So, you’re at the store looking for shoes. To your right, there is a middle-aged male, and to the left, there is a teenage female. All three of you have different shoe sizes, buying shoes for your own needs, and find different shoe companies better than others. So we can assume, each one of you will purchase different shoes. This is very similar to training. Not one athlete has the same movement pathways, plays the same sport, and has the same goals as another. With that said, each person needs a program that is tailored to them. In this article, I go over the importance of an assessment, so you’re not wearing the shoes that don't fit.
The assessment is the most important tool for program writing. Without it, you are arbitrarily writing exercises, mobility drills, and set/rep schemes for someone that may or may not be able to perform anything on the sheet. That is why every athlete is assessed from head to toe in order for the coaches to see exactly what they are working with. Before I talk about the assessment, I need you to understand that every assessment is different - it can go in different directions depending on what is found.
Although every assessment is unique, I will give you an insight on how I take the athlete through it. We are going to fast forward past the sit-down talk, but this is where connecting with the athlete and parents is done. So, do not discount that! Below I outline the assessment and give details on each part.
Posture/Movement Dysfunctions: This is a very vague part of the assessment. I tell the athlete to stand relaxed to look at how they are at rest. This can show me shoulder slump, hyper-extended knees, flat feet, and other possible issues. Also, I will make the athlete walk to see if there is a limp, look at the feet, ect. Then, I will ask them to balance on one leg to look at asymmetries. Lastly, I will have them put their arms over their head to look at the scapula and how the athlete achieves shoulder flexion.
Lower Push: This usually starts with a squat, but can go into lunge variations, and/or any other lower body push movement. Here I am looking for hip shift, spinal positional, feet, and anything that looks out of place.
Hinge: Simple, I will ask them to reach down and touch their toes. This shows me how they naturally go down - if they move through their hips or back. This does not always correlate to an ugly deadlift, but can certainly help us understand the athlete’s habits.
Upper Push: Now, I want to see how the athlete pushes weight. This can be a push-up, landmine press, or any other push. I want to see how the scapula moves on the rib cage - generally not as well as I would like.
Upper Pull: This is opposite of the upper push. I want to see how the athlete performs a row and/or pull-up. We need to ensure the athlete can achieve sufficient retraction without compensating.
Jumping: At this point, I have a good idea of how the athlete moves. Using that information I make the athlete jump on two legs, one leg, forward, backward, laterally, and any other way I think is necessary for that athlete. Here, I look for the feet collapsing, valgus of the knees, and rebounding ability.
Speed/Agility: I use many drills at this point: pro agility, shuttle run, t-drill, z-drill, and any other drill that makes sense for that athlete. I look for cutting ability, deceleration/acceleration mechanics, and movement while running.
Conditioning: The modified Cooper’s Test is my usual go-to conditioning test. It is easy to conduct and little thinking for the athlete. I do not use a HR monitor, I simply go by RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and distance traveled on run/bike/row. Depending on the sport, I want to see where we need to start for the conditioning aspect of the program.
Like I said in the beginning, sometimes the assessment can go in many directions. For example, if an athlete squats and it looks like the ankles aren't dorsiflexion, I will look at the ankle range of motion. If that isn’t the issue, I may look at hip internal/external rotation. I will keep looking until I find as many answers as I can in order to produce the best program for that athlete.
A good assessment shows the problems, a great assessment reveals the answers.
Feel free to share your own thoughts on assessing or questions!