What is sports performance?
Let’s define what sports performance is, to enhance your sports performance you need to be improving the skills and athleticism that is required to compete in the sport. Ideally, you want your athleticism to transfer to the sports specific skills. To improve your skills you need to be doing sports specific training drills and playing the sport itself. As Strength and Conditioning Coaches (S&C) it’s not our role to help you improve your sports specific skills, that is the role of your sports coach. It’s great for S&C’s to understand what is required for the sport, especially the physiology, movements mechanics, and physical demands. But an S&C should have very minimal input when it comes to skills, game play and strategy. S&C’s just need to understand what is required of the athlete, and potentially how, from an athletic standpoint, they might be able to help.
One area and S&C can help with is developing athleticism. Athleticism can be anything from speed, power, agility, strength, mobility and conditioning. Really anything that can be transferred onto the field, court, pool, road etc. Ideally, athletes want to see some transfer from what they do in the gym and on the track, to the competitive stage. The S&C’s job is to give you the best possible base of athleticism, so that when you go back to the sports coach, he has a more robust and versatile athlete in which he can develop sport specific skills with. If you want to improve your athleticisim it’s key to first identify what your strength and weaknesses are, and this can be done with through performance testing (if your not testing your guessing).
It’s important to test all athletic areas – speed, power, agility, strength, mobility and conditioning. It valuable to keep the testing as relevant as possible specific way i.e. most feild-based sports only require sprint efforts from 5-40m, so there’s no point testing your 100m sprint although a 20 meter sprint test has great relevance. Another example is single leg strength for runners, running is done one leg at a time so it’s important to be strong on one leg at a time, a great test for this is a Split Squat repetition max. Testing also helps you structure your program so that you are working on areas that need improving, they also help you show you whether the program is working. Simply saying I want to be more athletic is not enough, you have to test, creat a program then re-test to see if you have improved. It’s very tricky to quantify “I want to be more athletic”, but you can do it by creating an Athletic Score for yourself. Simply create 1 to 10 scale based on the standards you want to meet for each test, for example you may consider squatting 2 x your body weight to be a 10 and 0.25 x your body weight to be a 1, you might hit a 1.5 x times your body weight and consider that a 7/10. Do that for each test and add up your score then divide it by the total number of points you can achieve, for example; 5 tests out of ten is 50 total points and you score 25/50, which gives you a score of 50%. Now you can set a goal to beat your Athletic Score.
Balancing your training program
The Athletic Score can also give you an indicator of what your strengths and weaknesses are, which can help you develop a more balanced program. As an athlete you want to be as well rounded as possible, so you should always be working on speed, power, agility, strength, mobility and conditioning. Depending on your testing scores, training phase and goals you may focus on one quality more so than another, but you’re not going to completely drop off the other qualities. This method of training is referred to as concurrent training, or training multiple qualities at once. If you can make improvements in your weak areas while maintaining your strengths then you are going to become more athletic.