May 31, 2013
MY TWO CENTS
The Red Bulls’ Analyst – Effort justification
Chris Brandon Whitaker writes The Red Bulls’ Analyst column monthly, providing “Analysis for a Team & Therapy for Fans.”
By Chris Brandon Whitaker
Special to BigAppleSoccer.com
For this month’s session, the Red Bulls’ Analyst will process the issue of effort justification with regard to the team’s recent success.
Atop the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls are likely to tumble down the standings. They lead the next three teams by only a few points, but with more games in hand, they are expected to lose ground as the others catch up in the schedule. The concern is whether the Red Bulls can stay in top-five playoff contention as games played (GP) equal out across the conference.
The Red Bulls started the season at the bottom of the conference. After a crushing 3-1 defeat in Chicago, head coach Mike Petke wisely abandoned the prettier 4-3-3 formation for the more defensive-minded 4-4-2. The results have been remarkable, if hard come by. The team shifted from a miserable one win, three losses, and two ties start to the season to a commanding seven wins, one loss, and one tie record in the past eight games.
Mental Health Issue: Effort Justification
Effort justification states that people tend to attribute a greater value to an outcome when they’ve put extra effort into obtaining it. Although goalkeeper Luis Robles wasn’t chosen for the MLS save of the week, he can feel proud about being No. 1 in league saves for Week 11, because he put the effort into making those 39 saves this season. On the other side of the coin, Digao probably appreciates his bloated $200,000 salary less than fellow countryman Juninho’s identical pay, because he hasn’t played more than a minute to earn it. (Ouch!)
Counteracting Factor: Disillusionment
The problem with effort justification is that people stop trying and become disillusioned when they see others receiving similar rewards without making an effort. For example, hardworking Markus Holgersson may begin to resent his salary because another central defender related to Kaká is paid a comparable amount.
Therapeutic Intervention: Reward System
Certain players exemplify tireless effort, such as Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty, and Fabian Espindola, but it is vital to instill effort justification in every player’s mentality by rewarding hard work. Coach Mike Petke has done an admirable job with this in three ways:
1. Encouraging competition in each position by selecting only those best suited to compete against an opponent. No one’s job is a given and, despite his resume, National Team veteran Heath Pearce has struggled to get playing minutes.
2. Benching starters for weak performances. Roy Miller, Kosuke Kimura and Holgersson have rode the pine after stinking it up in games where the Red Bulls lost points.
3. Rewarding reserve players’ success in practice and reserve games with league games. To name a few: Kimura, Andre Akpan, and Lloyd Sam have received starting positions.
Treatment: Team Effort
Despite rewards for individual efforts, the Red Bulls will succeed in this highly competitive league only if the entire team buys into a hard-working mentality. Case in point, defending as a team lately in the 4-4-2 formation has produced winning results that every player can take pride in.
Here are some possible team-building activities that clubs have employed to foster a culture of hard teamwork:
* Eating bugs together in a show of team manliness. Bon appétit, Montreal!
* Playing golf together is how Toronto instills team grit (How’s that working for you, eh?).
* Going to an adventure park together to build endurance while standing in long lines. (Oops, the Red Bulls tried that one already!)
The next couple of weeks will show whether team effort or disillusionment wins out in the Red Bull’s locker room.
(For a city with more psychotherapists than bartenders and a team with more issues than a magazine stand, the Red Bulls’ Analyst offers therapeutic counsel rather than a cure.)
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