Friday, October 1, 2010

Measuring Skill

I probably could have added identifying skills as it's own post but I've chosen to give that subject a cursory review instead in order to put measuring skills into context. (Besides, most of y'all should have a fairly good idea what the list of paintball skills is.) The basis distinction to make is between skills (learned) and innate attributes which are mostly physical, like running speed, reflexes and hand/eye coordination. It's not quite that simple. of course. Take movement for example. Movement is a skill because when we talk about it in the context of competitive paintball it is more than the physical act of moving yet at the same time the ability to move effectively can certainly be enhanced by a player's natural attributes. A rough list of skills looks something like this; movement, body awareness (applies to both staying alive & playing your cover) and the group of gun-related skills; accuracy, laning, gunfighting, running & gunning, etc. The list could as easily be broken down further.

A skill (or skills) is measured against a standard, either an absolute or shifting standard, and or by comparison with the same skill displayed by others. This can be a simple or a complex problem in the evaluation (or comparison) process and is seldom cut & dry no matter how scientific (or statistical) the process appears. For example, take a look at starting pitchers in MLB. The bottom line is wins and losses but baseball is a team game and the pitcher must rely in part on teammates while competing against the opposing pitcher. So in evaluating the skill of a particular pitcher other statistics are considered as well. Like ERA, strike outs, walks, velocity, number of effective pitches and command of those pitches. But even with all the numbers experts can disagree when comparing player to player. It's one thing to evaluate a player's skills and determine they fit into category X. It's another thing altogether to compare two category X players and conclusively determine which one is better. (This is largely because skill isn't all that goes into making great players--and that's the subject of the last post in this series, Skill Is Not Enough. That, and different judges may have differing priorities when evaluating individual players.)

In paintball it's generally not too difficult to assess the relative skills of the players. This sort of measurement is really a way of sorting any group of players into a hierarchy, from worst to first. And (without experience) may not tell you anything about how good any group's best player(s) really are. You can tell from a player's posture in a prop whether they are trained or not, sloppy or tight--but you won't know how effectively they can bring their skills to bear until they are in a competition environment and confronted by others of varying degrees of skill. And the ultimate measure of a player's skills is the ability to execute in the crucible of competition--and, once again, this is not an issue of skill alone.
Another way of measuring the skill of a player is against an objective standard. When laning it's putting a stream of paint on target quickly enough to create the opportunity to eliminate a player. Successfully and repeatedly. Drilling to develop this skill demonstrates in concrete terms--either you hit the runner or you didn't--a player's effectiveness or lack thereof. The same measurement by standard applies in virtually all training situations and is one method of determining improvement.

Next, Skills Is Not Enough.

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