Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Are You Testing Your Players Correctly?

My Twitter account is 100% football where I follow footy clubs, leagues and players from all over the world.

Right now Aussie teams are in the thick of pre-season training where overseas there is a lot of initial prep work for the International Cup in August this year.

So it's fair to say I've a lot of videos and posts in regards to testing days that various teams have had so far.

My question is, is all this testing necessary?

Are the tests relevant?

How could they be improved?


Agility is a reactionary occurrence to changes in play that is not pre-determined. With a combination of being able to read the play, reaction time and change of direction mechanics, a test of running around pre-determined cones is about as far away from agility as you can get.

OK, i might have gone to far on the last point but it's missing 2 very important aspects that probably have a far greater carryover into actual on field change of direction performance.

Running around a set of cones can be improved by simply running around the same set of cones repeatedly, increasing your proficiency of that particular course which is great, you'll have improved times which is what we're after.

Except it will not transfer to a game as you do not know any time where the play will go.

So without going too deep into this my suggestion is to use an agility course that has a coach call out what direction to move to on command. You might have 3 - 5 changes of direction you want in a test and the coach can call them out in a different order each time.

For consistency each test will reach a specific distance so it might be 30m total distance covered in the 5 turns or whatever.

I'd have to sit down and think about that harder but the pre-determined principle of the test most do now needs to go away.

Training wise small sided games in confined spaces will work change of direction in a reactionary format and also don't forget that change of direction is a display of rate of force development which is the ability to plant and move the opposite direction so it has a very high strength component that you'll need to hit the gym to improve.


Does the height of a 2 foot jump even matter in a sport that predominantly involves running 1 leg jumps? I would not have thought so.

Testing the 1 leg running jump is probably only required for a certain player style or position too - do you see Josh Kennedy from the Swans relying on his vertical leap? Of course not, his game style and
position don't really need it to be a beats at your position.

And apart from jump height, I think it's AS important how you you did that jump in regards to eccentric speed and contact time but that obviously takes a lot of technology at great cost to measure those types of things.

I wouldn't spend too much time on vertical leap testing personally as being able to judge the ball in flight is also a huge attribute to have which can make someone with an average jump, a far better marking then a high jumper who can't get near the ball!


The beep test isn't the worst test around but it takes a long time, especially for your top end players which can almost wipe out an entire training session - remember you might only have 20 training sessions between Christmas and your 1st practice game and you want to waste 5% of that on one test?

I think a far better method is to:

Step 1 - Have players take their resting heart rate on a Tuesday morning as soon as their eyes open and text it to the coach

Step 2 - Perform a repeatable 6min run at the same time or in 2 groups

Step 3 - Have players record their heart rates as soon as they complete the run plus every minute thereafter for 3 minutes.

Why do I prefer this?

Resting heart rate is a fine indicator of aerobic fitness, parasympathetic tone and daily readiness.

The longer the test, the more players will save themselves for the end of it but in a game it's 100 miles an hour from the first contest onwards so a shorter test will replicate this a bit better.

Recovery heart rate is also an aerobic fitness indicator as it can show how quick players can recover between bouts of play. Think Dane Swan at his peak would essentially do this 6 minute test on the ground, come off for 2 - 3 mins and repeat.

The Collingwood conditioning staff determined his rotations specifically to his strengths.

On the flip side players like Buckley and Lucuria would stay on for longer but not cover as many meters per minute.


Acceleration is vital for football so I''m down with keeping this in but I also think they should add a flying 10m sprint for max velocity speed.

GPS readings always tell us there is more acceleration then anything in football but with the way football is played these days with fast breaks requiring sprints from the backline to the forward line, near-linear max velocity speed is also crucial to possess.


Whatever you do decide to test then each test must posses the following:

- Ease of Implementation
- Must be able to be repeated in the same conditions, or close to.
- There must be a training plan in place to allow your players stimulation to improve on that test. You can't test agility, do zero agility training, then expect improvements next time you test it again.
- You must re-rest it!

The last one seems simple but I've done plenty of pre-season where we tested something once and that was the end of it. We didn't train it and we didn't re-test it so it was a waste of time and effort that could have been directed elsewhere.


Your on-field performance.

If you can't run faster, or for longer or your continue to make the same skill mistakes as always, then something has gone wrong with your training.

Maybe you aced your re-testing but you still can't seem to replicate it during a game? Look at some psychological training.

Just don't try and test everything all the time as you end up undertraining what you're training for - FOOTBALL!

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