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Forums Home / The Lobby / Weissman Air Hockey Skills Assessment - v1.5 ( View Older Thread | View Newer Thread)

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TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210
Been working on this for a while. I think it's in a form enough for field testing and further refinement. I'm looking for 2 things. First, a way to host this :) - Second, I am interested in constructive refinements and good-natured discussion. It is a work in progress, though I have come pretty far down the road with it and it's pretty much set in the overall structure. Thanks!

Weissman Air Hockey Skills Assessment
V 1.5

The Air Hockey Skills Assessment is a general measure for the overall level of ability in the sport. It is divided up in to 2 main categories: Offense and Defense. Each category is broken down in to sub-categories, where the player is given a numeric value between 1-10 for a given skill/ability. Each section has a general description, along with suggestions for values based on observed abilities.

The purpose of this measure is to provide a more objective way to assess the skill level of players so that tournament organizers can more accurately seed events and determine entry fees and/or promote local tournaments. It is also intended as an educational tool for students of the game to further develop our understanding of the sport.


It is the common wisdom of the students of the sport that in Air Hockey offense is more important than defense. Players can win a great deal based purely on their offense. However, only the best of the best have both offense and defense. Because offense is typically more critical than defense, it is weighted more heavily in the Air Hockey Skills Assessment.


The nature and variety of shots possessed by a player are a critical component to his/her success in Air Hockey. Basic shots are simply straights and banks. Advanced shots are considered either the backhand and forehand versions of cut and cross straights, as well as over and under-the-mallet banks. Some players even demonstrate the ability to consistently execute what are unconventional shots - such as a scoop or blade. For the purposes of this measure, shot speed can differentiate shots. Typically, there are only two shot speed categories - fast and medium speed. A player that has both a fast cut and a medium cut is considered to have two different shots.

Score: 1 (No repeatable shots)
2-4 (One-two repeatable basic shots - typically a straight and/or bank)
5-7 (Three-four repeatable basic shots - or at least 2 advanced level shots)
8-10 (Over four repeatable advanced level shots, at the higher end both forehand and backhand)

TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210

From Puck Control comes all things. This is a critical component to the early progression of skill in Air Hockey. Puck Control is simply the ability to make the puck do what you want.

1 (Shows no tendency or ability to stop the puck, and typically strikes at the puck whenever it is near his/her mallet)
2-4 (Shows the ability to stop most slowly moving pucks but is not able to accurately hit transition shots and gives up many possessions to unsuccessful attempts to catch the puck)
5-7 (Shows the ability to catch and stop pucks consistently, from most areas of the table, though they still make mistakes when trying to stop a transition or fast moving puck. Higher level shows ability to perform effective transitions, though may have trouble regaining control in the midst of a fast exchange)
8-10 (Shows advanced ability to consistently stop and catch pucks from any position on the table, even when in mid-transition and off very fast shots. At higher levels the player almost never commits an unforced loss of puck error due to loss of control.)


In Air Hockey offense the use of a drift and attack significantly increases one's potency. A drift is a controlled movement of the puck along invisible lines which are repeated and typically varied at the higher levels. The attack is executed off these drifts and is at the most basic level a counterbalance of at least two shots played off of one another (ex. Right-to-center drift followed by a straight or a bank). At the highest levels of Air Hockey, a player will vary the speed, direction and angle of their drifts, as well as which shots they execute.

1 (Player does not drift the puck before executing shots)
2-4 (Player uses a basic drift before executing shots OR player has at least two shots they execute consistently which are played off one another)
5-7 (Player consistently uses at least two different drifts and executes at least two shots off each of these which play well off one another)
8-10 (Player demonstrates multiple consistent drifts with the ability to execute at least 3 different advanced shots off of them. At the highest levels, the player can consistently execute as many as six different shots off one drift)

TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210

Deceptions on offense include hitting complementary shots from the same setup, time delays, pump fakes and various change-ups in speed and shot setup. Frequently, players talk about "keeping it fresh." This category assesses the player's ability to keep it fresh.

1 (Player does not demonstrate any ability to use deceptions)
2-4 (Player uses at least 1 type of deception, albeit basic. At the upper end this deception is successful in obtaining scores)
5-7 (Player uses at least 2 forms of deception, or they have developed at least 1 deception to a more advanced level, showing intent to vary this deception)
8-10 (Player consistently uses at least 2 types of deceptions at advanced levels, varying them with intent and success)


Defense in Air Hockey is a supreme test of reflexes, body control and perception. To be great, a player needs strong body fundamentals and the ability to hold oneself in position without being frozen. Though offense is generally considered more important in Air Hockey, at the highest levels, a player must have BOTH offense and defense to win World Championships.


Without basic fundamentals of form, a player limits their ability to defend and react. Proper defense body fundamentals for a right-handed player include right leg forward, shoulders squared with short side of the table, upper body neither hunched forward over the goal or leaned back behind, right arm holding the mallet about 10-15 inches in front of the goal and centered, left hand planted on the rail to the left of the goal, and standing on the balls of both feet.

1 (Player does not show the basics of form. Player makes at least 2 gross errors in form. Examples include, but are not limited to, improper positioning of legs, not on ball of at least their back foot, off-hand not resting on rail, mallet positioned back on goal face)
2-4 (Player makes at least 1 gross error in form, at the higher end, this error is transient)
5-7 (Player shows good form. However, they make transient errors in form, typically in the midst of action after which they do not return to proper form in a timely manner)
8-10 (Player demonstrates excellent form, at the upper end they demonstrate controlled form during almost all of their play and quickly return to proper form during and after intense action)

TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210

Control over anticipatory reflex is critical in a sport requiring extreme hand/eye coordination. In many ways, defense is simply a test of reflex. The quicker a person can send a signal to their arm to pull to a specific place on the table, then pull to that spot, the more successful they will be at defending. However, the signal must go to the brain at the right moment, based on perception of one's opponent and the puck. Pull too soon and you leave huge holes. Pull too late and you are essentially frozen.

1 (Player has very slow reflexes on defense. The player demonstrates no ability to snag pucks in transition.)
2-4 (Player reacts too slow most of the time, but demonstrates an ability to anticipate some basic shots. They simply get to the blocking position too slow. Players at this level also may show poor and frequent charging used to overcompensate for slow reflexes. They may deflect some pucks in transition.)
5-7 (Player can successfully anticipate basic shots, but still struggles with anticipating advanced shots. Some players at this level can anticipate advanced shots but tend to show "jumpiness" and react too soon. Players at this level may charge too frequently to overcompensate for difficulty blocking advanced shots. They likely can snag some pucks in transition.)
8-10 (Player demonstrates an ability to anticipate advanced shots and can pull to block with great success. Basic shots are very ineffective against them. At the upper end, sophisticated setups and attacks are needed to score on them. Charges are used infrequently and at the upper end primarily for strategic purposes. Transitions are strong and they frequently snag pucks moving around the table.)

TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210

With strong perceptive ability over the totality of the table, puck and opponent, one is able to "read" what shot is imminent. The player in essence learns what the opponent is doing, and adjusts accordingly. In doing so, a player doesn't need reflexes to be as lightning fast because the player simply knows where to block. Read Blocking and Anticipatory Reflexes are definitely connected, but the key difference is that Read Blocking comes from being able to adjust over the course of a game/match.

1 (Player demonstrates almost no ability to adjust. Typically, an opponent can score the same shot over and over and this player makes no attempt to adjust and read what the opponent is doing.)

2-4 (The player does not naturally read his/her opponent and will be scored upon with many basic shots. However, the player will show glimmers of "reading" the opponent when the same shot is used over and over from the same setup. At lower levels, the player is quite susceptible to basic deceptions and will lose their "read" frequently.)

5-7 (Player shows the ability to routinely read basic shots, can read some advanced shots, and will adjust to overused shots/setups. At the upper level, the player is not very susceptible to basic deceptions such as exaggerated cut shots.)
8-10 (Player routinely reads basic shots and advanced shots, adjusting to shots and attacks from the opponent over the course of a match. At the higher level, the player will effectively adjust within a single game.)
TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210

Shots/Shot speed - ___
Puck Control - ___
Drifts/Attacks - ___
Deceptions - ___

Body Fundamentals - ___
Reflexes - ___
Read Blocking - ___
carolina phil - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 1084
Wow. Impressive. Can't wait to delve into it big time.

Thank you for these Gems,

ajflanagan - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 509
This is definitely something to discuss. I agree with most of the skills assessments with the exception of body fundamentals. I don't really see how body positioning, hand positioning, knee placement, etc has anything to do with skill (ie results on the table). Something may work for one person that doesn't work for another. Like any sport, ours is always evolving. Limiting a player to a particular stance that works for you is not really an assessment of skill.

As for the other areas... you have broken each down into a few levels. Within each level you have a 3 point variance. How would you propose to determine those values? What is the outcome of this system. A "skill level"?
TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210
Hi Andrew,

I feel like body fundamentals are actually a critical element of assessing skill level. You can overcome poor fundamentals for sure, but a highly skilled player will use the "form" which is most efficient and effective. Yes, the sport continues to evolve and so will our measure of skill. Perhaps many years from now we will see a different form as more effective and efficient. We would of course modify our measures to reflect that. The current form in this measure is based on the Great Jesse Douty textbook, with a couple tweaks.

Let's compare this concept of body fundamentals in AH to those in another sport. If a quarterback uses a sidearm throw all the time because it just feels right for him, it does seem that his level of skill is diminished. He can't execute a number of types of passes or he does so with limitations. In AH if you stand with your body leaned back 2 feet from the table and your mallet held 2 inches from the goal, you might be able to use your amazing reflexes to overcome your poor position, but most people would see that your skill is dimished because you are not playing efficiently.

To answer your other questions, the 3 point variance is for the Assessor to determine, based on the qualitative descriptions. There is certainly some subjectivity in there, but as the measure gets refined it will hopefully become more and more accurate, objective and quantitative.

The outcome is a final score which would be an assessment of overall skill in the sport. Over time, and with a good deal of data, we could standardize the scores to ratings levels. We could then have ranges of scores which would represent approximate ratings levels and/or handicap levels. Like, maybe a score of 50-57 would represent a "4" and scores of 40-49 might represent a "3." The measure could then be used by organizers to promote people in a more objective fashion. Perfectly objective? Not. That won't ever be the case. But, based more in objectivity than we have now.

Organizers could also use it to determine entry fees for big events when there is some question about a new player's skill, or maybe a player from another country who is just showing up for the first time.

Finally, the measure can be used to further understand and learn about our sport and the players we have.

Take care...

fupersly - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 231
I'm not sure which phrasing to use for this, but what about some kind of "intangibles" factor? I know that there are players who, on paper, might have incredible skills in most categories, but their ability to execute under pressure erodes under that pressure. Conversely, there are also players who may score low in several categories, but find some way to "flip a switch" when they find themselves up against the wall and exceed their "on paper" ability.

Also, what about a factor for consistency? As with Tennis, there are many players who may have spectacular skills in a few areas, but once the "book" is out on them, do not grow their game and become predictable, thus making them beatable by players with considerably lower skills. Or maybe like Tiger Woods, someone with supreme skill decides to adjust their game, and struggles for a considerable amount of time while doing so.

Lastly, what about strength of competition as a factor? I'm sure there are some players who, against a smaller pool of players of above-average (or even far-above-average) skill, may not be able to exhibit as much mastery of certain skills against those who are highly skilled and know their games well, as opposed to someone who may dominate in certain categories against a broader pool of below-average skill.

Anyway, just some thoughts to consider.
TWeissman - 12 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210
Hi Joe,

I considered "intangibles" for a long time. I went back and forth with it and ultimately had to accept I couldn't find a way to operationalize it very well. I am definitely open to thoughts on that.

Take care...

- 13 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 658
Thanks for sharing.

This is valuable information. Tim is probably the most successful player in our sport, and viewed by many as the greatest of all time. Its a real gift when someone with those accomplishments shares some of their skills and techniques.
tableman - 13 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 690
The ultimate test of a player's skill level is, of course, results. But that requires a history, a rating, a ranking, etc.

Seems like much of what Tim has done (and then some) is to simply explicate the criteria that veteran players have used for years intuitively to judge the skill level of a newbie. And as Joe says, intangibles play a factor as well.

And I echo what Andrew said about unorthodox styles. It's amazing to me that Billy hits many of his potent shots with his LEFT leg forward and his RIGHT leg back - just the opposite of the textbook stance.
TWeissman - 14 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 210
Yes, there are certainly exceptions to the rule. The fact that you recognize it is an exception demonstrates that we know what sort of "form" represents the ideal.

Take care...

Petesimple - 14 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 319
Love it Tim!
I think for sake of argument you could add the X-factor to ones score card to have a "boost" to an intangible or to a specific skill since everyone has an opinion on intangibles and is different. That is how video games make up for it when it comes to overcompensation on the perfect form. It's almost like rolling initiative in gaming or having a better chance at winning because of luck. Anyhow, that is my 2 cents. You could ignore the idea and have just a basic skills, but I have seen level 2s and 3s play way above their level at times against grandmasters straight up and win. It has to be accounted for eventually. Especially if we ever want a really good video game made about air hockey.


Pedro Otero - 14 Mar 2013
Total Posts: 269
I commented in a blog entry (few weeks ago) something relative to the "master elite" style; of course, there are some exceptions to the rule.
Maybe the mallet shoud be included?
Q - 22 Apr 2013
Total Posts: 497
Is this still the latest version? Excited to see this applied/see how it would score players.
Petesimple - 22 Apr 2013
Total Posts: 319
I would like to help with this project. I will get an online form going for it in dev. Please PM me and help work on this. I will concentrate on a mobile version so that it can be done at the table with a "grader" present. I think personal assessment plus outsider assessment should come into play as well, but you tell me.


Mike C - 22 Apr 2013
Total Posts: 459
My question is, who will judge the abilities of all of the players? Will it be done by a committee of 1, 2,4, 7, 10, 12 people? Will it be for all players?
Q - 23 Apr 2013
Total Posts: 497
Mike C said:
My question is, who will judge the abilities of all of the players? Will it be done by a committee of 1, 2,4, 7, 10, 12 people? Will it be for all players?

Just my 2 cents, Tim may have different ideas as it is his design.

I think the grades should be separately by at least 2, maybe 3 qualified people. These would be students of the game, players with experience who can identify all of the criterion (e.g. most master level players and above). Then each section can be averaged/compared to make sure there are no huge discrepancies. Dan and I used Tim's assessment as a test on both Dan and Goran for example. We both arrived at the same total (low 50s) but had subsections that differed by more than 1 point, assuming whole number grades only.

Re: all players or not. Ideally yes it would be for all players. Also ideally we would want the same graders to minimize any error from one grader to the next judging two different people. The more data the better. I think as a first step it can be used on a subset though where judging for handicap values is necessary. I'm not sure what the score differential vs handicap spot would be though.

Tim, again thanks for this. I think this will benefit players. Seeing a low grade on one section may help a player focus on that aspect of their game. I know that I found a couple things I want to work on by a self evaluation.
TWeissman - 28 Apr 2013
Total Posts: 210
Sorry for not responding sooner. I have been swamped with work.

Pete, I would LOVE the assistance you are offering. Travis has on his list to make a page for the forums so results can be recorded, but he is really busy and I'm not sure when he will be able to get to it.

Mike, my conception is that we train 3-5 people initially on how to code. I will be one of them. The others need to be experienced students of the game who are actively involved in the sport. Some of the folks who come to mind are Billy Stubbs, Mark Nizzi, Brian Accrocco, Phil Arnold, Mark Robbins.

Also, I believe that a score for someone should be an average of 3 qualified coders to be used at a National level, and if used for a local community maybe only 1 qualified coder would be needed. I figure it might be hard to get 3 coders to view a player if they live in another city. Eventually I would envision "certified" coders all over the country which can do local assessments for weeklies or city tournaments.

Take care...

travis - 04 May 2013
Total Posts: 530
TWeissman said:
Pete, I would LOVE the assistance you are offering. Travis has on his list to make a page for the forums so results can be recorded, but he is really busy and I'm not sure when he will be able to get to it.

I've given Pete and a few others access to the web site's code in order to start taking on some of these efforts since I've been away.

Travis Luscombe
AirHockeyWorld.com Webmaster
Petesimple - 09 May 2013
Total Posts: 319
We are currently in the development phase for this new tool. If you have any questions or concerns, or great ideas please list them in this thread.
thanks everyone and PLAY PUCK.



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