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By Bea Devlyn

Testing day isn’t everyone’s favourite when they return for pre-season, despite how sore you may feel after or potentially anxious you may feel after a week of testing, there are very valid and essential reasons your strength and conditioning coach puts you through those tests. Below we’ll go through the four main reason why testing is essential to any sporting team/athlete.

#1 Assess coaches training program/ athlete improvement
Whether done to get baseline information or follow up testing, being able to have both strength, aerobic capacity and basic mobility data provides coaches with an understanding of where that athlete is at to either write them a new program or determine how much of an improvement their previous block of training made to their performance. It also provides insight into where else the athlete can improve, for the coach to see if what they implemented actually worked ( and it’s okay if it didn’t , because we are learning as well just like the athletes), provide real numbers to measure improvements and provide information back to the head coach.

Testing is also incredibly useful for talent identification (T.I.D). In the same way that we use testing within teams to measure strengths and weakness this exact principle can be used to identify the physical capabilities and whether someone may be a good fit to excel at a particular sport. With the information gathered, lets use a trap bar deadlift for example, say you lifted 117kg as your 1RM in testing. From there your coach will be able to program weights that will specifically make you better, dependent on the goals of that training block. Specific weights with an individualised approach will allow athletes the best chance of improving. From those numbers in training, it allows the S&C coach to base out a % of your max for training sessions to prescribe loads to certain rep schemes to ensure you are improving or at least maintaining your strength or running ability when referring to YO-YO or 2km TT results. It also takes the guess work out for the athlete.

#2 Provides feedback to coaches.
As testing provides actual numbers, and there is no hiding when there is physical proof of performance, it allows for constant monitoring from a wellness and performance perspective as well as providing feedback for the S&C staff to provide to the head coach. The coach may be unsure as to why the players need to spend so long in the gym, for an example, you do testing after a 8 week block that shows all the players are significantly stronger and then that translates to their sport, with reduced injuries per say, then that will justify not just to you but to the coaches that this work is just as important as the sport specific components.

This feedback can also be related to injury, for example if you have a player returning from an injury such as a torn hamstring. Before you let them return to high-speed running you would want a less than 10% difference on their Nordic scores. This can be assessd, you have the data and then you as a S&C have real time feedback to provide the coach as to how far off that athlete may be. The numbers won’t lie and can be compared back to that individual’s baseline for comparison of pre- and post-injury. Without accurate measures when returning players to sport, the chances of them being confident and actually ready to perform are very slim, which is why performance testing becomes crucial in that setting inparticular.

#3 Builds an Athletic Profile
Among the things mentioned above, testing will allow an S&C to go back to the athlete, with their values and normative values and show them exactly where they sit not just in their team but overall compared to others in their sport. This is a powerful tool to help set realistic goals and ensure that they stay on task to achieve them with the numbers always there to maintain motivation to help get the best out of themselves. These can be simple to display and broken down for all athletes as non-S&C staff to understand to help build the trust and holistic approach to sporting performance.

#4 Builds competitive spirit.
While it really is only you against you when you’re testing, particularly in a team setting you always want to beat the person next to you or at least give them a really good scare. In our setting at Ludus, while they are all ‘individual athletes’ the records board in the gym provides incentive to challenge and push for higher scores. I dare say there isn’t an athlete who doesn’t like winning and performance testing is another way for players to push themselves and each other away from their sport!

References
1. Pyne D, Gardner A, Sheehan K, and Hopkins W. Fitness testing and career progression in AFL football. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 8: 321-332, 2005.