Ability versus Skill
Upon reviewing the chart on, Table 9.1 A Factor Matrix, on page 307, the listed attributes used for testing and determining aptitude bring quite a few athletic skills to mind (Schmidt & Lee, 2011). The athletic skill that came to mind more prominently for me was aptitude for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). There are many factors that contribute to the potential of an athlete to become a good, or even great, BJJ practitioner. Many of the measured skills for identifiable motor abilities need consideration, such as; control precision, multi-limb coordination, response orientation, reaction time, speed of arm movement, rate control (timing), manual dexterity, finger dexterity, postural discrimination, response integration, arm-hand steadiness, wrist-finger speed and physical proficiency abilities ((Schmidt & Lee, 2011). In terms of potential success, some factors listed outweigh others. For example, factors such as reaction time and physical proficiency abilities are more important than finger dexterity and aiming; whereas if the activity were shooting, the exact opposite would be the case. When considering BJJ, on the surface would all be important to success on the mat with the exception of “Instrument comprehension”. However, when you consider training and competing with the Gi*, there is quite a bit of knowledge required in both defending and applying chokes and holds with the Jiu Jitsu Gi. I would be remiss not to consider the Gi instrument comprehension.
Ability versus skill; ability is a stable, underlying trait that is not altered by practice. Skill is modified by practice and experience (Schmidt & Lee, 2011, p 302). I did notice that even though Chapter 9, Individual differences and capabilities, in the Schmidt & Lee book, Motor control and learning, did reference some environmental and situational conditions that resulted in higher athletic achievement and success; there was no mention of the “human element.” Children that are born earlier in the year have an advantage over those born later in the year, especially when it comes to age group competitions. If there is a 6-7 year old age bracket and one child is born on December 30, 2011 and the other child was born on January 10, 2010, the later child has a distinct advantage. The younger, generally smaller and weaker participant may get overlooked by a coach and/or become discouraged due to their lack of success or performance. The subject that was not broached in the chapter and not listed in the tested attributes was the will to succeed. Due to the intangible nature of will, I can understand why this factor was not reflected in the measured data. There are many, many instances where the “gifted athlete” with all of the positive attributes is surpassed by those with the will to put in the extra hours and work harder to become better, stronger and faster. Two examples come to mind; Michael Jordan and Jordan Burroughs. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team in his sophomore year and became the best basketball player of all time. Jordan Burroughs only won one high school state wrestling championship in New Jersey, and he only won by a single point. He went on to win two NCAA Division 1 wrestling titles; he went on to win the Olympics, Four World Championships and four Pan Am wrestling championships. There is a saying that I preach to my students and athletes: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. This axiom may be applied to other aspects of life as well.
Does testing tell us something about the potential for success for an athlete or an employee? The answer is “Yes.” Is it the only tool of measurement for success? I offer a resounding “No.” There are some baseline attributes that must be considered when predicting success, but standardized testing should not be the only barometer for predicted success.
* Gi: The Gi is a uniform worn in many martial arts. A Jiu Jitsu Gi is very durable and thick to withstand the rigors of grappling with an opponent. There are competitions that require the combatants wear a Gi and the Gi can be used as both an offensive and defensive weapon. There are also competitions that a Gi is not used and they are called “No-Gi” tournaments. In No-Gi competitions, the participants are not permitted to use or grab any part of their opponent’s clothing.
Schmidt, R. A., & Lee, T. D. (2011). Motor control and learning: A behavioral emphasis (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.