As the sporting world today is becoming more competitive than ever, professional teams and individuals are always looking to gain that competitive advantage over their opponents and rivals. Data (or tangible evidence) is becoming increasingly popular among professional outfits and if obtained correctly, the data can suggest areas of strength and areas of improvement. With most disciplines, there are many different methods for obtaining data, e.g. in respect of physical conditioning there are sprint test times, VO2 max etc, however in relation to psychology there is not an obvious instrument which can fully detail an athlete’s or team’s mental status. This article discusses the tangible versus intangible evidence phenomena within sport psychology.
With many disciplines (e.g. physiology, strength and conditioning), in professional sports teams and athletes, tangible evidence is a means of progression. It assists coaches and trainers in devising progressive programmes that focus on specific improvements for individual athletes and teams. The data is an extremely useful asset to performance services when used to observe strengths and improvements, and where the focus of training should be. Therefore, many teams rely on numbers and data to sculpt their coaching and training programmes. In the psychology domain, numbers and data are not so easy to come by.
Attempting to portray the benefits of psychological support with the redundancy of data and numbers can be difficult. Although in today’s sporting environment many coaches and players recognise the importance of mindset and the research which has been conducted in psychological interventions and strategies for sport, there is a solid foundation on which to portray the benefits of psychological support. However, in regards to data and numbers within psychology, a potential solution is Profiling or Psychological based assessments. In today’s sporting environment Psychology is forever growing and, from my experience, many assessments used are personality based in an attempt for coaches to understand their players and mould their coaching styles for each one. The positive side of this is to ensure the coach is able to elicit the best out of their players. From a personal perspective, personality is adaptable to the change in environments. These may only be subtle adaptations although they could still make a difference to the player and how they will react to certain situations.
As mentioned, profiling and assessments do offer insight into a player’s psychological make-up. In addition, there are a number of different personality assessments and mental toughness assessments. So which one to use? Well, this depends very much on philosophy, defining measurement and what one actually wants to use the assessment for. I believe the mental toughness assessments are extremely relevant within sport (this does not mean personality is not). They offer a solid insight into an athlete’s mental capabilities, strengths and areas of improvement. Assessments also offer advice for the pathway of an intervention with a player, as it highlights specifics. Moreover, it can allow the player to delve deeper into their mindset during performance, things they do strongly and things they could potentially improve. This in turn increases focus within the athlete to continually improve their game.
Profiling can highlight tangible aspects of one’s mental performance. This will allow coaches to gain an insight into their player’s mental capabilities and therefore the benefits of having a psychologist will become more apparent. Not only can this assist with performance aspects of their sport, but also personal development as a player and person, which is essential.