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WE HAVE A NEUROTIC IN THE BACKFIELD, DOCTOR
Joe Jares
January 18, 1971
Professor Bruce Ogilvie (left) and his partner Thomas Tutko show teams how to avoid mental blocks by tackling psychological hang-ups
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January 18, 1971

We Have A Neurotic In The Backfield, Doctor

Professor Bruce Ogilvie (left) and his partner Thomas Tutko show teams how to avoid mental blocks by tackling psychological hang-ups

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In a similar instance, the players waited until their coach wasn't home and asked his wife if he was sick.

"You can't shift from a punitive coach to a loving, concerned sort of coach in one day," says Ogilvie. "Your team will become paranoid waiting for the hatchet to fall."

The professors have become a trifle paranoid themselves over the reception they get from some coaches. At presentations they have had coaches literally turn their backs on them. Ogilvie almost got into a fistfight with a heckler at one clinic. At another a coach heard them talk about their test and how it can quickly determine personality traits. The man got depressed and muttered to the fellow next to him, "Damn, these guys are going to take all the fun out of it!"

"Traditionally, you're going to find in the coaching profession men who are socially and politically conservative," says Ogilvie. "Research by a sports sociologist at Wisconsin showed men and women who go into phys ed and coaching have conservative personality structures. They are more interested in power and manipulation and less interested in humanistic approaches. They prefer control, organization, unquestioned commitment to their philosophy and so on."

"If we had a nickel for every time we were laughed at, we could retire now," says Tutko. "I mean guys snickering and laughing in the audience. For example, in handling one NFL player we talked to the coaches about taking the guy aside, being friendly with him. They laughed out loud at us! He went to another club and was one of the best in the league."

Athletes can be derisive and suspicious, too. Tutko was once lured into an impromptu session among the black players on a team. They wanted to know how their answers to the questionnaire were going to be used, with the implied question, "Are you going to hurt us?" Tutko convinced them he wasn't.

One of The Shrinks' fondest dreams is to be psychology consultants to a U.S. Olympic team. But on the few occasions they have found some official to listen to them, they have been made fun of or told there is no money. They offer to pay their own way, and still they get turned down. "It's like fighting with a 700-ton marshmallow," says Tutko.

Before the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, they tried to get permission to test America's track and field athletes. Head Track Coach Bob Giegengack said no. But Swimming Coaches James Counsilman and George Haines gave them a try. Haines was mildly skeptical because four years earlier, before the Rome Olympics, a doctor who gave combined psychological and medical tests said Chris von Saltza should swim only in the sprints. She won three gold medals, each at 400 meters.

The swimmers had to give up their naps to take the tests, and some of them were grouchy about it. Ogilvie and Tutko administered the tests, flew back to San Jose, worked long hours scoring and writing advisories, and then hurried back to the training site. Among the handling suggestions, two cases were especially enlightening to the coaches.

"One swimmer on Doc Counsilman's own team was better suited to train under me," said Haines, "and another swimmer from another school was better suited to train under him. We exchanged these two and made everybody happier."

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