Fitness Testing–those two words are justifiably accompanied by groans and anxiety. Often, testing is performed in a group setting escalating an athlete’s anxieties about performance and judgement. Fitness Testing is not easy. The test is designed to find the limit of what athletes are capable of performing. A comprehensive test will evaluate an athlete’s ability in strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular metrics to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the athlete. Yes, like any test, the idea is to evaluate the athlete and compare him/her to a standard, which is based on the athlete’s age, gender, and sport. Where athletes and coaches have the wrong idea, is how the results of a fitness test should be interpreted. For most of us, we interpret the test results as showing our weaknesses, and, when compared to our peers, that makes us feel vulnerable and anxious.
Let me say that THIS IS THE WRONG WAY to interpret fitness results!! It takes many years to reach the physical criteria needed to perform optimally in sport and each athlete’s ability is the culmination of their physiological development and life experiences. Particularly for athletes under 20, there is so much variation between individuals because the onset of puberty is unique, that age alone may be the most inadequate standard to compare. In addition to physiological drives, an athlete’s experiences, like when the athlete begins and continues a strength and conditioning program, will impact test results.