According to whether or not sports performance testing needs to be done I believe it has to answer two basic questions; 1) will it affect the programming 2) will it motivate an athlete/client towards results. We will dissect that a little later, but what it should not be used for is to make the program "scientific" and to create competition between athletes.
Lets start with "Science". It the health and fitness field you can basically find a scientific backing for any concept. Whether it be training, nutrition, recovery, you can find science supporting pretty much anything. And it's not just with fitness, you can find data supporting anything, like the notion that Nickleback is the greatest rock band of all time...
Well here is my reasoning behind it. As far as creating competition amongst the athletes for things like being on a record board or lifting certain amounts of weight you cater towards a small number of athletes, (i.e. the genetically gifted and those that have been training the longest) and alienate the biggest customer base, (i.e. the average/below average athlete looking to improve enough to make a team or just get more enjoyment out of their sport) or new athletes entering the program. From personal experience, I was a high school strength & conditioning coach while getting my Master's Degree from WVU and I had a few of these genetically gifted athletes and they also were some of the hardest workers as well (rare combination). We had all-time record boards for Squat, Bench, Hang/power Cleans, VJ and 40 yard dash. Well one of these athletes squatted 625 lbs. and Cleaned 365 lbs, and the other Bench Pressed 405 lbs. and had a 41" Vertical Jump!
So what do we do as far as testing at LEWIS Fitness & Performance?
Well, we are going to follow the two main rules I mentioned earlier.
1) Our testing needs to affect our programming.
We initially begin with the Functional Movement Screen. We begin with this because it determines an athlete's greatest movement needs and it also shows us the movement patterns that would be counterproductive to load until a greater movement capacity/competency have been reached. This alters the program to ensure safety and provides a pathway towards improvement. How long does this take? It varies from athlete to athlete. But we have a valid measuring stick to gauge where each athlete is on their path to improvement. I talked about how movement is tied into our speed development program in an earlier blog post #1 Thing To Increase An Athlete's Speed. When you look into all that goes into improving speed, which I cover in detail in that earlier post (hint... click the link) you can see that programs based on improving your 40 yard dash by .20 seconds in 8 weeks will miss the boat more times than not.
2) Motivate athletes/clients towards reaching their goals
So hopefully it was clear that ranking and rating the results of performance tests will not motivate you average to below average athletes, and those athletes will fill the majority of most sample sizes. Any coach that believes they will be motivating probably was one of those genetically gifted athletes that was constantly striving, and capable, to be the best. So how do we create a motivating factor to our athletes at LFP? I went back to when I was playing football in college at WVU for the answer. Every week during the season our hardest practices were on Tuesday and Wednesday. Our coaching staff referred to these days as "lunchbox days", meaning pack your lunch, we are going to work today. It was a blue collar mentality and our goal was simple... leave better than when we got there.
So how do the athletes that put in the work, and the parents that invest their hard earned money into our program know that it works? To answer this I refer back to my mentor, Mike Boyle, who would answer that question with a simple statement, "Wait until the games start". This may come off as slightly arrogant, but I completely agree. And when it comes down to it I would not want there to be another answer, because that is all that matters. The world that kids live in today is full of tests; every other year kids get tested, filling in bubbles until their fingers bleed. And most would agree that school systems are forced to basically teach to the tests. Why do sports have to be the same way? At LFP we think that the sport should be the test. Athletes shouldn't train with the goal of improving their 40 or their vertical jump. They train to be better at whatever sport they play...and that is our goal too.
Here is a compilation of all the winners since this post was released. These pictures hang in the lobby of LEWIS Fitness & Performance. Click the picture to visit the Hardhat & Lunchpail page on our site.