I was glued to the television watching the NFL Combine last week. Watching aspiring professional football players perform a variety of tests in front of scouts relates to what we as college coaches do when we are evaluating talent with club or high school teams or at college identification camps during the winter or summer.
As much as I enjoy watching top collegiate athletes running the 40-yard dash or go through the paces with passing patterns, what I'm most intrigued about is how talent evaluators gauge the mental components of prospects.
Soccer coaches tend to evaluate players in four main areas - technical, tactical, physical and psychological. In simple terms, the technical aspects are the individual skills a player may have - their ability to pass or control the ball, to shoot or to dribble.
The tactical aspects may be best described as how a player connects with their teammates on the field whether they are playing offense or defense.
The physical aspects have more to with their athletic ability. When coaches talk about a player's athleticism, they tend to focus on speed and quickness, strength and fitness and jumping ability.
The psychological aspects are often the toughest to measure, and tend to be what separates the good player from the special ones, and the amateurs from the professionals. Coaches tend to focus on an athlete's self-discipline, self-motivation, competitiveness and mental toughness.
In reading a recent article on ESPN.com by Tania Ganguli, it was interesting to hear scouts and general managers discuss how they assess and examine NFL prospects on psychological factors.
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman described how he examines prospects on how they react to stress.
"They're being dragged from this event to that event," Gettleman said. …