In order to make a really good decision about a prospective player, we need to understand the differences between their current mental environment and the one we are in. We need to define the “original personality” of the player and examine the extent to which he will be mentally forced to “role play” and what specific performance setbacks this may cause. Once this is understood, a clear “yes/no” answer will be given to the question of signing the player, and if a decision is made to sign him, then specific guidance will be given on how to structure the integration process to get maximum performance from him on the pitch.
The real me, “original personality”
During a traditional player scouting process, the athlete is seen in a specific mental environment, one that the player is likely very accustomed to, to which he has already adapted, in professional terms, his “modified personality” to external expectations. His apparent performance can then be tested against this assumed personality. A new environment requires new personality modifications from the player, which may make his performance better or worse. But one thing is certain: the more personality changes he has to undergo in order to adapt to a new team and environment, the less he can be himself. And in a high-stakes situation, when a player is going through an individual crisis, the personality traits he has picked up will not work and he will be able to see his true self on the pitch. The greater the discrepancy between the real self and the personality that is assumed in everyday life, the more likely it is that our chosen player will fail and can be described as another “calculated loss”. Which is a shame, because if we had understood the player’s true self, we could have done more to help him succeed. One is certainly if we see that we simply don’t fit the mental picture of our prospect. And although it would be perfect systemically and tactically, we have to learn to look beyond that, because like it or not, the final performance is shaped by the psyche. In a crisis, at the right level, it doesn’t matter what new tactics the best coach comes up with, if mentally the team, the player, can’t absorb them. It is a big challenge for coaches and sport directors to get to a level where they see the whole mental preparation of the athletes, without overestimating their physical abilities and preparation, as at least an equal responsibility for their ultimate success. This shift is perhaps most difficult in the field of team sports. Even though one hears more and more from head coaches everywhere about the importance of mental background, even so, in a significant part of their decisions, its definition and measurement is almost completely overshadowed. And even anointed, highly educated psychologists are not able to clearly define a person’s “original personality” and “real personality” because they simply do not have the right amount of experience. In addition, what kind of decision-making is expected from a given person in a “state of calm” and during an “individual crisis” can only be deciphered with a serious system’s support. And psychologists are not in an easy position either, since they do not have many tools at their disposal. So, in most cases there are two ways: one is the way of the vociferous, who claim things with great vigour and volume, and the other is the way of those who admit that they cannot meet this challenge alone. Unfortunately, in many cases, the loud ones are the ones you meet in the market and well, in most cases, they destroy the confidence in the mental measurements in the eyes of the professionals, because if the decision mechanisms they predicted do not happen, the coach and the player are disappointed, so there is really a psychological issue. But more and more we are seeing the other way round, where the mental health professional does not really want to impose phrases or “well-rehearsed techniques” on all athletes, but uses a personality definition system and tailors the mental training on that basis.
There is also a serious debate among psychologists about whether a change in a person’s personality is an evolution or simply a change that, while it may adapt to the current environment, making life easier and more successful in the short term, means that in the longer term it means being stuck in an inappropriate role. If we are ordinary people, we can decide the direction and mechanism of this. If we are talking about a professional athlete, however, there is no choice, because if the individual is in a crisis situation, it is his “original personality” that makes the decisions, and all the personality traits that have been taken on are shattered and disappear in an instant. It can also be said that the more personality traits a player is forced to put on himself in order to adapt to a new environment, i.e., the less he can be himself, the more shocked he will be in a crisis situation, when he will “freeze” on the field and his performance will be unvaluable. And let’s not think, as coaches, scouts, and contract preparation specialists, that this is the fault of the player! We were up to our necks in this failure, and we could have prevented it with a proper investigation, and it is not fair for the player to take the blame alone!