In any high performance environment the goal is clear, minimize the risk of injury and maximize athletic development. If you lay in bed at night and honestly tell yourself you’ve done everything in your control to protect your athletes health, then you certainly have an assessment process in place. Most sports have technical, tactical, and physiological (I suppose we could add psychological here, but we won’t for now) requirements. If you don’t work with elite level athletes, you can still match, or come close to their physiological profile, as these are very trainable qualities. The performance coach clearly has the biggest impact on physiological development, highlighting the importance of creating physiological assessments to identify any high risk athletes (minimize injury risk) and know when you’ve adequately developed specific qualities (maximize athlete development). That’s the obvious part, the not so obvious part is selecting your assessment battery and defining your minimum and gold standards for each assessment.
Recognizing the need for quantifying injury risk through assessments and knowing how far to push the development for specific performance qualities is a good start! The next step is selecting assessments and establishing standards. The needs analysis you create (won’t discuss in this article) will lead you to your assessment selection process. The standards you establish will be based on the elite player profile (EPP) you create.
Let’s use women’s basketball as our example as I’ve been fortunate to work with elite NCAA, WNBA, and National Team athletes who participated in the World Championships. We all know the combination of technical, tactical, and physiological qualities are responsible
for their elite status. As far as I understand only physiological qualities can be quantified in a valid and reliable manner, which is why it makes perfect sense to:
1. Create a player profile and establish standards
Movement quality (FMS, joint range of motion measurements)
It’s no surprise these performance qualities and anthropometric measurements above will impact success. For example, aerobic capacity and body composition in favourable ranges can significantly influence playing time and game performance (1,2). While minimizing injury risk and maximizing athletic development are not mutually exclusive, there should be minimum and gold standards for each assessment. The minimum standard should be protective to reduce injury risk. If a player scores below the minimum standard in two or more assessments, I suggest a different management strategy than your player who scores above the minimum standard in all assessments as their injury risk are significantly different. This is where an integrated model with the performance coach and sport coach are necessary to keep the player(s) healthy while simultaneously striving to get them above the minimum standards in a safe manner.
Body composition testing can significantly impact game performance
2. The annual plan should allow specific standards to be met at specific times of the year
Not to make things too complicated, but at different times of the year different standards should be established. An easy way to conceptualize this is to prioritize specific qualities at certain phases in the annual plan. A good example is our athletes should not be in their peak aerobic fitness in the early off-season, but they should also avoid dropping below the minimum standards. This is especially important for elite basketball players as their off-season consists of game play where injuries may occur, making it important to hold on to these qualities during the off-season.
3. Re-assess the performance qualities to help drive decision making on what the current program should consist of:
Re-assessing performance qualities frequently should lead you to designing a program that accurately reflects the needs of your athletes. Obviously different qualities should be re-assessed more frequently than others. Body composition measurements every four weeks is appropriate as this is the minimum duration to see a worthwhile change (3). For anaerobic power, this can be measured each week with a countermovement vertical jump to monitor trends in the data. The performance coach should take an in depth look at the annual plan and map out when specific qualities should be measured, while always prioritizing athlete health.
Paris Saint Germain players tested with CMJ
(Source: Training Ground Guru)
Your assessment battery should be derived from your EPP and the minimum and gold standards you establish should be a reflection on several years of your own data collection and/or compiling research from the literature. The results from your assessments should drive your decision making to accurately deliver a program that meets the needs of your athletes. Re-assessing when appropriate is necessary to keep your program effective and keep the athletes above the minimum standards to reduce their risk of injury.
Hopefully this article has stimulated a new thought process on developing a systems-based model for your program. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Drinkwater EJ, Hopkins WG, Mckenna MJ, Hunt PH, Pyne DB. Modelling age and secular differences in fitness between basketball players. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2007;25(8):869-878. doi:10.1080/02640410600907870
2. Hoare DG. Predicting success in junior elite basketball players — the contribution of anthropometric and physiological attributes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2000;3(4):391-405. doi:10.1016/s1440-2440(00)80006-7.
3. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ, Wildman R, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017;14(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y.
Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Sam brings over ten years of expertise as an athletic performance coach with professional and NCAA athletes. Most recent positions include Assistant Sports Performance Coach with the University of Louisville Women’s Basketball Team and the Director of Performance for the Turkish Women’s National Basketball Team during the 2018 World Championships. Sam holds a Bachelors of Science degree from Keene State College in Physical Education and a Masters of Science degree in Exercise Science & Nutrition from Sacred Heart University. In addition to his degrees, Sam holds certifications from the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association and the National Strength & Conditioning Association, both gold standard governing bodies and mandated by the NCAA for all performance coaches. Sam is also a Certified Sports Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting and certified by the Functional Movement Screen. When not striving to keep his clients happy and healthy, Sam enjoys hiking, training, reading, traveling and drinking lots of coffee!