About six weeks ago I had to research sports psychology for a teachers’ recertification class. I came upon an article from 2006 about Alex Rodriguez using generic “baseball-speak” in talking about his play. You know what I’m talking about – all those seeming clichés.
- “I’m taking it one pitch at a time.”
- “It’s a long season. Everybody goes through rough stretches.”
- “I’m just trying to stay on an even keel. Not too high, not too low.”
- “Baseball is a game of failure – if a hitter succeeds 30 percent of the time, he’s a superstar.”
The A-Rod article didn’t say that sports psych’ didn’t work. It did say, however, that it was hard to quantify its success. In some cases, it seemed the psychologist didn’t want to accept a player’s failure. In others, the talent level of the player was so great that it wouldn’t take much to get the guy on the right track. You can read it for yourself.
A second article I found was on the Babe Ruth, and his trip to the psych lab at Columbia University in 1921. Basically, The Babe would be run through a battery of tests to see why he was so much better than his peers – and couldn’t clubs use these assessments to help in the turbulent, unpredictable of scouting? Tests run on The Babe ran from vision to muscles, from ears to his brain. The Babe seemed to enjoy the process, and was above average in all areas. As a result, it was hypothesized that George Herman Ruth could have been great at anything he chose to do.
The two articles were separated by roughly 85 years and pointed to the fact that the better the talent of the player, the better the results he would have — whether he utilized a sports psychologist or not. This isn’t to bash the business of sports psychology. The A-Rod article pointed out that without hard evidence, it’s hard to say how much psychology does to improve the players success.