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My Two Cents

My Two Cents

July 21, 2013
The Red Bullsí Analyst on cognitive consistency

Chris Brandon Whitaker writes The Red Bullsí Analyst column monthly, providing ďAnalysis for a team & therapy for fans.Ē

By Chris Brandon Whitaker
Special to

For this monthís session, the Red Bullsí Analyst will process the teamís problems with consistency on the field and in their mindset.

Presenting concern:

The Red Bulls have become one of the hardest soccer teams to predict this year thanks to erratic performances. A source of frustration to fans, pundits and gamblers alike, itís difficult to know which team will show up at any given match. One trots around at half-steam and canít connect a pass or put a shot on frame, and the other shuts down opponents, dominates possession, and scores with ease. Is head coach Mike Petke quoting Oscar Wilde during his pep talks: ďConsistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative?Ē

Client History:

The Red Bullsí season has been middling, and at nine wins, seven losses, and five ties, they are little better than .500. What puzzles observers is that the results do not belie the performances. Itís not as though the matches have been close contests with wins and losses tipping in the balance of fortune. Instead for at least the past four outings, the team seemingly either hands over games with a whimper or crushes its opponents with a vengeance.

Mental health issue: cognitive consistency

Cognitive consistency focuses on the balance individuals try to create when inconsistencies present themselves. Our natural impulse is to correct an inconsistency in order to produce a sense of harmony or stability. Ever notice how hard it is not to adjust a picture that is hanging crooked on the wall?

Pathology: consistently inconsistent

In theory, a person or organization will correct any blatant inconsistency in their behavior, because the irregularities create discomfort and prompt a reaction. In theory. However, Petke and his players seem unable to make the needed corrections to produce more even performances and reliable results. Sadly, the only thing predictable about the team so far is that they are completely unpredictable.

Treatment: steps to achieving equilibrium

People want consistency in their lives. Letís explore how we motivate ourselves to adjust inconsistent conditions.

1. People expect consistency (not only players, but supporters, too) and most can typically tell you whether their team is good, average or bad in a given season. Not so with NYRB. Depending on the week, theyíre either amazing or awful.

2. Inconsistencies create a state of dissonance or discomfort. It bugs us that phonetic isnít spelled the way it sounds. You have only to look at the comments on Red Bull message boards to see how badly a teamís inconsistency affects people.

3. Dissonance drives people to restore consistency. In theory, the pressure from the fans, pundits, and coaching staff should be pushing the team to produce more steady performances, but something is preventing the natural process of achieving equilibrium.

Therapeutic intervention: leadership consistency

They say when looking for the right qualities in a leader, look into his or her behavioral consistency. Quite frankly, the Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry does not show strong attitudinal or behavioral consistency. His attitude doesnít take responsibility for poor service. He blames the defense, the altitude, the traveling distances, the heat, the service or the playing surfaces for his teamís struggles.

Furthermore, his behavior on the field epitomizes the type of inconsistent effort that the team now displays weekly. Sometimes he tries, showing flashes of his former brilliance, other times he strolls about and looses the ball repeatedly with careless passes. Someone must address the poor example he is setting.

Petke knows the general inconsistency is a problem. ďI have always said since I have been here is to try and be consistent and ... we have to find a way to be consistent," he said.

(For a city with more psychotherapists than bartenders and a team with more issues than a magazine stand, the Red Bullsí Analyst offers therapeutic counsel rather than a cure.)

"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
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