The professors' psychological scalpel is their test, officially named the Athletic Motivational Inventory but referred to by them as "the instrument." It contains 190 multiple-choice questions designed to measure the subject in 11 personality traits: drive, self-confidence, aggressiveness, coachability, determination, emotionality (handling feelings), conscience development, trust, responsibility, leadership and mental toughness. The instrument is in a constant state of flux, Tutko and Ogilvie constantly replacing and rewording questions like the one that goes, "People could say of me that I would beat my mother to win. (A) agree (B) in between (C) disagree." They can get almost as excited about statistics as they can about their beloved 49ers. (They had to get season tickets several rows apart in Kezar Stadium because in their rooters' zeal they had been pounding each other into putty.)
"We are sometimes shocked by items," said Tutko. "When we dream one up, we think, 'Oh, that's a terrific item. That's beautiful!' But it sometimes turns out to be a dud. Everybody answers it the same way or it loads on the wrong trait. For instance, 'I work hard at everything I do' is supposed to measure drive or ambition. Actually, it turns out to be a conscience question. 'I never back down in a face-to-face confrontation.' Supposed to determine aggression but turns out to be a key to coachability."
Questions that have stood the test of time and analysis include these (with The Shrinks' comments appended):
"If a fight broke out in a game, I would be inclined to want to participate. (A) true (B) in between (C) false." ("Individuals who are inclined to strongly affirm this attitude...tend to be self-assertive, direct and are not particularly guilty about instinctual aggression when they feel it is necessary.")
"When my team fails to live up to its pregame potential I feel depressed. (A) true (B) in between (C) false." ("Questions in this area of attitudes tend to predict ambition or drive to succeed in athletics. Individuals who measure high on the dimension set high goals for themselves and their teammates.")
To detect the jokers who don't bother to read the questions, there are some dummy items sprinkled in, e.g., "Professional athletes get paid for playing. (A) true (B) uncertain (C) false."
Theoretically, at least, the Tutko-Ogilvie instrument is subject to tinkering. A junior high school girl with the right insights might be able to exaggerate or fib her way through and come out looking like Dick Butkus. And certainly the temptation to cheat would be strong for a rookie tackle trying to avoid being cut. But Tutko and Ogilvie feel they have some built-in statistical guards, and they warn the coaches and athletes that bad information will hurt no one but the team.
Either the professors or the coaches can administer the test, which takes about an hour. Occasionally, as with the Detroit Lions, the professors know the athlete only by code number and psyche. The answer sheets are scored at San Jose State, and Tutko, Ogilvie or their chief assistant, Leland Lyon, writes a short advisory for the coach, who then may keep the results to himself or, the recommended way, talk them over with his men. The fee, now being revised, has been as low as $1.50 per athlete at the high school level.
The $1.50 was definitely worth it in the case of a pitcher at Buena High in Sierra Vista, Ariz. One season he was mediocre, barely good enough to get by. The test results showed he should be handled gently, so Coach Jerry Coppola eased up on the pressure, patted him on the head a few times and the kid ended up with a 10-2 record the next year.
"I remember my first practical application of their tests," says Stan Morrison, now an assistant basketball coach at USC. "I had a kid who was difficult. They suggested I ignore him, never tell him anything he did wrong, anything he did right. Just ignore him. I did that and finally one day he came to me and said, 'Coach, could you help me on a couple of moves?' Now he was ready for coaching. The wall was down."