Psychology Playing a Larger Role in Hockey Evaluation

Brenley Shapiro may not be a household name in Canada, but as a leading sports psychologist, she is quickly becoming one of the major influencers in professional hockey by innovating and developing alternative methods to evaluate potential NHL players.

Her work with OHL, NHL and Olympic National teams has brought her to the attention of the elite in the NHL, awakening them to the benefits of going beyond the “eye test” to identify potential NHL players.

Shapiro said in a recent interview on the Total Sports Quinte podcast, “ Yeah, it’s a fascinating process for me.  I feel very honored and privileged to be a part of it.

“I feel it’s different and unique from what we were doing.  My role in the draft is really about learning and getting to know who is the person behind all the equipment? 

“What makes them tick? What do they value? What is their character like? What is their mindset? To understand them as a person.  My involvement is really to take a holistic approach.  We’re not just looking at a player on the ice, they are a whole person.”

Shapiro tries to bring a holistic view of who the players are on and off the ice, looking at characteristics and traits as predictors to long-term success. 

“The road to the NHL is not an easy one, and you see it all the time,” she said.First-rounders that ended up being busts and vice versa, guys who might have gone undrafted and wind up having successful NHL careers.  

“The hard part about the draft is you’re trying to predict the future. That’s obviously not an easy thing to do.  We do try to go a lot deeper now and take on a collaborative approach in terms of looking at draft prospects.”

Shapiro is not wrong. On average only 19% of the players drafted play more than 200 games in the NHL. Drafting is not an exact science. There are too many variables are involved in the equation, genetics, mental toughness, injuries, intelligence, adaptability determination as well as other intangibles that are difficult to predict.

“My practice goes a lot deeper than most to eliminate as much of this risk in evaluation as possible,”  Shaprio said. “I actually have multiple phases; I follow these guys for about 10 or 11 months before the actual draft.  I’m doing a lot of testing, so I am going to look at their overall mindset, thinking patterns. Different things that I think are important in an elite athlete — their confidence level, pre-competitive anxiety

“I’m looking at emotional intelligence, competitive drive, team orientation, so there’s a whole bunch of things.”

Shapiro also designs interviews for scouts so they can be more effective as they go out and meet the players. They are given some guided questions that they ask and that brings back information for Shapiro to analyze.

“They have a whole bunch of questionnaires from me,” she said.I basically put all of that information together; I have a whole bunch of psychological scales.  I try to form a picture in my mind of who this player is and what they’re made of and from this, I start doing interviews. 

“I actually will do a full hour interview myself before we hit the combine or the draft.  I will have the opportunity to speak with them, sometimes a half-hour interview.  I get another look at them at the combine and then we head into the draft, so it’s a lengthy process.”

If you are looking to contact Brenley Shapiro, she is available for consultation. Her company website is mentalgamecoaching.ca. You can check out her new website BrenleyShapiro.com.

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