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Sports psychologists’ AIQ test gives NBA teams a new way to measure draft prospects

The AIQ test measures an athlete’s performance-specific intellectual abilities. It should not be confused with the Wonderlic, which is used by NFL teams to gauge intelligence.

Dr. Scott Goldman's company has administered his test to 107 NBA draft prospects.
Dr. Scott Goldman's company has administered his test to 107 NBA draft prospects.Read moreCourtesy: Scott Goldman

Dr. Scott Goldman will watch Wednesday’s NBA draft with great interest. Many of the players selected will have taken the Athletic Intelligence Quotient (AIQ), a test that Goldman and Dr. Jim Bowman devised to measure an athlete’s performance-specific intellectual abilities.

Goldman, a licensed clinical and sports psychologist, and Bowman, a New York State-licensed psychologist, run Athletic Intelligence Measures. Among the company’s clients are eight NFL teams and six NBA teams. Goldman said he doesn’t reveal his clients because they feel they have a competitive advantage using the AIQ. The company has been working with NBA teams since 2013.

The 76ers are not among the clients.

In addition, the company also has teams from Major League Baseball, the NHL, the MLS, and college programs among its clients. Besides sports teams, the two also consult with a fire department in Colorado.

The AIQ test should not be confused with the Wonderlic, which is used by NFL teams to gauge intelligence in draft prospects. The AIQ measures sports-specific cognitive ability.

“The test isn’t language-based. We are actually putting them through cognitive tasks to challenge their ability,” Goldman said in a phone interview.

He added that the entire test takes about 35 minutes; it consists of subtests that take two to three minutes each.

“A way to look at it is that it is a series of puzzles,” said Goldman, who is also the sports psychologist for the Detroit Lions. “It’s about rotating images and then identifying how they fit in a sequence.”

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An example of a subtest is object scanning. For example, there might be three symbols at the top of the screen and the person taking the test must find those symbols in a crowded space. Goldman often refers to this as a “Where’s Waldo task.”

The test also helps determine spatial awareness.

“Imagine tracking a ball from a shot coming off the board and you’ve got to know where you are as a power forward or a big, in relation to the basket, your opponent, everything else,” Goldman said. “That is spatial awareness, or court feel or court sense, if you will.”

The test also tells if a draft prospect has a high basketball IQ and helps to identify an athlete’s mental strengths and weaknesses.

The pandemic has forced Goldman to change how he administers the test. He said his company has about 20 iPads. When his company administered the test at the NFL Scouting Combine, officials sat in a room with the players taking the test. Once the pandemic hit, the tests still had to be administered via iPads, but Goldman’s company shipped them to the players. They took the test and shipped the iPads back.

Everyone’s test must be viewed by either Goldman or a member of the company. So when the NBA draft prospects were taking the test, Goldman or a member of his company was connected to them by Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Meets.

This year, 107 NBA draft prospects took the test.

“That included almost all of the projected first-round picks,” Goldman said. “In fact, I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll have [tested] all of them.”