Every November for the past 10 years, I have tested my sprinters in order to improve the training for each individual athlete, and to help me become a better coach. All of the tests that I use are designed around specific track and field events. Testing is beneficial for both the athletes as well as myself. The tests are events that the athletes can be successful in early in the year. In November, the athletes are not prepared to run a personal best in the 100m, 200m, or 400m. During testing, it is common for athletes to become frustrated with how they perform, because they usually have high expectations for their results. Testing helps me figure out the strengths and weaknesses for each athlete and the team as a whole. The events that I test can be re-tested later in the season so the athletes can see their growth within a given year. The testing is also done on a yearly basis, so the athletes can see how far they have come as result of their hard work and effort. Since the athletes are aware that testing takes place early in the season, they are more likely to complete fall training correctly.
The testing measures strength, power, speed, coordination, flexibility, and endurance, which are all great qualities to have if you are an athlete. The testing allows me to measure the levels of each of these characteristics. Knowing this information allows me to write better workouts for specific events groups, or tailor the workouts to fit individual athletes. The tests include: the OHB (over head backwards throw), UHF (under hand forward throw), Fly 30m, Block 30m, SLJ (standing long jump), STJ (standing triple jump), 150m, and 300m. I do NOT test all of these on the same day. I usually divide the events over a few days so the athletes can test to the best of their ability and I can get an accurate measure for each event.
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What does each test measure?
SLJ (standing long jump) which tests power & coordination
STJ (standing triple jump) which also tests power and coordination, but also aids in identifying acceleration capabilities
Block 30m which tests power and coordination, but also aids in indentifying acceleration capabilities
Fly 30m which tests speed
OHB (over head backwards throw w/ shot put) which tests power and coordination
UHF (underhand forward throw w/shot put) which tests power and coordination
150m which tests speed and speed endurance
300m which tests endurance, overall fitness level, and it helps find out who the “gamers” are in the group.
300m (lately I have been testing the 300m on a 3rd day by itself)
The testing results allow me to figure out if I have my athletes in the correct event(s). Sprinters can usually fit into one of many different categories. There are long sprints (200m/400m), short sprints (55m/200m), short hurdles, long hurdles, short sprinter-hurdler/jumpers, and long sprinter-hurdler/jumpers in our sport (hopefully…I did not forget a group). Every year after testing, I realize that I have at least one athlete in the wrong event, or that I need to add an event to their profile. Most often, it is a freshman that is a short sprinter, who I am surprised by after testing. Usually, I am amazed that a short sprinter is able to move up and run a leg on the 4×4 or can help the team in a jumping event. These are ALWAYS good surprises. I would not know this information early in the season if I did not test my athletes.
The chart below is an example of testing for one of my former athletes. You can see that I use a chart that scores the testing like a decathlon. The scoring helps the athlete understand what their strengths and weaknesses are in athletics. The scoring also creates a little competition. I always encourage the athletes to focus on their own score. I ask them to focus on scoring more points than the last time they tested. Truth be told I understand they are going to compare their score to the other sprint’s scores. I am okay with this because the extra competition ensures 100% effort in all of the tests which helps validate the assessment of each athlete. The testing would be invalid if the athletes were not giving 100% in each event.
|Runner, X||M||Sr||Long Sprinter||3.02||710||3.03||747||8.71||735||3.89||740||16||900||16.6||935||14.9||507||35.33||5273|
My advice is to test your athletes to help you measure their growth. Testing can also be used to categorize your sprinters into event groups (example: long sprints or short sprints). There are a ton of tests that you can use from simple (pull ups and 45 second runs) to advanced techniques. Pick the tests that fit your program the best and keep a file to learn more about your athletes. The longer you keep records the more you will understand the results. I have 10 years worth of test results. I also share results with close friends so we can learn from each other. I know how fast someone needs to run in the fly 30m and block 30m if they want to break 11 seconds in the 100m. Teachers have been giving quizzes, tests, and exams since students have been in the classroom. Let’s start looking at track & field as a learning experience. If that is the case then we need to test our athletes as the year goes on to get feedback on our training. I don’t want to wait until the last meet of the season to find out the training needed to be changed (too late). Testing allows me to tweak training for event groups or individual athletes as the season progresses. It has worked for me!
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Marc Mangiacotti is an assistant track coach at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.