The value of personality testing with your team

As I mentioned in a coaching log post, the MSU team once did a session with a sports psychology specialist. He took them through a basic DISC personality type analysis (Myers-Briggs is another common one). This was part of a semester-long process of working with the team to improve team chemistry and cohesion.

As is often the case, the findings of the tests were interesting. The guy leading the session did a good job of providing information about what the different personality types represented. He also talked about their meaning in terms of developing good lines of communication across groups.

Obviously, this sort of testing isn’t meant to provide a deep analysis of each player (and coach, in this case). And just thinking in terms of individuals by their primary group would be a mistake. There’s a lot of overlap and nuance. Still, to my mind it’s a worthwhile exercise. I helps in figuring out the best ways to reach a player and for players to communicate with each other.

Once isn’t enough

That said, just doing the test once and thinking that’s all you need to do is not sufficient if you really want to follow this path.

Obviously, if you’re in a situation where you’re basically starting a new team each season, then you’d have to do a new analysis every time. If you coach a school or professional team then you need to account for the fact that you have players (and coaches) regularly flowing in and out of the team. That means new testing requirements and constantly changing team composition.

On top of that, just doing the test and having a talk about it one time is almost assuredly not enough for the lessons to stick. They need to be reinforced on a regular basis over time, in some fashion or another. That might be something the coaching staff can handle, or it might require having an outside expert making regular appearances.

Cost – Benefit

And of course there is usually some kind of cost involved.

At a minimum, there is a time requirement. This is something you have to consider. That’s especially true where you have something like NCAA weekly hour limitations to think about.

If you bring in someone from outside, there’s probably a financial cost involved. That means making a decision on the prospective gains from the personality testing, or any other type of psychology work. Is it worth the investment? For some the answer will be, “Yes.” For others, either because of other priorities or because of limit funds, it’s a different story.

I think it is very worth us coaches understanding these sports psychology principles. We may not use them explicitly at any given point in time. It’s always good, though, to know what tools are available to us to accomplish what needs doing when the priorities line up and the resources are available.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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