As we round out the eight week session at the gymnastics center where I coach, all recreational level coaches are required to test the gymnasts on skills needed to move up to the next level. As coaches, we are required to fill out skill sheets, listing all the necessary skills that gymnast needs to move up to the next level by placing an “x” next to a skill that the gymnast has mastered and an “o” next to a skill that the gymnast still needs to work on. This testing is never an easy, quick, or enjoyable process. In fact, more than anything it is plain annoying.  However, the benefits of this testing and assessment clearly weigh out the annoyingness of it when you are able to watch the gymnasts work hard to improve and learn the skills they needed.It is amazing how many factors go into testing the skills of 4+ year olds. Do you set aside one or two days at the end of the session to test all the skills they need, or do you test them over the entire 8 week session? Do you tell the girls you are testing them, or do you simply fill out the skill sheets privately? Do you let the girls know what they need to work on before the receive their skill sheets with their marks? Do you let them know when you mark off a skill? How many times should the gymnast perform the skill correctly before getting the skill “x’d” off? I think that how you decide to handle each of these questions has an effect on the effort and performance given by the gymnasts. Some will do well under the “pressure” of testing, while others will choke, and yet others still might not care.

I think that these questions that are asked when assessing physical skill should also be taken into account when SPC’s or sport psychologists might be assessing mental skills or mental performance hindrances.  How many sessions do you take to cover the assessment(s)? Do you tell your client the results or simply what you will work on to help them improve? Will the client always present in this same way, or might the responses to the assessment be situational? Do you let the client know that you are forming an “assessment” of them? Each of these questions can be handled differently according to each SPC’s individual style and philosophy, however I think that they are important questions that each and every SPC should have answered before going into their work with clients. Assessment can be a tricky business!

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