Joe Lavin

July 12, 2005

The Brain Behind the Athlete

This didn't exactly come as a shock to me, but apparently I am the exact opposite of a star quarterback. At least, that's what I learned at, a site created by sports scientist Jon Niednagel to help people understand how personality types affect an athlete's performance.

It's all based on those silly Myers-Briggs personality tests that are so popular. Now, it's one thing when a bank use these tests to hire employees, but it's quite another when Myers-Briggs tests are used to build something important like a football team.

According to Niednagel, the best type of quarterback is an ESTP (an Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiver), although it also helps if he can throw a spiral. John Elway, Dan Marino, and Brett Favre are all ESTPs. Unfortunately, I'm not. I'm an INFJ -- the I standing for Introverted, the N for Intuitive, the F for Feeling, and the J for Jerk who actually listens to this stuff. Actually, the J stands for Judging, which as you can see is an accurate description of me. The judge in me would like to claim that all this is completely ridiculous. Then again, the site does describe my type as the "wordsmith," so there could be something to it.

After some quick research, Iíve discovered that other INFJs include Jimmy Carter, Shirley MacClain, and Mother Teresa, which actually makes a lot of sense. Despite her many good qualities, I suspect that Mother Teresa would have really sucked as an NFL quarterback.

"Ooooh, and Mother Teresa gets sacked for the sixteenth time. Wow, thatís really got to hurt. Sheíll sure be feeling that tomorrow."

The general consensus is that introverts like me donít do all that well in sports. On some level, this makes perfect sense. After all, I certainly donít want to be the one taking the final shot, but there are exceptions. For example, Yankee pitcher Randy Johnson is an INTP, a personality type that supposedly wilts under pressure. After almost twenty years in the Majors, he doesn't seem to have wilted yet, but a Red Sox fan can always hope that this will be the year.

If that's not bad enough, introverts are also more likely to be injured. At least, that's what a recent UCLA study claimed; shy people are more likely to get sick. If you're shy, you might remember the screaming "Shyness can be deadly" headlines in most newspapers a while back. I'm not sure if this extends to sports, though I think it's safe to say that I would be spending most of my time on the injured reserve anyway. Instead of the ideal quarterback, I am most likely the ideal backup quarterback -- you know, the guy who stands on the sidelines with a clipboard all season. Now, that's a job I could do.

There are many other reasons to be worried about this research. I just hope that baseball managers don't find out about it, because then the games will never end. All the lefty-righty stuff is bad enough. Can you imagine how they would use this information?

"It looks like Francona is going to the bullpen for an Introverted Perceiver, as Jeter is only hitting .186 against them. We'll be back right after this call to the bullpen."

And you have to wonder how this will affect the drafting of players. Niednagel has had some accurate and not so accurate predictions. He correctly predicted that former Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf would be a bust. Of course, he said the same about Yao Ming. You might have heard of him, so the system isnít foolproof.

Danny Ainge, Director of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, is a big believer in Niednagel's work, especially during the draft. I hope he's not too big a believer though. When it comes to choosing between an Extroverted Perceiver and a really tall guy, I'll go with the really tall guy every time.

©2005 Joe Lavin

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