A guide to assessing trainability

As we discuss all the time, athletic development does not follow a fixed linear path. It is a journey where two athletes of the same age can start at completely different points even though they might end up in the same place. For coaches, this creates some problems: how do you know where to start with an athlete you inherit and how do you track their progress?

Where is the athlete in their athletic journey?

This is an issue that Randy Ballard confronts daily. As Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine at the University of Illinois, they have hundreds of new athletes every year coming from a variety of backgrounds. As physical education has declined in schools, it is become more their responsibility to teach the basics. As Ballard discussed in our latest member video: “coaches need to figure out where the athletes are in the journey so you can see how to best help them along it. ” With this is mind they created I-Facts, a program aimed at giving coaches just that overview.

In the video, Ballard explains why they test athletes, how they test athletes, and what they do with those results. The key concept for him is that the test needs to be based on movements that are relevant to athletes. Some basic movements are included in the tests for all athletes as they appear in nearly ever sport, but the assessment is flexible and also includes sport-specific movements. The video includes highlights from several presentations Ballard has given at GAIN, including demonstrations of the physical movement assessment and examples of sport-specific tests through several case studies.

Two tips for assessments

Part of the video looks into the philosophy behind I-Facts, but much of the advice can also be applied to any type of assessment, such as these two points:

  1. Inflated test results don’t help athletes. As Ballard put it, “To use the analogy of speeding, it doesn’t matter if you’re 10mph or 30mph over the speed limit, you’re going to get a ticket. This isn’t to say exactly where you are at, it’s to raise a red flag that our staff can work together to figure out what is going on and where to take them.”
  2. The conversation is as important as the test. A test is a great tool to bring the coaching staff together. It is a great chance to sit down with your athletes. All of these conversations can be used to bring everyone on the same page, which is a critical factor in success. Ballard explains how he views this as the key benefit of testing: “If you look at the research on assessments some of it says these tests don’t predict injuries or provide good outcomes, and maybe they don’t. But I think once you start people working together to develop and utilize a testing system.”

Learn more at GAIN

As a faculty member at GAIN, Ballard is someone we have learned a lot from and someone you can learn from in person this summer. The video gives you a look into what GAIN is about and applications are now open for GAIN 2018. In addition to the video, you can also learn more from Ballard on HMMR Podcast episode 32 and GAINcast Episode 45.