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Psychometrics and sport psychology

Increasingly sport psychologists are turning to a range of psychometric tools in order to understand clients better, to help clients to understand themselves, and to help leaders to better understand and connect with the people they are leading.

Sport psychologists appear to be utilising some of the corporate tools that are available on the market. But, particularly for self-employed sport psychologists, deciding to use these tools can represent a significant investment to get trained and to maintain continued access to materials and reports.

As a result the question arises, what is the best psychometric tool to invest in as an applied sport psychologist? Do the benefits of using such tools represent a return on the significant up-front outlay, or would the applied sport psychologist be better investing elsewhere?

There is an ever-expanding range of products out there on the market. These range from the Carl Jung-based Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTi) and Insights Profile, to the Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) that is based upon the five-factor model of personality. Other Tools include Cattell’s 16 personality Factors (16PF), California Psychological Inventory (CPI 260), Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO), and Saville Consulting Wave to name just a few.

Each of these tools has it’s own unique features. For example, MBTi categorises individuals according to one of 16 four-letter personality types, while Insights classifies individuals according to one of four colours in the profile. The British Psychological Society (BPS) also awards qualifications in occupational testing and keeps a register for approved practitioners. The Society also maintains a list of approved psychometric tools on the market in the UK.

Some sports teams and sporting organisations have taken the step of adopting one of these tools for universal application within their team/organisation For example, sport psychologists working through the English Institute of Sport specifically use the Insights profile for working with performers. The advantage for the sport psychologist in this type of environment is that training / qualification is usually provided for the practitioner as part of their employment. This though has a knock-on implication for more independent sport psychologists, by up-skilling the competition. In particular regarding whether to invest the thousands of pounds required to complete one of the relevant training programmes. There is also a further question, do you look to become qualified in more than one psychometric tool, or is a better approach to focus on one tool and seek to embed this at a deep level into your practice? I have spoken to a number of colleagues in the applied world and the general view has been that any one of these tools can be very effective if you have a deep understanding of how to apply it. The final question though relates to the dilemma that might occur if you integrate one particular tool into your practice and then take a job with a team or organisation that has a history of using a particular tool that is different to the one you have been trained in. Do you look to change your approach or use the tool you feel most comfortable with and trying to change the organisation’s approach? If the tools are based on the same theoretical base there is the possibility that you can merge the two tools, but if they are significantly different then what do you do?

Psychometric tests can be a very effective tool in the sport psychologists kit, but this very much depends upon the individual practitioner, their approach and importantly the clients they are working with. So if you are thinking of investing in training to use specific psychometric tools think hard about how and where you are going to use the tools before parting with your hard earned cash. On the plus side though, education and training is tax deductible!

It would be great to hear about anyone’s experiences with psychometric tools and views regarding which tools might be most useful.

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