Using Academic Criteria To Measure Athletic Success

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In the academic world, schools create tiers for its students.  I would guess the bulk of students fall in the middle of the pack, taking regular classes and doing just fine.  Then there are the outliers…those that are well above or well below “average”.  Those that are in the well above category have the opportunity to enroll in Advanced Placement or Gifted and Talented classes and programs.

Clearly we do that in the athletic world as well.  Middle schools have A and B teams, high schools have junior varsity and varsity.  And the collegiate athletic system is amazingly stratified.

And I’d guess most of us even have these tiers on our teams.  We’ve got non-starters and starters.  And we’ve even got folks in the starter group who are more essential than others.  So what if we, like our academic friends, had criteria for that tiering?

Check out this criteria for gifted and talented.  There are many models mentioned in this article, so I just chose one of them.  According to the definition, gifted and talented children are those who demonstrate achievement and/or potential ability in any of the following areas:

  1. General intellectual ability.  In athletics, I’d figure that means their general sports IQ.  How well do they know the sport?  Do they understand what’s required of them situationally?  Are they able to take advantage of an opponent’s weakness while maximizing their own strengths?
  2. Specific academic aptitude.  I suppose this would be their knowledge of their particular position.  What do they know beyond just the basics of the position?  Are they students of the game?  Do they understand their role offensively, defensively, and corporately?
  3. Creative or productive thinking.  I talked about having tiers on our teams.  We’ve got players who just need to do what they’re told…as long as they don’t have to think outside of the box, they’re okay.  But then we’ve got those players who see two or three steps ahead of the opponent…those are the creative players.
  4. Leadership ability.  Do teammates naturally follow this player?  Are they supportive and challenging as the situation requires?  Are they equally comfortable talking to teammates and coaches?
  5. Psychomotor ability.  This is defined as the capacity to manipulate and control objects.  Things like controlling precision, multilimb coordination (sounds like sports to me!), reaction time, and response orientation.  When you get right down to it, these are the qualities that influence skill.  The more skilled the player, the more gifted and talented they are in respect to the team.


We may not have put names on the subjective nature of tiering our athletes, but I’m sure most of us do all of these things already.  If you’re like me, you’ll feel validated that you’re doing the right thing by your team.

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