The mind of the player

It’s no secret these days that professional football players are reporting injuries and chronic health problems as never before, after decades of denial by sports officials of the dangers of the game.

While attention increasingly focuses on such things a brain injuries that occur during players careers, sports psychologists now also are looking at players minds in their assessment of entry skills, as reported in today’s New York Times.images

“For decades, hundreds of college players have gathered each year at the N.F.L.’s scouting combine, where their strength is tested, their speed is timed and, in a test to measure their intelligence, they are asked questions like ‘When a rope is selling 20 cents per 2 feet, how many feet can you buy for 30 dollars?’

“That query is part of the Wonderlic Personnel Test, a 12-minute, 50-item quiz that has been used by N.F.L. teams since the 1970s. It is, however, infamously unreliable in predicting football success — forgettable players have scored high, stars low — and there have been quiet concerns that its reliance on knowledge taught in school might result in a racial bias.

“So the players at this week’s combine are facing a new segment in their extended job interviews: an hourlong psychological assessment designed to determine and quantify the nebulous qualities that coaches have long believed make the most successful players — motivation, competitiveness, passion and mental toughness — and to divine how each player learns best. The new test, like the Wonderlic, is mandatory for the more than 300 players who attend, and it will be given for the first time Friday.

“While many coaches and general managers consider the Wonderlic particularly useful in evaluating quarterbacks and offensive linemen, positions that are believed to demand the greatest intellect because of the need to decipher complex defenses, the hope is that the new test, called the Player Assessment Tool, will give teams clearer insight into a broader range of players.”

“’I knew players who didn’t score well on the Wonderlic but had great instincts,’ said Ernie Accorsi, a former Giants general manager, who was consulted during the creation of the new test. ‘I had a player once, this guy played in a good league in college, but the psychological testing indicated he didn’t handle pressure well. You know what? He didn’t, as it turned out. The Wonderlic can’t tell you that.’”


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