The one defining characteristic of Engineers is their tendency to prepare for the worst and, consequently, try to avoid mistakes. This is a very dominant tendency and according to research-supported theories (Zajonc), people go to their most dominant tendency when under pressure. Thus, the greater the competitive pressure, the more likely an Engineer will display this response.
EFFECTS OF DEFINING TRAITS
Preparing for the worst could be a strength in one situation and a weakness in another. A coach may want a goalie to be prepared for the worst and cautious at all times. In other words, an Engineer probably seldom drops their guard; they stay on their competitive toes.
The Engineer who is traveling to compete probably never forgets to pack their equipment, including bringing some backup items. On the other hand, a Quarterback who is an Engineer may be too quick to tuck the ball and run instead of waiting for a receiver to get open. A golfer who is an Engineer may make a poor decision in club selection or will overcompensate by hitting the ball too far away from a hazard.
On a team, and individual level, an Engineer-like behavior we often see is a team with a big lead becoming cautious and conservative only to let their opponent get back in the game and allowing the momentum to shift.
DURING ATHLETIC COMPETITION
Preparing for the worst is the dominant trait of the Engineer, while the most common associated response of this trait is to overcompensate. Think about a Pole Vaulter or Long-Jumper who does not want to foul. Their whole approach will be to try and avoid this mistake, even if they do not attain optimal loft. Another example might be a defender who over-adjusts when they start to sense the offense is trying to create a mismatch. You might also see a defensive back or center fielder start backpedaling as the ball is snapped or the center fielder hears the crack of the bat.
A very similar tendency is for the Engineer athlete to abandon proper stance because they want to stand higher and see the entire field or court. This causes them to get out of position. The Engineer also tends to “bite” on a fake style of play or move by the opponent. It’s because they are thinking about the worst possible scenario and a well-designed fake will trick them.
Lastly, the Engineer is not more distractible, but things like trash talk from the opponent will get under their skin a little quicker than with other Athlete Types.
HELPING THE ENGINEER
Engineers should be encouraged and reminded that the time to make mistakes and experiment with trial and error is at practice. Engineers will sometimes practice things which they have already mastered instead of working on things that they are not very skilled at. Also, help them realize that sometimes “pretty good” is good enough to pull out a win. In other words, help them avoid the trap of trying to be a perfectionist.
Finally, have them focus on the positive, such as seeing themselves properly executing a play. Practicing positive imagery is a great tool for an Engineer to employ.
Coaches, parents and teammates often try to be positive but their supportive comments backfire because of what is known as “The Ironic Error.” A simple example is to turn to someone and say: “Close your eyes, whatever you do, don’t think of a pink elephant.” Almost always, the person ends up thinking about a pink elephant. People trying to support the Engineer will sabotage their efforts if they say things like: “Whatever you do, don’t miss the putt.” Help the Engineer focus on the positive by describing the positive, like: “I know you will make this!”