Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Using interviews to get at the "why" behind the "what"

At the NFL Scouting Combine, teams interview up to 16 players a night. The interview, writes SI's Peter King, "has become more and more important to the decision-making process."

Because agents have typically prepared their clients for the interviews, teams "now have to do things to get players out of their comfort zones." Rather than use the interview for a simple conversation, team officials are "challenging players."

My favorite story involved a defensive coach for one team asking Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis (pictured above at the scouting combine) why they should pick him. "Tell me something,'' the coach said. "When is the last time a linebacker from Ohio State came to the NFL and was worth a s---?'' That shook the Buckeye out of whatever confident zone he might have entered the room in.

According to a story in the NY Times, "most players have agents in town who hire advisers to teach the players to communicate, but some are just naturally gregarious."

Laurinaitis... spoke of his father, a professional wrestler known as Animal, and his mother, a fitness model. “I’ve been blessed with great genes,” Laurinaitis said. Regarding his position, he said: “I like being the leader. In the middle, you’re held more accountable. I love being that guy.”

When interviewing someone -- players and coaches included -- the key, say experts like Richard Fear and Robert Chiron, is to "get at the 'why' behind the 'what.'"

"It is critical to understand the motivations and reasons behind what a person does in order to evaluate that person. The 'why' allows you to measure motivation and maturity."