Is there a purpose to the physical tests you give your athletes?
In the American education system, a student’s intelligence is judged by their cumulative grade point average and their scores on standardized tests. There are a variety of problems with our standardized testing protocol (many, which are out of the scope of this article), but I will address one. Neither the ACT, SAT, i-ready or any other state/federal tests, measures problem solving ability and/or critical thinking ability, both of which determine how successful one will be later in life. So why are students getting tested on and taught things that have little to no correlation to the future career success? Well there’s many answers to this question as well, but this leads me to sports and the battery of tests that are given to athletes.
Many high school and college coaches across all sports in America, require their athletes to perform some pre (maybe post) season physical tests to assess readiness to play or lack therof. Similar to education, many of these tests do not measure or correlate to in game performance, nor do they target the main energy system used during competition.
Here are some common tests:
· 300 yard shuttle, pro agility, max strength tests in football
· Mile run or “17s in 1” in basketball
· 12 minute run in soccer
· Any conditioning test outside of a 30m/60m sprint in baseball/fastpitch
I could go on and on, but hopefully you get my drift.
If these tests aren’t predictors for game performance and do not measure sport specific fitness, why are coaches administering them year after year and giving them so much priority? These are the questions I find myself asking of many coaches, who’s answers are far from logical and can range from:
“We’re weeding out the weaklings”,
“this is a test to see how mentally tough they are”
“we do it to see what athletes worked out over the summer/offseason”
“This is what we’ve always done” or “This is what we did when I played”.
Normally these replies are accompanied with some level of annoyance or irritation since the coaches can’t accurately describe what their test are measuring, the evidence to prove that these tests are what makes an athlete successful, or why they chose the test to begin with (probably a common theme with other aspects of the program).
In sports, as in education, we often measure what is easy, not what is important. The information from the tests are then used to design training programs, curriculum, and practice plans. A more accurate approach would be to identify the key performance indicators (keys to victory) or the factors that make a successful player/team, and program your training and practices around them.
Why waste time measuring and planning things that aren’t helping you win?
Josh Gray BS, CSCS, NASM CES, USATF 1
Owner of Gray's Academy