If coaching is to be successful, integrating the client’s personality into the process is of great importance. Counseling is more effective when it is conducted on an individualized basis, tailored specifically to the personality. Applied in the business context, it is also true for coaching in professional sports.
A young soccer player came to us with a request for a confidential conversation. Previously, we had conducted a team analysis for his professional club. The player was having a difficult time dealing with personal setbacks in the game. After making mistakes or sensing the slightest sign of criticism, he would fall into a mood of self-doubt that ultimately impaired his performance on the field. “If I get beat in the first one-on-one, and then again in another right afterward, and then make a few bad passes, the game’s over for me.” On some days, he said, he even wondered whether he was doing the right thing by playing professionally. “When the other team’s fans boo me, it feels like I’m falling into a deep hole, and I ask myself if professional soccer is really the right place for me.”
We suggested to the player, who was unquestionably an extremely talented athlete, that he work with his own resources and train himself in self-direction. We assured him that he could learn to reduce his on-field doubts. He agreed immediately.
The analysis of his motives profile confirmed that the soccer professional was highly sensitive with regard to his self-esteem His strongly expressed SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE motive had a direct impact on him exactly where it mattered most: on the field. Praise and recognition by important people, including the fans, soccer officials and supporters, gave him energy. By contrast, rejection, failures and the expectation of criticism inspired anxiety that undermined his performance on the soccer field. His strongly expressed SAFETY motive also helped increase his anxiety during the game.
Dealing with self-doubt became the primary subject of the consultation. The soccer player expressed the desire to be less vulnerable in the future. He already had a specific image in mind, which he formulated as the following attitude goal: “When I walk onto the field, I am the dark side of the Force.”
We helped him identify practical resources that would help him activate this positive attitude during the game. The Darth Vader character from Star Wars, who embodies the dark side of the Force, became his key prime. He even had a small Darth Vader symbol tattooed on his forearm; this could remind him of his goal at any time, such as when he needed a boost on the field. He also brought his parents and sister into the conversation, as they had proved to be important resources in the past. They accompanied him to his away games more often than previously and served as a point of reference in the stadiums during difficult situations.
The professional soccer player also involved his coach, with whom he had a relationship built on trust. With the coach, we agreed on appropriate communications measures and actions, mainly revolving around the SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE, SAFETY and FAMILY motives. We provided the coach with tools he could use to give the player a boost before, during and after games (e.g., eye contact and thumbs-up gestures from the edge of the field).
In our work with the player and the trainer, we were continuously able to fine-tune the intervention mechanisms. Together, we analyzed his emotional experiences in competition and practice settings. Although it took several weeks for his new attitude and the associated automatisms to take root, we were able to ensure even in the relatively early days that the young player felt himself to have an improved self-perception, and that his individual steps forward were producing a sense of self-efficacy.
Self-direction with ID37 is never aimed at changing the underlying personality. Rather, the players and trainers who employ personality diagnostics as part of a holistic coaching approach learn how to better deal with individual trainer and player motivation. They thus manage to create individualized trainings and improve individual and team performance.
Find out more how ID37 is used in the American professional basketball league NBA to identify player potential and consult coaches in our blog post “ID37 goes USA – How the personality assessment tool is utilized in the NBA” and in a podcast by “The Efficient Coach” with Rainer Meisterjahn.
Header image by Ben Weber on Unsplash