Dr. Steven Julius, also known as Dr. J, has served as team psychologist for the Chicago Bulls since 1988. He is also the founder of the Human Resource Consulting Group, which advises senior executives of major corporations, entrepreneurial companies, professional service organizations, and government agencies.
How did you become the Bulls’ psychologist?
SJ: I was brought in by a friend who had a relationship with the general manager at the time, Jerry Krause, to help out with some organizational issues. After that they began to ask me questions during the draft. It was the draft when Shawn Kemp, Stacey King, and BJ Armstrong came out. And from there the relationship simply grew.
So they wanted you to evaluate the players?
SJ: We evaluate players and determine their capabilities to not only make it in the NBA but also to adjust to going from high school or from a very short time in college straight into a professional job. The Bulls were one of the first teams back in the days of Tim Floyd to develop the Player Development Program. It helps some of the younger players with their adjustment so they can acclimate themselves, not just as athletes, but as independent self-sufficient adults in the pros. They learn how to manage their sleep, how to manage their money, how to find the right place to live, and how to manage their time effectively.
What does your job entail? Do you have therapy sessions with the players?
SJ: I spend the bulk of my time with the players, and even with the coaching staff, helping them on the mental aspects of the game—like managing stress, using performance anxiety as fuel rather than having it be like a stone tied around your neck, learning how to stay focused and to concentrate, and how to develop what we call “discipline persistence.” In particular, we teach players the importance of spending time dealing with the frustration of working on their weaknesses, rather than over-relying on practicing their strengths.