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ASSESSING MENTAL TOUGHNESS: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDRÉ LACHANCE, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS AND HEAD COACH AT BASEBALL CANADA
André Lachance

Sport has always been recognized as an activity requiring physical effort in order to excel and achieve specific goals such as medals, trophies or a healthy lifestyle. Similar to the job market, competitive sports require the assessment of individuals in order to predict performance. In the case of athletes, great importance is placed on the assessment of physical aspects like: mobility/flexibility, speed and strength. Undoubtedly, an athlete’s physical characteristics are essential to their evaluation and development in their sport. However, personal traits and characteristics of athletes are becoming more recognized as key indicators of athlete evaluation and development. Several studies have shown that personality is one important element that can differentiate the good and the elite athlete. In order to learn more about the benefits of current practices in psychometric sports assessment to provide to our readers, we had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Andre Lachance, Director of Operations and Head Coach of the Women’s National Team. Mr. Lachance is also a Professor at the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. He was kind enough to share with his experiences and insight with respect to the assessment of elite athletes.

How do you assess an athlete’s physical and psychological capability?

Each time we meet with the athletes, there is a “protocol” of tests that measure the important physical qualities of our sport. In baseball, we look at speed, arm strength (the throw), and all other components that are important for us. We watch the progress of our athletes’ physical capabilities, particularly if they have completed a training program during the off-season. This training allows us to identify which athletes do their training on a regular basis in order to determine who has the determination to excel in the current season.

On the psychological side, we use the General Profiler for Sports (GSP), which gives us a good overview of our athletes’ personal characteristics and motivations, as well as potential problems that we might encounter with certain athletes throughout development. Based on the information we may decide to work more with certain athletes and a little less with others. The method that we use is based on a discussion between the personal trainers to determine the best course of action. Then, we proceed to a discussion with the athlete. We use the profile from the GPS report for our discussions. Afterwards, we ask the athlete to choose three (3) aspects of the report that they identify with, and three (3) aspects with which they do not identify. The aspects the athlete does not identify with are often things that they are not aware of or they may not agree with the result. This method is interesting as it raises some good discussions during individual meetings. It is amazing to see how the athletes perceive themselves in relation to the perception of the coaches.

Again on the psychological side of things, we use a guide (journal) that we ask the athletes to write in daily. This is in order for them to reflect on what has happened and what they can improve on. The athletes can register their level of satisfaction on a scale of 10 with respect to their performance n order to auto-evaluate themselves in relation to what has happened during the day. Depending on the position, it is important to include certain extra information, for example; for a Batter, it is important to have a routine during their at bat. If the trainer does not recognize the Batter’s routine, it is more difficult to intervene and remind the athlete of what they did to concentrate.
Based on your experience, can the evaluations you use accurately predict the future performance of your athletes?

Predicting physical ability can prove to be quite a challenge as a number of factors are likely to influence an athlete’s performance. However, what we do know is that when an athlete is willing to work hard and is determined, we are able to attain an interestingly high level of performance, regardless of their aptitudes, physical ability, and respective sport. Nonetheless, one must also consider genetic predisposition which is likely to influence an athlete’s performance in certain sports. For example, it can be difficult to predict the future performance of athletes in sports entailing speed given that this is subject to a number of genetic considerations.

As for the psychological aspect, we can identify the basic traits that an athlete must possess to be successful. We can also identify which traits predict if an athlete will have difficulty performing in psychologically stressful situations. With the information drawn from the GPS, we are able to guide our coaching and based on the targeted personality traits, we are able to tailor our training and interventions to help improve performance. When we don’t have this information, it is difficult to intervene adequately, however; using information from a psychometric assessment we can have a positive impact on the athlete.
What are the personality traits that are most useful to know for the job of a coach?

Important personality traits may vary from one sport to another, but in my case, it is a “frustrating” sport, which means that we fail more often than we succeed. The qualities of being able to manage ones emotions, to be able to put failure behind one’s self, and look forward are important elements. An athlete that is incapable of doing this will not have fun nor will they succeed since 70% of the time the athlete will fail in our sport, especially during their at-bats. If the athlete is easily frustrated and is incapable of balancing emotions they will not be successful in baseball. In the event that we realize an athlete needs to improve this personal characteristic, we recognize that it may be difficult. However, for those athletes who have superior physical ability and who are strong performers already; we can allow ourselves to work more on their psychological training all throughout the year. The ability to managing one’s distractions is also important; to concentrate one’s self on the good stimuli. In this sport, most psychological traits are important, but especially the management of failure, due to the nature of Baseball.
isabelle girouxDo you have any recommendations for coaches who want to invest in psychological training for their athletes?

My recommendation would be to make the necessary efforts to work with personal characteristics as much during practices as during games. I like asking my coaches “what is the role of the mind in their sport?” They always respond between 20% and 40% but when you ask if that percentage is reflected during their training and games they reply “no”. They recognize that it is important, yet they barely work on this aspect. Thus, it is important to make the link with the sport and see how we can integrate learning of these psychological qualities during training sessions and during games so athletes know how to integrate it and therefore have the expected success. What is difficult for today’s coach is firstly the lack of tools and secondly, the lack of human and financial resources to hire a psychologist. We must go above and beyond what is apparent, and see what is happening in other teams. We must brainstorm a little and find the little tricks to see what we can do to improve our approach towards the athletes on the psychological aspect of things.


Isabelle Giroux
Assessment and Evaluation Consultant