The conventional wisdom is that with the right physical training, recovery, and coaching, athletes and teams can reach peak performance. On SCI TV Jordan Denning of CogSports discusses the importance of character for athletes, highlighting the latest developments in assessing and developing character as part of performance on and off the field.

What is athlete development?

Athlete development is often thought of in terms of physical competencies and motor skills, but Denning and CogSports focus on “above the shoulders” traits and capabilities. These are character attributes like mental toughness, emotional control, integrity, and leadership.

The goal of CogSports is to “identify the intangibles,” helping individual athletes and teams perform at the highest level. As the co-founder of CogSports, Denning helps shape the evolving context of athlete development and fine tune the company’s character evaluation tool.

“We are able to now put metrics next to what was formally that ‘it’ factor,” Denning said, referring to the old approach of a coach’s gut feeling about a player.

Addressing Weaknesses and Strengths

Denning stresses that measuring the intangibles doesn’t have to focus on the negative and can be used to highlight and build on existing strengths. Working with an athlete to develop mental skills can help them realize their full physical potential and perform at their best.

“It’s a new way to evaluate talent,” Denning said of CogSports’ test. “Until recently that didn’t go much beyond your forty time, how much can you bench, how high can you jump. Now it’s almost imperative that you tie in things like character, like emotional control, like coolness under pressure.”

Drafting for Character

Better understanding these intangibles can also help coaches and managers decide how to pick athletes for a team roster. For example, an athlete who might get looked over for their physical skills could be a valuable team asset as a leader and decision maker.

And while major draft decisions attempt to take character into consideration, Denning thinks the future of character assessment will become much more precise and integral to the sports industry.

“Character and leadership, much like other industries, is going to be much more emphasized and critical, not just as a preventative measure, but to be successful,” Denning said.