Need for Performance Assessment in High Performance Sport
Brief about the Article
Knowing your athlete and his physical, mental and physiological make up is most important for effective preparation for competition. This requires organized, systematic, reliable and consistent evaluation and recording of the performance data. Coaches, strength and conditioning experts and sports scientists are always focussed on optimising the ingredients of athletic performance to achieve higher results. Assessments are like tools in a toolbox of Coaches and the team used to provide a clearer view of the current state of their athlete or team.
In this 2-part series, Commodore Pushpendra Kumar Garg(Retd), alumnus of the inaugural edition of the High Performance Leadership Program, throws light on the need for a comprehensive array of tests designed for enhancing the athletes’ performance in high performance sport.
Excelling and going beyond the limits of normal performance are the most important ingredients of achieving success for elite sportspersons. These athletes continue to work, day in and day out to achieve peak levels of performance to reach the top and thereafter stay there. Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Elaine Thompson, Shelley Fraser, to name a few have done exactly this. Athletes attain world levels of performance through information from the continuous assessment of training and competition which is made available to aid in their evaluation of how they are performing and progressing.
The more you know about your athlete and about his potential, the more effective preparation for competition can be made. However, knowing about the potential of the athlete requires organized, systematic, reliable and consistent evaluation and recording of the performance data. Coaches, strength and conditioning experts and sports scientists are always focussed on optimising the ingredients of athletic performance to achieve higher results. Assessments are part of the specialized toolbox they use to provide a clearer view of the current state of their athlete or team. Further assessments not only are done to provide physical or other data, it also gives a definitive indication of the effectiveness of the intervention programmes adopted by the Coaching team for the athlete. Assessments also provide the formative data for talent identification and development.
The elite athletes in India also use the performance assessment tests on a regular basis. Chief Coach of Athletics confirmed using time tested tests such as standing broad jump or the vertical jump or the five hop jump while preparing the Indian athletic contingent for the Olympics. Performance protocols have also been worked out and are available right from school going children on the FIT INDIA app to the intense protocols required for athletes undergoing training in various National Centres of Excellence of Sports Authority of India. Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has also developed basic fitness protocols for age groups from 18 to 65 years and each and every individual can thus find out where he or she stands as far as fitness levels are concerned.
Like everything else sport also is a graphic demonstration of Physics in action, as everything revolves around the force applied, may it be running, jumping, skating, swimming, rowing or any combat sport. To achieve high performance one has to constantly measure athletes’ performance against established benchmarks and also the competition to find out where one stands and what is required to become better. If you don’t measure how you will know where you stand, and if you don’t know where you stand how you can improve.
Performance management actually is a tool to identify, measure and thereafter provide data which after analysis helps in enhancing performance of an individual or a team of athletes. As measurement is connected with collection of data, it is basically a quantitative method which helps in assimilating key performance indicators. Besides this evaluations of performances aspect is a major part of interest in the academic field and the scientific activity, related to the development of theories, techniques and methods for training and for the practice of different sports and motor activities and
All of us will agree that there is a vast difference between elite athletes of today compared to those from previous generations. Though the basic rules and objectives of the sports may be similar, but the processes undertaken to be the best in the world are markedly different. Today becoming a sportsperson is a career choice as any other career and thus it requires total attention and commitment, forsaking all others. However, no single athlete is an Island. This was amply demonstrated by the slogan in the dining hall at the London Olympics which said “None of us is as good as all of us”. To put it in simple words, it just emphasizes that an athlete today is part of a team which does a lot of work behind the scenes to make that achievement possible and make a Champion out of an athlete. Sports success requires long term planning and commitment and high performance sports need much more careful and considered planning. The determinants of sports success in the considered opinion of many would boil down to:-
Technical & Tactical Skills.
Emotional & Psychological Strength.
Therefore to produce world class athletes the two key goals in the business of training them would be:
Improve their physical, technical, emotional and psychological abilities to help them reach the highest possible levels of performance.
Develop a precisely controlled training programme to assure that Maximal Performance is attained at the right moment of the Competitive Season.
So the foremost requirement to achieve the training objectives is the need to determine the physical capacities of our athletes. This critical information is required to design an effective training programme. To design the programme there is a need to assess as to what is required to produce a full, accurate picture of the strengths and weaknesses of an athlete. Here is where the need for performance assessment arises. Like training, assessment of physical capacities must be specific, so it is important to design tests which generate data which is meaningful and can be used to affect athletic performance in some manner. Tests that are used need to be examined critically and not chosen solely because they have been used previously or because the equipment and expertise is available.
A wide variety of tests are available for a sportsperson and coach. From enhancing movement efficiency, to finding out your flexibility and speed, endurance, muscular strength or agility, evaluation tests have been designed. These can then be used for different sports depending on the requirement of the sport. The overall training and its monitoring involves the use of tests and sport specific tasks. Viru and Viru in their book, Biochemical Monitoring of Sport Training, Human Kinetics (2001) (Page 6)outline 5 principles for training monitoring:-
a) The process must enhance the effectiveness of training.
b) Training monitoring is rooted in recording alterations in the athlete that occur as a result of the main influences of training.
c) Training monitoring is highly specific to the age, sex, sport event, training age, performance level, current fitness, injury status, and others.
d) Any measurement variable or method is acceptable if the approach makes logical sense and provides reliable information related to the specifics of the athletes training.
e) Information obtained from measurements should be understandable to the coach and athlete such that a direct link between the information and training decisions can be made.
The reliability of the tests is often considered the most important factor because it affects the precision of assessment of athletes. For example, when dealing in elite sport, the margin of gains in performance and the difference between achieving successes are so small that knowing a performance test is reliable is critical. When performing measurements of any physical capacity, it is therefore vitally important to establish whether the method is reliable. There are a number of methods that are available to the EXAMINERS that can be used to measure reliability. These methods include correlations, typical error of measurement and change in the mean. Further reliability of a test establishes that it can be repeatedly used to give similar result.
Validity is also extremely important as it deals with the fundamental question of whether the test is really assessing what it purports to measure. Validity also deals with the issue of how well the test relates to competition performance of the athlete.
The natural progression towards developing the physical capacities of an athlete will be to do a performance need analysis followed by selection of tests, which is based on reliability and validity of tests followed by testing , preparation of training program retest and presentation of results. Mike McGaugin PhD, CSCS has provided following cycle for effective training in the book High Performance Training for Sports, Page 3, Human Kinetics (2014) :-
Test – Retest Cycle
In part two of this discussion we shall see the kind of tests which are available and the data which we can assimilate from them, with some examples.
About the Author
Commodore Pushpendra Kumar Garg(Retd) is a Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awardee for his achievements in the sport of sailing. He has represented India in the Enterprise Class sailing boat in numerous Asian Games, winning Bronze medals at 1990 and 1994 Games. He won the Enterprise World Championship in 1993 and was runner up in 1997. Cmde Garg was also the High Performance Director with Sports Authority of India and the Secretary of Services Sports Control Board.
Countermovement Jump Test