Speed and Agility Testing Process

by Developing Agility and Quickness
Kinetic Select May 2017

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In order to ensure consistent and accurate results, coaches must take certain steps to ensure proper data collection. It is also important to establish sound protocols prior to testing.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Developing Agility and Quickness, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics. 

In order to ensure consistent and accurate results, coaches must take certain steps to ensure proper data collection. Establishing protocol before testing begins is critical. Everyone involved in the testing process must understand what is expected of them as well as the specific methods and procedures to be used. When developing a testing protocol, address the items from the following section prior to assessment.

Sequence

After choosing valid, objective, and reliable tests, the administrator must decide the testing order. With proper order of testing, the coach can make sure to gather accurate data. Things to consider when choosing the testing order include the following:

• Energy demands of the test. Tests involving a display of power should be performed before endurance-type tests. Short-duration tests should be administered before longer-duration tests. For example, administrators should conduct an agility test prior to a test used to determine aerobic capacity, such as the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) running test, since fatigue from the aerobic test may negatively influence agility performance. Testing the energy systems at the right time offers the best results and gives the coach a better indication of athletes’ status in terms of performance improvement.
• Number of trials given for each test. Often, multiple trials are a detriment to testing athletes because they do not have enough time for proper rest and recovery. If athletes perform a test while fatigued, they will likely not perform as well as they possibly can. This habit also increases the risk of injury. In general, it is good to offer three practice trials at a submaximal speed to allow the athlete to become familiarized with each test.
• Number of athletes participating. In order to maximize the flow of testing, the test administrator must organize the testing protocol to ensure athletes can complete all their testing in the allotted amount of time.
• Number of testing administrators. Depending on the number of athletes who are testing, it may be advantageous to have more than one test administrator to help maintain accurate and consistent records and execute testing protocols as intended. For example, in large groups, having at least one administrator to ensure that testing protocol is followed accurately and another to time and record scores makes the process much more manageable.
• Equipment needed for each test. Making sure that all assessment materials are available and ready for the day of testing is paramount for executing an efficient session. Coaches can create a quick checklist to better organize this process.
• Recovery time. In order to attain the best score possible on each measure, coaches should allow at least three to five minutes between trials. This reduces the negative effect of fatigue on the athletes and allows their ATP-CP energy systems to fully recover, ensuring that their technique does not suffer and that they have enough energy to give their best effort.

Equipment

In addition to administrative supplies, such as pencils, clipboards, and forms for recording results, the coach must also secure any equipment and safety supplies deemed necessary for the testing, including cones, stopwatches, a laser timing device, or a first-aid kit.

Environment

To ensure safe and accurate testing, the coach must confirm that the area used for testing is appropriate. The coach must make sure that the athlete is able to safely and effectively perform each test at maximal effort. The following are just a few questions that the athlete and coach should evaluate:

• Is the testing area free of any potential hazards or clutter?
• Is the athlete’s footwear appropriate? Do the athletic shoes offer good support? If testing outdoors, would cleats are more appropriate?
• Is the athlete wearing athletic attire that will not restrict the ability to move freely (i.e., athletic shorts, or sweats)?
• Is the testing surface resilient and nonslip?
• Is the area large enough to allow athletes plenty of room to safely perform the test?

Staff

Typically, a coach serves as the testing supervisor. This entails overseeing the testing procedures, making sure that the process flows well, and obtaining accurate results. If multiple tests will be performed, the coach may want to get additional administrative support for data collection. The support staff must be educated on the proper rules and test setup, as well as on any motivational instructions. Since motivation plays a large role in the results of physical tests, it is the coach’s responsibility to establish the following:

• Whether spectators or other athletes will be allowed to offer verbal support for the athlete being tested
• Whether the athlete will receive immediate feedback about the performance (i.e., corrections, knowledge of results)
• Whether athletes will be allowed to view others’ results
• Whether the results will determine which athletes will make the team, and whether the athletes will have this knowledge

Administration

Prior to testing day, the lead testing administrator should meet with the other administrators to practice giving the selected tests and to clarify any procedural questions. Administrators should read and study all testing instructions and should practice each test numerous times to ensure familiarity. The chief testing administrator should also discuss data collection to ensure uniformity of results. Since each test involves some instruction, the chief administrator must also decide how many practice trials the athlete will be allowed and how each test will be scored. For instance, will the athletes be evaluated on their best score or will the average of several scores be used?

Customization

In some situations, coaches may select certain protocols to obtain a better assessment of the movement done for a specific sport. For example, the pro agility test is commonly used by football coaches and athletes. As a result, many of the standards and norms established for this test are based on the athlete starting in a three-point stance.

Athletes from sports that do not require this stance may prefer a two-point stance. However, both the testing administrator and those being tested must understand that while they will be able to compare their pre- and post-test scores to one another, the established norms that use the three-point stance will not apply because of the difference in testing protocol.

With Developing Speed, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has created the definitive resource for developing speed training programs that optimize athletic performance. Including assessments and the application of speed training to eight specific sports, this authoritative guide provides all the tools needed for maximizing speed. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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