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Ex-Guard's Social Relations Thesis May Be Help to Football Coaches

New Theory Analyzes Aggressiveness

By John R. W. smail

A brand new approach to football coaching is waiting around for some bright coach to pick up from the back files of theses presented to the Social Relations Department.

Rocky Stone guard on three Crimson squads, won a summa last spring for his thesis on aggression in football. He thinks, and at least three eastern coaches agree with him, that his theories could eventually be very useful in coaching. The Navy also agrees; it has been paying all the expenses of testing, both for Stone's initial work last fall, and for a check experiment now being run at another Ivy League college by Stone's broth C. Elliott. It hopes to use the data obtained in formulating a test to determine how men will react under pressure of battle.

There were two parts to the test. The first, and most important from a psychological point of view, was designed to check the validity of the "frustration-aggression" theory, well-known to all Sec. Rel. 1 men.

Briefly, the "frustration-aggression" theory holds that a tendency to aggressive action builds up inside us as a result of frustrations, and that, as a corollary, we can work off these feelings of frustration by actually committing aggressive acts. In fact, we purge ourselves of aggressive feelings by being aggressive.

Used Thematic Apperception Tests

If this theory were true, Stone reasoned, football players after a really bloody and satisfying scrimmage would be far less aggressive-minded than before a practice, or after the season was over when they could no longer aggress freely. To test this hypothesis he used Thematic Apperception Tests (known affectionately as TATs) to find out their aggressiveness.

In a TAT, the subject is shown a picture and asked to describe the situation. What he sees in these somewhat ambiguous pictures is a very good indication of how he is feeling. (For instance, if he tells the story of a murder when shown a picture of a child sitting quietly by the fireside one can assume that he is fairly seething with aggressive ideas.)

The TATs were given to the members of the football team once before a practice, once after, and once some weeks after the end of the season. The same TATs were also given three times to a control group of ordinary students who did not have the opportunity of the football field to express aggression.

Seck Amount of "Covert Aggression"

The object of these tests, then, was to ascertain the amount of "covert aggression" (expressed in words and thoughts, but not in action) revealed by the two groups. The hypothesis was that before practice and after the season was over the football players would show roughly the same amount of aggressiveness in the TAT as the controls, but that after practice they would show much less because they had supposedly worked it off.

The results were entirely different.

During the season, the players and controls showed just about the same amount of aggressiveness. After the season, the football players fell abruptly, in spite of the fact that they now no longer had the opportunity to aggress easily.

Explains Now Thesis

In explaining this flouting of the "frustration-aggression" theory, Stone broke new ground. He listed three factors which induce aggression: 1, frustration; 2, worry about what other people will think about one's contemplated aggression; and 3, fear of retaliation, which produces a sort of defensive aggressiveness.

The original frustrations were presumably equal in football players and laymen, and could therefore be cancelled out. But the other two factors were obviously affected by whether you played football or not.

In season, the players had very little worry about 2 (what other people thought about them). They knew that aggressiveness was expected of football players. But the controls had this worry all the time; the average man is not encouraged to be actively aggressive. Therefore, in this department the laymen probably showed a greater covert aggressiveness.

But on the other hand, the players were steamed up by the prospect of the retaliation they would meet on the football field, while the laymen, though partly affected by this defensive fear, were not so likely to be involved in physical contact.

Hence, the two factors balanced each other out and left players and laymen even on TAT ratings.

But as soon as the season ended the situation became different. The players now had roughly the same worry about what people would think about them as the laymen, since they were no longer encouraged by public opinion to be aggressive. But now their fear of retaliation falls off sharply: they are big men, trained in hand-to-hand conflict, and have little to fear. The controls still have the same fear as before.

Therefore, the players have a far lower score of covert aggressiveness. And the theory-widely accepted in psychological circles-that a chance to express oneself in aggression will clear one of aggressive feelings is directly contradicted. It actually has the opposite effect of boosting aggressiveness.

The main thing Stone expects to find from the check experiment now going on at the other Ivy college is that players' aggressiveness will not fall so much at the end of the season. The way he reasons this is that at most other colleges, football players receive a kind of prestige which stimulates them to act aggressively after as well as during the season. They therefore will create aggressive situations in which they can play their role. These situations, and the prospect of them, will keep their aggressiveness rating higher.

This brings us to the second part of the experiment-which is of far greater interest to coaches.

Here Stone was not checking a whole group of football players against a whole group of laymen; he was looking at the players individually. For this he used five factors:

1, whether they had high or low covert aggression ratings;

2, whether they were introverted or extroverted;

3, whether they "submarined" frequently or rarely ("submarining" was defined as ducking one's head when about to make contact-and did not apply exclusively to linemen as it does in normal usage);

4, whether they won or lost over their individual opponents on each play;

5, whether they indulged frequently in violent acts, such as slugging.

Studied Movies Closely

Aggression ratings he got from the TAT tests. He asked a small committee of coaches and players to rate the team for introversion or extroversion. For the last three factors-which involved action on the field-he obtained permission of Coach Art Valpey and later Lloyd Jordan to use movies of the previous season's games.

For many hours he pored over these films, counting the number of times each man succeeded in his assignment, and slugged, and put his head down. Then with these results tabulated, he searched for correlations. And he found them, although the results did not correlate all the way down the line.

The team divided roughly into three groups:

1. Five or six men who had exceedingly high scores of covert aggression, were rated extroverted, rarely submarined, and most frequently slugged (etc.) opponents. These were the super-aggressive players.

2. Five or six men who also had high scores of covert aggression, but frequently submarined, and more often came off worse in carrying off assignments and individual battles with opponents. These men had a high aggression score because they were frustrated in their efforts. The frequent submarining-to which can be attributed missed blocks and tackles-is due to fear, which in turn would raise the aggression rating.

3. The majority of the team, that moved along more evenly. These men had low scores on aggression, and middle-range scores on the other four factors. Practically all of the best players on the team were in this group, according to Stone. He is naturally unwilling to reveal names.

TAT Analysis Could Be Valuable

Pending confirmation from the check test now running at the other college. Stone is willing to say that coaches could find this method of analysis useful. With the huge squads of a modern football team, a handy player-by-player analysis such as this would be very useful in paring down the list, eliminating most of the men in group two, for instance.

From the Navy's point of view, too, this could be very useful. The Navy wants officers who go calmly about their business in emergencies; it does not want the kind of super-aggressive heroes you find in group one. Perhaps Navy commissions in the future will be given out on the basis of TAT tests-who knows?

Who knows what the future will bring in scientific coaching? Twenty-five years ago no coach used movies-now you can't even lead a high school team without them. Today no one uses TAT . . .

One thing, says Rocky. "You can perfect this system as much as you want, but it will never be a substitute for a 210-pound tackle who can do the 100 in ten seconds."

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