Nutrition for the body and physical training are no longer the only focus of sporting team enhancement programs. Light has been shone upon the benefits of emotional intelligence for teams as well. In 2012 with Basketball coach Dave Claxton, and now joined in 2013 by Rugby coach Mike Wallace, we began experimenting with the studies conducted by Carl Jung in 1900. In particular, the theory of psychological types using psychometric measurement through Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The question was; could information about the personalities that make up a sporting team, help the team through issues such as; team dynamic, decision making and dealing with stress?

Up to this point, MBTI which began in the 1962, had been used by most major Australian companies, most US Fortune 100 companies, more than two million people world-wide each year in 70 different countries. In profiling terms, it is valid and reliable.

At The Southport School, we have been profiling the entire grade 10 cohorts since 2012, as well as working with teams, coaches and managers. Not much research exists on MBTI’s use in the classroom or on the sporting field so this idea has evolved through a quest for understanding of how this knowledge could help towards the ultimate goal of a higher level of emotional intelligence.

The simplest and most instantly effective introduction after profiling the team, is to show them the coach’s profile. It is fascinating to watch the light go on around the room. It is a really positive experience and strangely intimate. Members of sporting teams are usually there because they really want to be. They have probably worked very hard to make the team, so they are always very curious about their coaches; how they think, why they do what they do, and how to make them happy. By the end of a team session there is always a high level of curiosity about how much more they can find out about each other, and themselves.

This requires trust between all members of the team. However the most liberating aspect of the MBTI, it that it only measures an individual’s inborn preferences. Add to this the many overlays of influences upon an individual’s actual self (intelligence, culture, upbringing, traits etc) and it is very clear that the sixteen ‘types’ as described by Myers-Briggs are in no way ultimately who someone is.

After having worked closely with the coaches and managers of basketball and rugby, the trust has paid off in a very positive way. Working with the needs of the coaches and the knowledge that has evolved from trying to fill these needs, we have created some interesting ways to increase team emotional intelligence which directly positively impacts team dynamic, decision making and dealing with stress.  And the results are throwing back unlimited potential for more. It has proven to be an exciting doorway to much greater emotional intelligence within all areas of the teams.

In a survey of sports coaches at the Evolution of the Athlete Conference at the University of Queensland (October 2008), the top three challenges for coaches were identified.

  1. 50% rated “Understanding individual athlete’s personality and how to best motivate them”
  2. 46% rated “Personal life balance – managing sport, career, home and social etc”
  3. 31% rated “Team/squad dynamics and managing relationships within the team/squad”

All three challenges; understanding, balancing and managing, could be more smoothly handled with the emotional intelligence that comes with looking at team profiling. The team members simply have more information on which to assess each situation with reference to each individual and the whole team. The information is not static or limiting, in fact the opposite affect has occurred for the teams. When a team member wants to understand their coach and cares about the emotional health of their team, and they usually really do, they will look for ways to maintain harmony.

So now when the rugby coach at school is singing at what might seem an inappropriate time, his team knows he is stressed. And he knows they know. Imagine the potency of that information.

Written and researched by Susan Presto, Senior School Teacher


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