‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’


I’m sure he didn’t make this up, but I first heard these words from one of my university lecturers, Professor Rob Newton. In respect to sports performance and strength & conditioning, it is imperative that testing and quantitative measurements occur; otherwise, how do you know your training effect? Personally, I do not think it is good enough for a coach or athlete to say, “the game or the event is the test” and base your training off this. Although there is merit in that sentence, if aspects of the game or event are on a downwards spiral or plateauing, you have zero quantitative baselines to determine where things went wrong, and where the focus must be placed.

After inheriting a group of sprinters this season, I made sure we had a specific test battery of a combination of jumps, throws, and specific track distances (standard field tests etc) which we would test over throughout the GPP. Having only worked with one of the athletes previously, it was interesting to see the physical capabilities of various athletes in each of the tests, and where their results sit in comparison to the PB hierarchy in the squad. Without giving Freelap a shameless plug, it does create a sense of ‘reality’ when doing the track testing, as the watch doesn’t lie and is the equivalent of automated timing (compared with some coaches’ stopwatch which can be out up to 5/10ths of a second). One authentic benefit of using the Freelap system for track is understanding where time is lost/gained through split times. Again, this measurement provides an indication of where attention must be placed or adjusted. Heading into the third cycle of testing, it will be interesting to see if the results continue to validate a strong training effect or if redirection is necessary.

In team sports, testing standards are generally rigorous during the pre-season and then only slightly touched during the competition season. Although this is largely due to the logistical nature of a weekly competition, training loads, injuries, travel etc, I think it is important to maintain various standards which need to be met during the season. Whether this is related to strength, conditioning, GPS data or body composition; the dynamics of the sport and performance staff will generally dictate how this occurs throughout the season. Athletes need to be held accountable for their overall performance and/or output for their team, without performance staff being held to ransom for mediocre results.

Measuring performance and testing by no means will uniformly dictate the best overall performer in a sport of individual event. However, it will create motivation, identify strengths & weaknesses and keep athletes accountable. If you are currently coaching and you don’t regularly measure performance or have a set of performance standards which need to be achieved, I think you are short-changing your athletes. How can you improve their athletic output if you don’t know where to invest the time?

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