Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Intelligence in Ultimate- Is it Valued Enough?


Every year the NFL carries out an extensive "combine" of potential NFL draft prospects. It has been formed into a profitable sport event that has extensive TV coverage and is fodder for pre draft discussion and hype.

Players are weighed, measured and fitted. They are poked, prodded, and sampled. They sprint, run, jump, listen to beeps and read charts. They dash, cut, catch, tackle, and block. It's a very complete process. Everything is taped and technologies (Dartfish) are used to analyze players.

In fact, if I am selected to help with Team Canada U-23 team, any type of tryouts will borrow from these types of combines. Limited by manpower and funds, it might simply be a case of videotaping and coding all scrimmages in the tryouts, and recording vital sprint, shuttle, and jump stats for each player. These "stats" shouldn't decide a players fate.. but they can help put a true numerical value for comparison and it can be used over time to see the development of players and the ultimate development system. (e.g. Are the athletes getting better)

The NFL and IQ- The Wonderlic Test

I have never played Football but it fascinates me that one of the most barbaric sports in the world is so sophisticated in planning, preparation and evaluation of its players. It is very impressive.

The NFL understands the importance of athleticism. Seeing them overlook Heisman Trophy winners and college championship players for division three players from small town Arkansas is done for a reason- They understand the link between winning and various player traits.

One of these traits is intelligence. They use a simple IQ test called the Wonderlic to get a measure of how well each NFL prospect will be able to mentally understand and adapt to the rigors of the NFL game.

Wonderlic is used in many professions as well. Getting a score of 10 out of 50 means a person is literate. Below that score of 10 suggests a person might be mentally challenged. The average participant scores a rating of 24

Here is an article on the scores for this year's best QB prospects. It also lists some of the current NFL Starting QBs and great past QBs for reference.

What has the NFL learned from this process?
  • Intelligence certainly helps, but it is not the lone factor in deciding stardom
  • Players with low Wonderlic scores have a tough time playing the game despite any great physical dominace (Vince Young, who originally scored a 6 in his test, and is alleged to have gotten someone else to write the retest in which he scored a 15)
Player scores in the Wonderlic vary by position. Some positions have higher averages than others. Here is the breakdown:
  • Offensive tackle – 26
  • Center – 25
  • Quarterback – 24
  • Guard – 23
  • Tight end – 22
  • Safety – 19
  • Linebacker – 19
  • Cornerback – 18
  • Wide receiver – 17
  • Fullback – 17
  • Halfback – 16
Back to Ultimate- How do We Value Intelligence?

With respect to ultimate, our tryout process are a little more primitive. They usually involve tryouts where most of the spots are already decided before the tryouts (Few teams are upfront with that) and the majority of the spots are available for the following
  • Tall people
  • Athletic and Fast people
  • Flavor of the month (Those who make a few big d's or layouts at the tryouts, someone new in town, etc)
  • In co-ed it sometimes simply comes down to romantic relationships
One of the reasons for this is the majority of captains who serve as leaders or coaches are handler types. I hypothesize that they have longer careers, and assume such roles of leadership. Asking these people to pick players who can/might replace them on the field is a tough task. Naturally they will pick players that compliment their importance to the team. This is understandable, simple human nature. That doesn't mean it is best for the team though.

I can say with some pride that the teams I played for or lead did place value on the mental makeup of a player and intelligence. Just like "you can't teach tall", you'll also be hard pressed to teach players how to think, read and react both on and off the field if they have a limited amount of grey matter to work with.

Along with cognitive ability, emotional intelligence is very important in picking your ultimate team. It's a long season with ups and downs, and few things disrupt a team faster than people who can't keep their own goals and emotions in check for the team.

Yes, there are many "smart" people in ultimate. However, there are many great stories of incredibly smart people who cannot relate to the real world, let alone teammates. Their inability to read and react to teammates is not helpful to team success.

Failing Wonderlic exams for your tryouts, I pose some simple guidelines to use in spring tryouts
  • Value the cognitive ability of players being considered
  • Take the time to correctly know and understand the emotional intelligence of people you are considering.
  • Be very clear about the goals of the team and the expectations of how players will carry themselves.
  • Have leaders that talk the talk and walk the walk (competent leaders in their roles who carry themselves well)
I look forward to reader feedback on the importance of IQ in ultimate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Team Fundraising- What Works, and What is Acceptable


There are three world championships this summer. The implications of these events include but are limited to the following.
  • Some very good ultimate is going to be played
  • Some very deserving players are going to get some great experience
  • We're going to take the temperature of Canada's competitiveness at the world stage and who the emerging countries are
  • Players will be scrambling to raise funds
  • We as a community will be exposed to a number of fund raising schemes and efforts.
Yesterday, I was asked to assist one of our Canadian clubs by taking part in an orange order (Mephisto is the team, if you are interested in buying some contact them). I have not been involved in the "buying oranges"game since I was in grade four. I remember the school fund raising oranges being of good quality, but even grade four me knew that I was selling a product that people could get in a more timely and cost effective manner. The chocolate bar racket was much better for the school, the sellers and the buyers, but it became less popular as getting kids pimping chocolate became less acceptable socially.

It doesn't stop at oranges. Fund raising efforts have included the following
  • Teams running their own tournaments for profit
  • Raffle tickets
  • Illegal poker tournaments
  • March Madness and other fantasy pools
  • Selling Live strong rip off bracelets (That has ceased thankfully)
  • Calenders (Most notably Storm of 2004)
All of the fund raising schemes appear to be the quick hit easy to plan and make happen projects. Unfortunately.. most of these projects end up merely taking money out of the pockets of loved ones and ultimate community. That raises a moral dilemma for people who think.

So, I ask you the reader to tell me
  • What is the Return On Investment for these Projects? Do people do them because they actually make money?
  • Which activities have worked the best for you or your team in the past?