The issues that I will be addressing in this case study include whether or not to use personality traits in sports, whether or not psychological skill are important factors in sports and one’s ability to excel in sports and if self-reports are more useful or more harmful to a player’s psyche.
The first question mentioned in this case study is whether a basketball coach should use a Basketball Personality Scale (BPS) that accesses characteristics matching successful professional athletes. My advice for any basketball coach would be to have each player take the BPS, but not use it as the only deciding factor on whether or not a player is psychologically ready to play or what role they should play with the team. By using the BPS or similar tests, coaches can get a better understanding of their different player’s personality’s, thus allowing them to better understand a player’s psychological skills. In terms of psychological skills having an impact on how players react in sport situations or whether or not they are relevant to sports at all, I consider them very important. In my personal experience I found that concentration, confidence and motivation are the most meaningful. In fact I believe that they are all interwoven in some way. If an athlete has complete concentration on the task at hand, their confidence in themselves and in their skills should rise drastically. With that said, an athlete with uninterrupted confidence in themselves should have an increased “drive” or motivation to win or excel in what they’re doing. But there are outside factors that affect personality and those should be factored in as well. McAdams and Pals believe that biological and social perspectives/factors affect personality and I tend to agree with that. They say “Personality is conceived as an individual’s unique variation on the general evolutionary design for human nature, expressed as a developing pattern of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptation and self-defining life narratives, complexly and differentially situated in culture and social context. (McAdams, 2006, p.204) Personality has very much to do with our biological make-up, but it would an injustice if we didn’t factor in life experiences and how they helped shape our personality. I personally have been through situations that have changed my outlook on things and my personality directly. Whether positive or negative, life narratives have a lasting effect of our personality and who we are as people.
With that said, as a coach you should understand there is nothing or no one that is perfect or without imperfections/weaknesses. Therefore in the sports world we should focus on our player’s strengths, not their weaknesses. If a player has strong communication and leadership skills, you should embrace that and insert them into vocal leadership roles. Likewise with psychological skills, if a player has a strong emphasis on team, you should focus on team oriented and team building drills. This re-enforces their belief in the idea of a team.
In terms of self-report surveys such as the ACSI-28 and TOPS being more useful or more harmful in sports, I would say it depends on the situation. I don’t think you can argue that there isn’t something to self-report’s, but does that mean it should always be used? I say no, I wouldn’t use these assessments unless used as a last resort. Assessments like these can cause a lot of problems for teams and players. If a player takes this assessment and doesn’t agree with what it says about them, they could become very upset and may negatively affect their play. For another point, players may look too much into these findings and attempt to following along with the findings at the risk of identity loss or identity confusion. Test’s like these have a place in sports, but only if nothing else has helped and this is a last resort.
In conclusion I believe that using psychology to determine player personality traits can be beneficial if used in the right way and at the right time. It shouldn’t be used to determine whether a player has the right traits to play a certain role on a team, but instead used to gain a better understanding of who a player really is and to help predict how a player might react to certain types of criticism or praise.
Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
McAdams, D.P., & Pals, J.L. (2006). A new big five :Fundamental principles for an
integrative science of personality. American Psychologist, 204-217.