Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Is your test the 40-yard dash?
A fascinating article came out in the last couple days about how the 40-yard dash is used to evaluate NFL prospects. And while I'm not a huge fan of equating sports teams with other organizations, sometimes the comparison works.
The article starts by describing the story of Brice McCain, a former defensive back from Utah. McCain was considered "too small" by football scouts until they came to town and saw him run the 40-yard dash; he did it in 4.30 and 4.34 seconds. As the article states, "Suddenly, his size (5-foot-9) was less of concern."
Consider these other points from the article:
- McCain's 40-yard dash time wasn't his only strength; he got high marks in other drills that assess quickness rather than overall speed (multiple-method convergence, anyone?)
- Scouts often feel you can teach things like catching, but teaching prospects to run faster is difficult (abilities vs. skills?)
- The 40-yard dash is considered more relevant for evaluating receivers and defensive backs than linemen, where scouts are looking more at foot speed and agility (job analysis informs assessment choice)
- Times for the dash vary with surface (grass v. artificial surface) and runners are never clocked wearing their uniform (beware fidelity of the test instrument)
- The importance of the test is debated given that few players ever run 40 yards during a game (some criterion-related validation might be in order)
- Businesses have sprouted up that provide physical training to prospects to help them perform better in front of scouts (test prep industry expands its reach)
There's quite a lot here that overlaps with assessment in general.
Where doesn't the comparison work? Well, non-sports organizations almost never have the wide variety of statistics available to them to use in judging applicants that sports scouts do. Many organizations also don't have recruiters constantly traveling around the country evaluating groups of applicants. And course there's that whole draft thing.
Still, an example of how assessment can be found in all kinds of situations, and how sticking to best practices pays off in a variety of situations.