The NFL has made the Wonderlic Test a popular intelligence measurement to use while trying to accurately predict the likelihood a future player will be successful once he is drafted into the league. Of course, the Wonderlic is just one way NFL scouts appraise future players, as they also look at past college success and the results of the famous NFL combine in Indianapolis. Still, the question remains: Should an intelligence test be used in any capacity when it comes to future football success?
Personally, I appreciate testing and assessment, and find that most instruments used by clinicians today are quite helpful when trying to learn about clients. There are a variety of different tests available today, including tests that measure intelligence, vocational preferences, interests, and psychopathology. The more popular tests commonly used (like the MMPI, Wechsler, or Meyers Briggs) are helpful in specific situations, providing validity and reliability for the assessment.
The problem, however, is that there are still too many instances today where the wrong tests are used for the wrong situations. When a test is used the wrong way, the data is usually found to be of little value when trying to accurately predict future behavior. An example of this would be using a language test to determine if a person can successfully work as an accountant. While the test wouldn’t be harmful to use, it also wouldn’t provide us much confidence that a person with strong language skills will be successful working as accountant. The term predictive ability is used to describe the accuracy a test provides when trying to accurately gauge future behaviors.
Should the average amateur coach in America today quickly run out the door and get the latest intelligence test to help with future player personnel decisions? The answer is it depends. Coaches who quickly select tests they know nothing about to use with their players, the results from the test may result in meaningless data. On the other hand, tests that accurately measure constructs that are positively correlated with athletic success (like confidence, focus, and resiliency) may have great utility when it comes to making better predictions about how quickly a player will develop.
The Sports Performance Assessment (SPA) is an example of a test based on sport psychology science that provides important player mental toughness information to help coaches make important team decisions.
When it comes to testing in athletics, keep in mind the following tips:
• Is the test valid? Does the test actually measure what it says it is measuring?
• Is the test reliable? Will future test scores be consistent from test to test?
• Does the test have strong predictive validity? Will the results from the test truly help coaches make better predictions about players, or will the findings be insignificant?
• Is the test part of a battery of measurements? Will there be additional ways to determine if a player has strong potential beyond just one test?
• Finally, keep in mind that no test is perfect, and many factors can enter into how a subject scores on a test. Factors including motivation, fatigue, and honesty can all skew the results of a test, making the findings less valid. The reality is that while tests can be useful, they do not guarantee perfect future predictions no matter how they are used.