Original Research: On Rejection, Unconfirmed Interviews, and Poor Planning (Reflection and Email Logs)

Before getting into my reflection on my original research work, I would like to lead with the following: I have completed and posted 5 interviews (6, if you count the one with Dr. Freeman) as of the writing of this post. There are currently 5 more confirmed/scheduled interviews, which will take place some time over the break, as detailed in my “Winter 2020-2021 Revised Timeline.” There are 5 more interviewees who have yet to respond and may agree to an interview.

Although this post is heavy on the bad side of my original research, I have since (rather successfully) turned it around and am on track to finish my original research before January 14th. I have learned a lot of important lessons over the course of this original research project and I hope to never repeat these same mistakes again.

There were a number of issues with my original research, which I unfortunately only adjusted for recently, despite multiple attempted interventions from Ms. Farris. I discussed this project with her last week, but even I was unaware (during that conversation) of the full extent to which my original research was inadequate at that point.

The first issue was that I contacted my prospective interviewees far too late. The first round of emails went out on November 8th, which was a rather late start date. On top of this, I regrettably contacted only five of my prospective interviewees then. My additional three interviewees at that point were contacted in late November and early December. This made for a total number of eight, two of which were in-school contacts. This was not adequate work, which I realized with the help of Ms. Farris and rather successfully adjusted for on December 11th-16th.

Two other issues that I should have accounted for were that I was not originally contacting enough prospective interviewees and that I was not polite enough in my original emails.

All of these mistakes were somewhat rectified by my actions between December 11th and 16th, however I was very fortunate to be able to do so.

On December 11th, I sent emails to 9 correspondents. The emails that received no response as of yet are as follows:

An email addressed to Mr. Atkins, a coach involved with the Overwatch League, who is currently a free agent:

“Dear Mr. Atkins,

I am William Bradford, a high school student at Renaissance School in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I am conducting my Senior Thesis research on performance psychology.

I found your work with Dallas Fuel and your work with Team USA in the 2019 Overwatch World Cup to be awe-inspiring. After noticing a number of positive changes in the teams’ performances, I found that I had a few questions I would like to ask you.

Would you be open to an online interview sometime between now and January 6th or 7th? I am typically available on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12:00 and 6:00 PM EST, but I would be glad to accommodate your schedule.

I am certain you are busy, so if scheduling a call does not work for you, I have attached questions below, in case you may have the opportunity to answer via email instead.

Thank you so much for your kind consideration,
With my highest regards,
William Bradford

1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work as a coach?

2. The Individualized Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model is used in physical sports to gain an understanding of the emotional ranges conducive to peak performance for each athlete. How do you aid in determining optimal states of mind for each player?

3. Emotional inventories including the Stress-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) are commonly used in physical sports to measure the effects of performance events on athletes. How have you attempted to assess stress or anxiety before or during performances?

4. Runners commonly use emotional regulation techniques such as positive self-talk to remain in an optimal frame of mind when performing. What techniques do you employ with your athletes to ensure that they are at peak performance at each tournament?

5. Symptoms of overtraining can include long-term mood alterations and decreased performance quality. Have you noticed symptoms of overtraining in your competitors after multiple, consecutive, long training sessions? How did you first become aware of them?

6. Relating to the previous question, what variety of symptoms have you found? These could be small things, like missing easy shots or large things like misapplications of ingame macro decisions. What measures have you taken to mitigate this effect?”

An email addressed to Lise Keiter, a musical performer at Mary Baldwin University:

“Dear Ms. Keiter,

I am William Bradford, a high school student at Renaissance School in Charlottesville, Virginia who was recently admitted to Mary Baldiwn, and I am conducting my Senior Thesis on the relationship between performance psychology in multiple fields.

I admire your work with local youth performers and believe that you hold a unique perspective on performance in group settings. Accordingly, I would like to ask you a few questions.

Would you be open to an online interview sometime between now and January 6th or 7th? I am typically available on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12:00 and 6:00 PM EST, but I would be glad to accommodate your schedule.

I am certain you are busy, so if scheduling a call does not work for you, I have attached questions below, in case you may have the opportunity to answer via email instead.

Thank you so much for your kind consideration,
With my highest regards,
William Bradford

1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work as a professor at Mary Baldwin? Have you been able to arrange any modified performances? Did those performances inspire the same emotions as pre-pandemic performances?

2. Have you ever worked with performers using emotion-based performance analysis tools? If not, how do you recommend identifying and maintaining an emotional state that is conducive to peak performance?

3. Performing athletes commonly use mental tools such as positive self-talk to help remain in an optimal state of emotion during performances. What mental tools do you suggest to students for coping with performance anxiety during performances and why?

4. Do you have any specific pre-performance routines that you use or that you instruct your students to use?

5. Flow is essentially the feeling of complete immersion in a performance. Is there any specific way that you can recall accessing this feeling, or is out of your control? If it is out of your control, do you feel that you can influence it with proper preparation?

6. Overtraining is a common phenomenon in sports training today. Its symptoms include long-term mood alterations and decreased physical performance in sports. Have you found that training for a performance too much can elicit these symptoms as well? Is there anything in specific that you do to mitigate this effect?”

An email addressed to Mr. Sang-soo, an esports coach in the League of Legends scene:

“Dear Mr. Sang-soo,

I am William Bradford, a high school student at Renaissance School in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I am conducting my Senior Thesis research on performance psychology.

I would like to interview you because of your work with TSM in the LCS during 2017 and 2018. I believe your guidance is incredibly strong and I would like to ask you a few questions.

Would you be open to an online interview sometime between now and January 6th or 7th? I am typically available on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12:00 and 6:00 PM EST, but I would be glad to accommodate your schedule.

I am certain you are busy, so if scheduling a call does not work for you, I have attached questions below, in case you may have the opportunity to answer via email instead.

Thank you so much for your kind consideration,
With my highest regards,
William Bradford

1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work as a coach?

2. The Individualized Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model is used in physical sports to gain an understanding of the emotional ranges conducive to peak performance for each athlete. How do you aid in determining optimal states of mind for each player?

3. Emotional inventories including the Stress-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) are commonly used in physical sports to measure the effects of performance events on athletes. How have you attempted to assess stress or anxiety before or during performances?

4. Runners commonly use emotional regulation techniques such as positive self-talk to remain in an optimal frame of mind when performing. What techniques do you employ with your athletes to ensure that they are at peak performance at each tournament?

5. Symptoms of overtraining can include long-term mood alterations and decreased performance quality. Have you noticed symptoms of overtraining in your competitors after multiple, consecutive, long training sessions? How did you first become aware of them?

6. Relating to the previous question, what variety of symptoms have you found? These could be small things, like missing easy shots or large things like misapplications of ingame macro decisions. What measures have you taken to mitigate this effect?”

An email addressed to Mr. Agarwal, another prominent League of Legends esports coach:

“Dear Mr. Agarwal,

Congratulations on rejoining TSM.

I am William Bradford, a high school student at Renaissance School in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I am conducting my Senior Thesis research on performance psychology.

I admire your ability to consistently coach teams to high placements in the highest echelons of tournament settings, especially FlyQuest. Accordingly, I would like to ask you a few questions.

Would you be open to an online interview sometime between now and January 6th or 7th? I am typically available on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12:00 and 6:00 PM EST, but I would be glad to accommodate your schedule.

I am certain you are busy, so if scheduling a call does not work for you, I have attached questions below, in case you may have the opportunity to answer via email instead.

Thank you so much for your kind consideration,
With my highest regards,
William Bradford

1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work as a coach?

2. The Individualized Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model is used in physical sports to gain an understanding of the emotional ranges conducive to peak performance for each athlete. How do you aid in determining optimal states of mind for each player?

3. Emotional inventories including the Stress-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) are commonly used in physical sports to measure the effects of performance events on athletes. How have you attempted to assess stress or anxiety before or during performances?

4. Runners commonly use emotional regulation techniques such as positive self-talk to remain in an optimal frame of mind when performing. What techniques do you employ with your athletes to ensure that they are at peak performance at each tournament?

5. Symptoms of overtraining can include long-term mood alterations and decreased performance quality. Have you noticed symptoms of overtraining in your competitors after multiple, consecutive, long training sessions? How did you first become aware of them?

6. Relating to the previous question, what variety of symptoms have you found? These could be small things, like missing easy shots or large things like misapplications of ingame macro decisions. What measures have you taken to mitigate this effect?”

Of the interviewees that I contacted before December 11th, one declined my request and two did not respond to either my initial email or one of my follow-ups. One has been rescheduled multiple times.

Lars Robl responded to my second email, which was sent on November 18th as a follow-up to the one I sent on November 8th. It read as follows:

“Hello Mr. Robl,

I’m William Bradford, a high school student at Renaissance School in Charlottesville Virginia and I am conducting my Senior Thesis on the relationship between performance psychology in multiple fields.

Would agree to an online interview, either over a recorded video call or via email? I would like to ask you about a few concepts and methodologies I’ve found in my research so far and get your stance on these matters.

If you do agree to this interview, would you be available at any time between November 22nd and November 28th? Alternatively, if you would like to conduct the interview over email, I could send you my questions and you could respond whenever you like.

Thank you,
William Bradford”

He responded to this email, accepting an interview via email. After I sent my questions, rather belatedly on November 20th, he did not respond. I have since followed up once with him, trying to remind him of the questions, but to no avail.

Mia Stellberg

Mia Stelleberg was a little different to contact. She requires people who would like to contact her to do so through a form on her website. I did so on November 8th. Unfortunately, I do not have an archive of this, however it followed a format identical to the one sent to Lars Robl. Stellberg’s manager responded the day afterwards with the following email:

“Hi William

Thank you for your message to Mia. I am Mia’s manager, replying on her behalf.

As you can imagine Mia receives very many requests like yours every day, from all over the world, but her very busy schedule means that it is impossible for her to fulfil them.

However there is a lot of content on Mia’s website, including her views on the subjects you raise. I hope these are helpful and I wish you every success for the future.

Thank you for your interest in Mia.

Best wishes

Tim Crow”

Mr. Eric Lamb also did not respond to my initial email, however I have yet to follow up, as he is an in-school correspondent and was less vital to my Original Research. This email, sent on the 9th of December, read as follows:

“Hello Mr. Lamb,

It’s William. I am conducting my Senior Thesis on the relationship between performance psychology in multiple fields. Would agree to an online interview, either over a recorded video call or via email? I would like to ask you about a few concepts and methodologies I’ve found in my research so far and get your stance on these matters.

If you do agree to this interview, would you be available at 4:00 or 5:00, on January 4th, 5th, or 6th? Alternatively, if you would like to conduct the interview over email, I could send you my questions and you could respond whenever you like.

Thank you,
William Bradford”

Mx. A

Due to several scheduling conflicts, I have had to reschedule my interview with Mx. A four times thus far. The latest was the result of the snow-day at renaissance school. It is currently scheduled for the Wednesday after break. The original email, sent on Wednesday, November 4th, read as follows:

“Hello Mx. A,

I’m conducting my Senior Thesis on the relationship between performance psychology across multiple disciplines and I would like to interview someone from the Performing Arts sphere. Would agree to an online interview, either over a recorded video call or via email?

I would like to ask you about a few concepts and methodologies I’ve found in my research so far to hear about your stance and collect information about the most helpful practices you may employ before performing.

If you do agree to this interview, would you like to conduct it during or after school? During school, we share a focused study on November 12th and 19th at 1:00 PM and outside of school, I would be available any time past 5:15 PM throughout the week of the 12th. Alternatively, if you would like to conduct the interview over email, I could send you my questions and you could respond whenever you like.

Thank you,
William Bradford”

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there are some serious issues in the above text. I should have attempted to resolve them sooner, but I cannot undo my past actions. Fortunately for me, despite all of the things that went wrong and that I did wrong during this Original Research project, I was able to rectify the situation with additional, intense, and concentrated work at the end of the quarter.

I plan on adding to my Original Research by including some match analysis of esports teams before and after consultations with sports psychologists before the end of break Renaissance’s Winter Break.

In conclusion, not everything was bad. While the midsection was mostly bad, the ending will be at least adequate and I am on track to finish this Original Research work by January 14th.

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