So, you’ve been tasked with creating a high school strength and conditioning program: you’ve worked out the logistics and the scheduling, spoken to the sport coaches, and gotten interest from student-athletes.
Next, to safely introduce the training you have planned, it’s important to get an idea as to where you’re starting from. Without a baseline of any type of assessment, there’s no accurate way to measure progress. A great way to do this is through a testing event or combine day. This article will provide a reason why this type of event is important, what exercises I recommend for assessing your athletes and why, and some ideas and solutions for organizing the event, such as athlete management software like Avolve Sports.Without a baseline of any type of assessment, there’s no accurate way to measure progress. A great way to do this is through a testing event or combine day, says @strthcoachgreg. Click To Tweet
Why Conduct This Testing?
First and foremost, this kind of testing allows you to engage positively with as many athletes as possible. In situations like this, think about testing that involves simple things such as bodyweight exercises, short sprints, or jumping.
Keep in mind that this may be the first engagement that a young athlete has with structured, or potentially, any sort of training in their lives, so this is a great opportunity to provide a positive first interaction. Your preparation and confidence in the details of your event will directly impact that.
Second, collecting some simple baseline measurements on your athletes will allow you to track progress and assess your program’s efficacy. Being able to show progress and improvement drives buy-in from the other stakeholders in the program, including the athletes themselves.
Lastly, if you’re not testing, you’re just guessing. If you go to write your program and assume that athletes have a certain level of competency and they end up not having it, you have to scrap your program. However, if you can assess their basic physical competencies and then correctly introduce training that improves these skills, then you’re off and running.
What Testing Should You Do?
Since you’ll be training the whole school, it’s important to test physical qualities that:
- Apply to all sports.
- Can be assessed with scalable tests.
- Are easily repeatable.
Additionally, you want to select tests that can be administered and are scalable to athletes at different levels and abilities. You must also feel comfortable administering your selection of tests and properly explaining them to whoever can help you administer them. My suggestions below are about as basic as they come, as it’s important that you select tests you feel comfortable with and believe will give you the best outcome with your athletes.The goal should be to test major athletic qualities in as few tests as possible. Three simple tests are sufficient for a healthy athlete, says @strthcoachgreg. Click To Tweet
The goal should be to test major athletic qualities in as few tests as possible. Three simple tests are sufficient for a healthy athlete. You should look to test the upper body, the lower body, and an athlete’s straight-line speed. This way, you can get a more well-rounded idea of your athletes’ abilities. For the strength tests, the athletes will get one attempt to post a score, and for the sprint test, they will have two attempts.
Upper Body Test: Max reps push-ups in a minute/static push-up plank hold—done in the weight room (one attempt).
Push-Up Standards: Athletes begin at the top of a push-up with their thumbs under their shoulders. They then perform as many push-ups as possible in one minute. Record their score.
Be sure to watch and take note of what occurs at the low back and the shoulder of the athlete. Can they hold their torso in a straight line from their skull to their feet? Can they keep their elbows at a 45-degree angle to their ribs? Are they able to control their scapula through all the repetitions?
If the athlete is unable to complete any push-ups, have them adjust to doing them from their knees. If they still struggle from there, have them start from the bottom position and push up. Leave a section on the scoresheet to note all these things. It is important that each athlete receive some measurable score, even if that is “zero – could not complete 1.” You are looking for things they can improve upon, so having regressions and many things to observe is important to give them a runway to follow with their training.
Static Push-Up Plank Hold: The same starting position is used, and the athlete is instructed to hold their torso so that their elbows are completely locked out, and their back is flat with a straight line from the heels to the back of the skull. The goal here is to hold this posture for as long as they can. You will record the time it takes for them to drop to the floor or for their torso to lose any semblance of a controlled position. As with the push-up, note where their form begins to break first.
Lower Body Test: Max reps of alternating single-leg squats to bench in two minutes—done in the weight room (one attempt).
Standards: Athletes stand in front of a bench, and beginning with whichever foot they choose, they sit to the bench and stand up off the bench with the same leg, then switch legs and repeat for as many reps as they can in two minutes.
Things to look for: Can the athlete perform this test at all? If they can, does their knee stay stable in space, or does it move left and right? Does the athlete need to “check” their opposite foot on the floor to perform the test at all?
Speed Test: Twenty-yard dash—done in the gymnasium or an adjacent hallway (two attempts)
Standards: Use cones to measure 20 yards. Athletes start standing behind the line, and on their movement, they begin to sprint the distance. Record both of their times on your sheet.
Note: It’s essential that you conduct this test in a location that is available year-round. If you’re conducting this testing in the fall, you may be able to go outside, but if you live somewhere where there’s inclement winter weather, you may not be able to go outside to retest them in December. A consistent running surface and location are important for gathering valid testing and retesting data.
While these tests aren’t flashy or all that exciting, the important thing is that the testing exists, is well-coordinated, and is safe for all the participants. You’ll get to the traditional testing with weights in the future, but this is truly a “Day 0” approach.While these tests aren’t flashy or all that exciting, the important thing is that the testing exists, is well-coordinated, and is safe for all participants, says @strthcoachgreg. Click To Tweet
These tests, or something similar to them, are also ones that you can easily implement in warm-up protocols or weekly check-ins with your athletes as you move through the training weeks. Additionally, as you get more comfortable with your program and testing athletes, it may be possible to build more advanced testing batteries for your athletes that are consistent with their training, especially those who stay consistent over their entire time with you.
Hopefully, there will be a lot of interest in your program, and you’ll need a few days to a week to get everyone through this initial testing. With these three tests, you will need at least three other coaches or adults to help you organize and score the testing. You can assign each of these three people to a drill. Then, explain to them the standards you are looking for in each drill and allow them to run their individual tests while you coordinate the rotation of everyone through the tests.
Example order for the testing of three groups: (Note that none of the groups go from the single-leg squat to the sprint.)
- Group 1: Push-Up –> Sprint️ –> Single-Leg Squat
- Group 2: Single-Leg Squat –> Push-Up –> Sprint
- Group 3: Sprint –> Single-Leg Squat –> Push-Up
I’d block off 30 minutes for a group of 30 athletes to complete the three tests. If you can get more than three people to help you, it would be advisable to have multiple stations for each test to facilitate getting people through the testing process more efficiently.
The equipment/tools you will need to execute the tests are:
- A bench to have the athletes squat down to.
- Two stopwatches—one to time the push-up test and one to time the 20-yard sprint. (If you have timing gates, this is a very practical time to use them.)
- A measured 20-yard lane for the timed sprint.
- Four coaches, including yourself, to assist in managing the testing.
- A list of the athletes completing the testing.
- A spreadsheet that includes the athletes’ names and a location for entering the scores for each of the respective tests.
- Three clipboards and writing implements, each with one of these charts described above.
Avolve Sports Offers Solutions
One of the hardest parts of running these types of events is managing the collection method while the tests are going on and then the subsequent importation of the data when the testing has been completed. This process will likely have you creating the score sheets in Excel, printing them off to score everyone, then collecting the sheets and inputting all that data somewhere (likely back into the same Excel sheet you printed). This data entry and subsequent analysis in and of itself is a time-consuming process. Fortunately, training software has come a long way in the last handful of years, and there are software solutions for this type of event. One of them is Avolve Sports.Avolve’s data collection is a native part of the software and doesn’t rely on APIs. This makes it possible to collect data even if you’re somewhere without internet or with spotty cell phone coverage. Click To Tweet
Avolve, unlike other similar athlete management software programs, primarily focuses on collecting and organizing the data from combines, testing, or “events,” as Avolve calls them. Avolve also stands out because its data collection is a native part of the software and does not rely on APIs. This makes it possible to collect data even if you’re somewhere without internet or you have spotty cell phone coverage. With its workflows, you can easily organize the athletes into groups, collect the data, generate reports, and then draw corresponding conclusions from the data. With Avolve, all that’s required is the list of athletes participating in the event: the step-by-step process in the software makes it easy to organize everything from there.
Following is the workflow Avolve can offer to create and score an event, all without Excel.
1. Create an Event in the Groups Page
On this page, athletes can be grouped based on the day and times they will complete the testing and labeled accordingly. In this example, they were grouped by class. You’ll also notice a dedicated location to enter the equipment you need to conduct the testing, such as stopwatches and a bench.
2. Assign the Athletes to the Groups You Created
You select the athletes you’d like to place in each group and then assign them accordingly. Don’t worry: If an athlete is not listed in your premade groups and shows up on the day of the event, you can add them from the Scoretracker page shown below.
3. Select the Drills You Wish to Do in Your Event
You’ll notice that we selected the three exercises that were described above and applied them to all groups. Following this screen, you are shown a summary of the event you just created and then are presented with the opportunity to “publish” the event.
Once you publish the event, you will have access to the Scoretracker page for the event. From this screen, you can input the athlete’s scores and any notes regarding their attempts. (These notes could be things that you noticed the athlete did during the testing, such as the things to watch for I listed with the push-up test and the single-leg squat test.) Each coach helping score the event can access this page from the mobile app and input the scores as the athletes complete the testing, even without internet or cell phone coverage.
After you’ve created this event, it’s also possible to copy it so that you can repeat it at a later date to assess the efficacy of the training you’ve been doing with your athletes. Since the exercises apply to everyone and are easy to implement the second time around, you can track the efficacy of your program by using the same testing battery.
Once you complete this event and have collected all the data, it is imperative to have a plan to reexamine what you’ve done. Avolve also gives you an opportunity to produce reports from your testing instantly after you complete the event. From there, you can look for any trends you want to address with your training in the subsequent months leading up to the time you retest these same movements.
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