Saracens' rugby player Jackson Wray has helped Thomas International to adapt psychometric assessment reports for a sports audience and has also used the tools to improve his own performance.
Coaches often rely on gut instinct when picking the formation of a winning team, but some clubs are looking at a more scientific way of approaching the problem.
Wray has played for Saracens since 2006. He turned to psychometrics in 2013 after a psychologist at Saracens introduced him to the MD of Thomas International Sport.
At that time Thomas was in the process of developing its specialist PPA tool for sportsmen and women. PPAs are eight minute questionnaires designed to help people find out how they are likely to interact with colleagues. Wray met with Thomas Sport to discuss how together, they could develop a sports-specific tool using its existing framework. For Wray, who holds a psychology degree, it was right up his street.
"I had just finished a psychology degree and was looking to further my off-field development. I was offered the chance to do some work-based placements at Thomas – every month or six weeks I went into the London office or my office and helped where I could with the PPA rewrites."
Once Wray was on board, it was only a matter of time before the whole team got involved. Around 50 players have now completed a PPA and TEIQue as directed by personal development coach, Dave Jones. A few of the coaches at the club have been trained by Thomas to give feedback to the players.
Anything that enables you to understand yourself better, your coach better, or for a coach to understand a player better is a must do task for me.
Wray's work placement will also prepare him for the world outside sport – though that is a long way off yet.
"I've been with [Thomas] for about a year and a half now and it's been a gradual process where I'm learning and then trying to implement it where I can, and keep developing the relationship between us."
On a personal level, he's been able to hone his communication skills, something that helps at home as well as on the pitch. "My profile says I'm not too good at seeing when someone is feeling a certain way so I've tried to be more aware of that. How you interact with your coaches is crucial in sport. That was a good [thing to learn], how to deal with information coming in and how to react to it."
For Wray, who was picked to join the England training squad in summer 2014, the proof is in the pudding. "It's a no-brainer," he says, "the use of psychometrics in sport will only rise."
"It's the perfect tool for athletes and coaches in any sport to get a better understanding of each other, so their relationship grows stronger and as a result their performance improves. Sometimes there are problems [in teams] that aren't highlighted quickly enough, certain areas where things aren't working and people aren't sure why. Interactions between players and coaches can be improved with these tools and the fact they're specifically designed is even better."