Sports analytics is a burgeoning field of study that is rapidly taking over the sports universe. Much of the analytics movement has been focused on mathematical or statistical representations of sports, as to better understand and predict the game. Burkmont is a sports psychology consulting group based in Los Angeles. Our goal is to leverage the science of psychology to build powerful new analytic tools and execute performance enhancement solutions. 

Bret Levine, Director

Bret is a 7th year PhD student in Applied Research Methodology at Claremont Graduate University. His current research interests are focused on the intersection of applied psychology and sports analytics. In particular, his primary area of research is focused on team chemistry in sports.



Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, Managing Editor

Ben is a Lecturer at the university level and teaches courses in statistics, research methods, social psychology, critical thinking, and abnormal psychology. He is currently teaching at California State University - Los Angeles, University of La Verne, and Chapman University.



Matt Swope, Researcher and Sound Editor

Matt is earning his master's degree in Positive Organizational Psychology and Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University and seeking contract work in evaluation, organizational development, and data analysis. Matt has been accepted into the Evaluation and Applied Research PhD program at Claremont Graduate University. 


Brendon Ellis, Researcher

Brendon Ellis is earning his master's degree in Positive Organizational Psychology and Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University. Brendon received his B.A. in psychology from Washington & Lee University in 2011. Brendon has been accepted into the Positive Organizational Behavior PhD program at Claremont Graduate University.


Gareth Mandel, Researcher

Gareth holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA in Applied Social Psychology + Evaluation from Claremont Graduate University. He works in the Customer Data and Optimization department at United Airlines. Gareth is also finishing his MBA at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with concentrations in Marketing, Management and Managerial Analytics.


Stephen Miller, Researcher

Stephen Miller is a 7th year PhD student in the social psychology program at Claremont Graduate University.  His focus is on health behavior, including conducting research on the organized youth sport experience and the relation with lifelong physical activity.  Once upon a time he was an All-American Track and Field athlete at Claremont McKenna College.


Megan Mansfield, Researcher

Megan is currently working on her master's degree in Applied Social Psychology and Evaluation at Claremont Graduate University. She earned her BA in Psychology and GLBT studies from the University of Minnesota in 2014. Her current research focuses on the effects of motivation and group dynamics on performance and commitment in various contexts, including: the military, volunteering, and sports. 

Sam Weinberger, Researcher

Sam received his MPH from USC and his MA in Applied Social Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. He is currently pursuing his PhD. in Social Psychology at Claremont Graduate University, with a focus in self-determination theory. He is a former Stanford football and USC baseball alumni. Sam is currently a market research analyst for Ipsos Healthcare America.

Colin Kaepernick is accidentally a brilliant psychologist

Over the last few years, there has been what feels like a never-ending spiral of police brutality, followed by protests against police brutality. Despite the cries from protestors, change is either incredibly slow, or has yet to begin altogether. Over the last few months, however, a new twist has been added to the saga – professional athletes, some of our most public figures and role models, have begun to demonstrate in public forums. Colin Kaepernick, the $114 million backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has become the visual symbol of protest that has reverberated through the American athletic landscape.

This new movement is no mistake, nor error of any kind. The events that have unfolded since Kap’s first National Anthem kneel down on August 14th, 2016  have been textbook group psychology – the influence of the minority can spread like wildfire. Some initial data seem to bare this out: the graph below shows the weekly frequency of professional, collegiate, high school, and middle school athletes that have demonstrated against racial inequality since Kap’s first kneel down. 

*frequencies were calculated based on news reports, numbers were estimated if there were no reported numbers or photographs.1

So how might one man's action in a preseason NFL game spark this kind of change? The science of minority influence gives us some clues.

Step 1. Black Lives Matter is the minority, for now
A minority group is a subgroup that is both numerically smaller and possesses less power than an opposed majority2. Arguably, those who have protested against police brutality have seen little measurable change thus far, but have instead amplified the saliency of recent gruesome events. Though it’s a good bet that most Americans oppose police brutality, many also oppose Black Lives Matter (BLM). Regardless of numbers, it’s also abundantly clear that BLM doesn’t yet possess enough power to create the systemic change it seeks.

Step 2. The minority has the upper hand
Popularized by Moscovici (1969) conversion theory has been used to describe the behaviors of minority and majority groups over the last 50 years. At the broadest level, influence from a majority causes people to focus on the relationship between themselves and the members of the majority: an are you with us or against us mentality. Influence originating from a minority group, on the other hand, focuses on the message itself. Interestingly, research has shown that this focus on the message (vs. comparison) often has a greater influence3. In the end, the message will win.

So perhaps conversion theory can explain why opposition to Kap’s kneel-downs may not stand a chance – many of those who are against him focus on the method, not on the message. Indeed, people have stated that they’re in support of the movement against racial injustice, but that they object to Kap kneeling during the National Anthem. Simply, people agree with his message, but not the method; this should double down on the likelihood of minority influence. What’s more is that when people believe the minority’s message, it is more likely to persuade them4, and most Americans believe racism is a serious problem.

Step 3. Fortune favors the bold and consistent
Minority influence stands a better chance with a brave and consistent leader. Perceived courage stemming from the minority has been shown to help create systematic change. Minority leaders who assertively and repeatedly state their opinions publicly, with full knowledge that they’re in the minority group that they’ll have to publicly defend themselves, often stand the greatest chance of creating change5.

In Kap’s case, he’s certainly been consistent, using the same message and method since August 14th; he’s also been assertive, making clearer and clearer statements about his beliefs. And, as you might have noticed, other players across the professional sports landscape have are taking up the cause (just wait until the NBA starts again).

Step 4. The minority becomes the majority
According to conversion theory, the minority movement eventually reaches “critical mass,” where it becomes the majority. The process has then come full circle, where people conform to the new majority opinion. This terminal part of minority influence can take time, but can also result in clear, systemic change. 

So far, public protests have led to more athletes standing up for change, but a real shift has yet to happen. However, the fact that this protest is coming now, when most people agree with Kap's message, could set it apart from past stands by professional athletes like Jack Johnson, Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The theory is clear, and the game plan for change is the same as the one on the field: kneeling down is the victory formation. 

1 (1. http://www.sbnation.com/2016/9/11/12869726/colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-protest-seahawks-brandon-marshall-nfl 2. https://thinkprogress.org/national-anthem-sports-protest-tracker-kaepernick-284ff1d1ab3e#.rypvkz742 3. http://www.ketv.com/sports/huskers-extended-coverage/nebraska-players-kneel-during-national-anthem/41813664 4. http://www.si.com/college-football/2016/09/23/smu-band-members-kneel-national-anthem-protest 5. http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2016/09/25/extra-security-planned-for-panthers-vikings-game-amid-charlotte-protests.html 6. http://fox6now.com/2016/09/25/six-year-old-players-on-youth-football-team-kneel-during-national-anthem-in-solidarity-with-kaepernick/ 7. http://www.wktv.com/news/394687751.html 8. http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-wnba-anthem-protest-20160922-snap-story.html 8. http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/215469/nfl-players-who-protested-during-national-anthem-in-week-3

2 Crano & Alvaro, 1996

3 Martin, Hewstone, & Martine, 2008; Martin & Hewstone, 2003; Moscovici, 1980; Moscovici, 1985

4 Moscovici, 1969

5 Kerr, 2002

The Potential Backfire of Golf at the Olympics: Men's Golf Still Isn't Attracting Millennials

#SorryNotSorry @IGFgolf, because it’s true.
One hundred twelve years of golf-less Olympics came to an end at tee-off of the men’s tournament on August 11th. Justin Rose of Great Britain and Inbee Park of South Korea took home the golds for the men’s and women’s tournaments, respectively, in this historic moment for modern day golf.

Yet the top four ranked male golfers in the world were not present: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy. These four are not the only qualifying golfers who decided not to represent their countries (or their sport) in this year’s historic games in Rio -- other well known players like Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen also declined invites. This lack of participation for the men (a phenomenon not observed for women golfers) of the sport is a troubling prospect given golf’s mission to increase awareness and viewership throughout the world. Not only does the absence of golf’s top players put golf in a precarious position in terms of the sport’s Olympic future, but the publicity these withdrawals are getting also does not bode well for their mission of increasing viewership -- especially among the sought-after Millennial crowd.

To summarize the problem, in withdrawing from the Olympic games, golfers cited concerns with the Zika virus, security, and an already cramped PGA tour schedule. However, many people, including IOC President Carlos Nuzman, claim that the actual motivation behind the withdrawals is money. Winning the Olympics gets you a medal and bragging rights for your country. But it doesn’t get you any cold hard cash.

Millennial Power?

This selfish rationale for not standing up and representing their country and abandoning their sport is not going to help the image of golf. Though golf in the Olympics will provide the sport airtime in a variety of places it would not otherwise, the fact of the matter is golf is losing popularity, and fast. Millennials don’t care about the sport, and many people that cared previously are losing interest.

Millennials are the key. Born between 1980-2000, give or take, this generation has substantial buying power as the largest demographic group in developed countries1. So gaining this group’s loyalty could mean big business for golf. But Millennials, already uninterested in golf, are unlikely to turn to it given the publicized selfish behavior of the sport's top players. Let us explain: Social responsibility is very important to Millennials; it impacts how they make and spend their money and what they do with their time2. Unfortunately, all we are hearing about are the top golfers in the world being socially irresponsible in relation to their countries and their sport. Golf does not necessarily market itself as socially responsible, but recent events make the lack of social responsibility extra salient -- and that’s something that could turn away Millennials.

Changing the Message

If Millennials are all about social responsibility, why not share the work professional golfers are doing to help the world around them? For 20 years, the Tiger Woods Foundation has been empowering students to breakthrough stigma, labels, and restrictions to reach their goals. Ernie Els established Ernie Els for Autism in 2009; inspired by the diagnosis of his son, the organization works to increase Autism awareness. The Jordan Spieth Family Foundation supports multiple groups, including special needs youth and military/veteran service members and their families.

There are many, many more ways in which professional golfers support various social causes -- and most likely, any Millennial can find a golfer (if not several) supporting causes about which they care. But Millennials aren’t going to go looking for the social causes that golfers support. It’s up to golf to get the word out by highlighting the prosocial work its players are doing.

All about the Benjamins, Baby

Maybe joining the Olympic games will get some extra viewership and exposure for golf. Maybe. But, in terms of Millennials, the Olympic appearance likely won’t inspire long term change in the overall viewership of/support for/participation in the sport. In considering Millennials, golf’s publicity with the Olympics may have even backfired -- making everyone aware of top players unwilling to sacrifice for neither their country nor their sport. This leaves us to ask, what are golfers, and by extension golf, really all about? Right now, it seems that it's merely about the Benjamins.

1 Dotson, Clark, Suber, & Dave, 2013

2 Baranyi, 2011; McGlone, Spain, & McGlone, 2011; Winograd & Hais, 2014

The Cleveland Browns suck, but their TV ratings don't

The Cleveland Browns have been a miserable football team, finishing over .500 once in the last 13 years. Yet despite their ineptitude, they're managed to produce better TV ratings than half the league over the last 5 seasons including a top 10 TV rating in 2014. People are still watching Browns games in spite of their failures.

It's a very simple equation for the NFL -- eyeballs on their games equal dollar signs. More people watching, more money. Not that the NFL has an issue with people watching their games; Americans love our football, with telecasts averaging around 20 million viewers per game last season. And while there are undoubtedly many factors that drive NFL viewership (like fantasy participation and rising ticket prices), we wanted to take a closer look at one factor in particular: Weather.

Simply, we figured that as the season goes on, and it gets colder in many places across the country, viewership would increase.

We gathered local TV ratings from the home cities/areas of all 32 NFL teams via Nielsen and Sports Business Daily for the years 2011-2015. We then matched these ratings with each team's wins in each of those seasons, and the average local temperatures between September and December (i.e., the NFL regular season). To look at the relationship between these three variables (TV ratings, wins, and average temperature), we used multiple regression.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a team's current season wins accounted for about 25% of team's local TV ratings 1. Likewise, the number of wins a team had the prior season accounted for an additional 9% of the local ratings 2. News flash: People want to watch teams that win games.

More to our hypothesis, though, for every 1 degree drop in average temperature between September and December, TV ratings go up by .3343 above and beyond accounting for current and previous season wins. In other words, when we control for win total over the previous two seasons, decreasing temperature accounts for another 10% of the increase in TV ratings.

What's it mean?
This is not to say that temperature is the sole cause of any change in NFL ratings; indeed, there are plenty of other explanations (beyond wins) including a team's legacy, marketing strategy, or player popularity to name a few. But the cold weather theory make a lot of intuitive sense -- with an average temperature of 47.6 degrees, maybe fans in Cleveland don't have anything better to do?

It might be a stretch, but it could also be incentive for the NFL to move north of the border.

1 (R2 = .26, p < .001, n = 128)

2 (R2 = .09, p < .001, n = 128)

3 (R2 = .10, p < .001, n = 128)

Talking to The People: Why You Should Be Using Social Validation

Editor's note: This article is a continuation of our series focused on communicating findings from peer-reviewed sports psychology research to the masses. At the end of the post, you can find additional information, including a link to the original research article. 

When analyzing a new strategy or intervention, teams, coaches, and researchers often look to the numbers. If the stats are better following a change, the presumption is that it was successful; the new defensive strategy, for example, worked and we can all celebrate a job well done. But sometimes statistics aren’t enough to understand the true impact of a change to an individual’s or team’s play.

An additional tool we can use to supplement the evaluation of sports-related interventions is social validation -- direct feedback from the very people making the change. For anyone working with athletes, social validation is a necessity for understanding both our strategies and our team.

Social Validation?
According to a study from 2013 by Jenny Smith (Page) and Richard Thelwell, two researchers at University of Portsmouth, there are three general aspects of social validation:

These three components may address why a particular strategy did not work out for a team. If a team or athlete does not care about the intervention, finds what they are doing to be inappropriate, and/or don’t care about the results, the intervention is likely not going to be as effective as it could be. 

Drs. Page and Thelwell conducted a literature review of social validation in studies related to sports and exercise, and reached two broad conclusions. First, they found that the ways in which scholars have investigated social validation has been rather inconsistent. More encouraging, the authors suggested that this inconsistency should not stifle the use of social validation among practitioners and those who implement interventions, like coaches and team captains. Quite the contrary, Drs. Page and Thelwell suggest that using social validation can further support attempts to improve individual and team performance. 

When, Where, How?
Social validation can occur at any time throughout the intervention process -- before, during, and/or after a strategy change has taken place. For example, let’s say a coach wants her basketball team to play more physically, by taking more fouls. Before instructing the team, the coach could survey the athletes to get their thoughts on the new strategy. As the team begins implementing the increased level of physical play, the survey could be implemented several more times. Getting this feedback from the athletes could provide an opportunity for the coach to adjust the physical play strategy as needed. Without this feedback, she might not know as well whether or not it was working.

According to Drs. Page and Thelwell, the bottom line is that using social validation can provide even more support, beyond the statistics, for the quality and effectiveness of and intervention or strategy change. So maybe the next time your beer league softball “coach” tells the team to stop swinging for the fences, you should ask these questions -- they could determine whether or not popping out to the pitcher less frequently is helping the team.

The citation for the article on which this post is based is below: 
Page, J., & Thelwell, R. (2013). The value of social validation in single-case methods in sport and exercise psychology. Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, 25, 61-71.