edge with regard to our program and course offerings. The expansion of our exercise science program to include a degree option in performance psychology is very exciting, and it is fitting that the first undergraduate degree in this discipline to be offered in South Texas be offered here at A&M-Kingsville.”

         Interested students can begin taking classes as part of the new degree plan in spring 2013. For more information, contact Gaines at 361-593-3058 or stacey.gaines@tamuk.edu.

This page was last updated on: January 17, 2013