When it comes to recruiting top football players, some of the hardest things to measure are player motivation and leadership potential. Before coaches give scholarships to athletes, they want to know who will give 100 percent effort toward getting better during the off-season, who will play hard from whistle to whistle during practice, and who will go beyond expectations to lead his team to a game winning performance. At MVR, we are interested in quantifying hard-to-measure player characteristics like intelligence, motivation, and leadership, which ultimately lead to winning championships. We have already linked player intelligence to scoring points. Here we are focused on player motivation, leadership potential, and athletic performance. Two studies are discussed.
In Study 1, we show how player motivation is measured using our web-based assessment system. Then we describe how it is related to coordination, balance, and core strength. A subfactor of our motivation survey is leadership potential. In Study 2, we describe how leadership potential is related to coaches’ ratings of recruit athletic performance.
The players in this study included approximately 150 college athletes who played football during the 2013 season. We received permission from the college coaches and athletic directors to interact with the athletes during the season. Motivation was measured using a 7-item self-report survey given to the players at the beginning of the season. Using our online assessment, each player rated himself on a True-False scale about how he would act in a variety of different situations. This survey took less than 5 minutes to administer online. Based on their responses, each player was placed in one of three motivation categories.
- High Motivation
- Average Motivation
- Low Motivation
After placing each athlete into one of three motivational categories, we measured the player’s balance using the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) Test, which is a reliable measure of coordination and balance. We relied on the results of the single leg balance—basically the person stands on their nondominant foot on a firm surface for 20 seconds, with hands on hips and eyes closed. Errors like opening the eyes or moving out of the proper stance lower a person’s score. For this proof of concept, we hypothesized that athletes who are highly motivated based on their survey results would perform better than all other athletes. In other words, highly motivated players would have a lower number of errors on the BESS test than others with average or low motivation. Here is what we found.
As shown in the figure above, players who were classified as highly motivated had on average 4.7 errors on the BESS test. In contrast, players who were classified as average in motivation had slightly more errors in the balance and coordination test with 5.25. As expected, the players who were classified as having low motivation produced the greatest number of balance and coordination errors, with an average error rate slightly above 6. This was the pattern of results we expected to find. In other words, highly motivated players had better balance with approximately 20% fewer errors than players with low motivation. These results did not change when height and weight were factored into the analysis.
For the next test, we measured the athlete’s core strength by counting the total number of back squats the athlete could perform without stopping. We used the normalized number of repetitions the athlete could do. For example, if a running back weighed 180 pounds and did 15 repetitions of 200 pounds, we calculated the total weight lifted (e.g., 15 reps x 200 pounds equals 3,000 total pounds). Then, we divided the total weight lifted by the athlete’s body weight to get the normalized number of back squat repetitions (i.e., 3000 lifted pounds divided by 180 pounds body weight equals 16.67 normalized reps). This allowed us to place every player on the same scale in terms of number of repetitions while controlling for the player’s weight. We expected highly motivated players to be significantly stronger than everyone else.
The figure above shows that highly motivated players were significantly stronger than players with lower motivation. Specifically, players with low motivation did a little over 11 weight-normed repetitions. Athletes with average motivation were slightly higher at 11.6 weight-normed back squat repetitions. As expected, the highly motivated athletes were significantly stronger than everyone else, completing over 14 weight-normed back squats. In other words, they completed approximately 20% more back squat repetitions than the other less motivated players! This illustrates how the general motivation of a player might impact his physical performance!
This study shows that with our web-based survey of player motivation, we are able to identify highly motivated athletes who are stronger and better coordinated than less motivated players who are weaker and less coordinated. Our work is the first of its kind to link self-report measures of motivation to physical strength and coordination. MVR’s survey of player motivation can be used in a recruiting context to determine who will be stronger and better coordinated based on a web-based testing session.
Now that we’ve linked player motivation to physical performance, this next study links coaches’ recruit ratings of player performance to individual player’s self-rating of leadership motivation. Using our web-based survey, we expect that players who are categorized as high potential leaders should stand out to coaches when evaluated for a football scholarship. As a result, these players should be identified more often as top recruits by college football coaches as compared to players who do not have high leadership potential.
This study involved over 300 nationally recruited high school football players in the class of 2013. These athletes were recruited by a university football program. Before the recruits were invited to come to the university on an official visit, six members of the football coaching staff evaluated players on a variety of different factors. These factors included height, weight, speed, position skills, character, and on-the-field performance in highlight videos. Each athlete was given an overall grade ranging from A to F, with an A being a high performing recruit and F a low performing recruit. The number of high school recruits invited for an official visit was approximately 105.
While the recruits were on campus, they were asked to complete our web-based assessment of leadership potential. This assessment is a sub-scale of our motivational survey described in Study 1. Based on the survey results, players were identified as having high leadership potential or not having leadership potential. We hypothesized that players who were classified as having high leadership potential according to our web-based assessment would also have a high likelihood of receiving the highest recruiting rating by coaches. The results can be seen in the figure below.
The figure above supports our thinking about leadership potential and coaches’ ratings of recruits. Of all of the recruits who received a rating of A by the college football coaches, over 65% were identified by our web-based assessment as having high leadership potential. This is consistent with the belief that most players who are top-rated athletes are also good leaders on and off the field. In contrast, a large percentage of recruits who received lower coach ratings were also identified by our system as having low leadership potential. It should be noted, however, that some of the lower-rated recruits were identified as having leadership potential. A very reasonable explanation for this result is that some lower-rated recruits may not be as talented as other players, but they do have the ability to lead and motivate team members on and off the field in different situations. Our assessments measure this general tendency. Some of those players may be known as your “Locker Room Guys” who may not show a lot of overall talent but are worthy of being recruited because of their ability to motivate others and lead. This is one of those previously intangible factors that we have been able to measure and successfully use to evaluate prospects.
In summary, the results across these two studies show that motivation and leadership potential can be measured and used to identify athletes with the ability to play at the next level. Our web-based system is able to identify those players with high motivation and high leadership potential. This information has been successfully used by college coaches to build championship winning teams.
MVR Recruiting Staff