Coaching Association of Canada

6 Tips for Effective Performance Testing

Coaches often incorporate performance testing as part of an athlete’s training plan. Testing has many benefits such as:

  • Providing objective points of reference from which to establish training goals;
  • Detecting issues such as incomplete recovery, excessive fatigue, and overtraining; and
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of a sport program.

However, getting caught up in the appeal of testing and the potential of performance improvement can detract from the process of effectively planning the tests.

Keep the following guidelines in mind when choosing tests for assessing athletic abilities (click to learn more):

  • 1. Keep it relevant:

    Each tested component must be relevant to the athlete’s sport. There is little point testing athletic abilities or variables that are not essential to successful performance. 

  • 2. Be specific:

    The test should be as sport-specific as possible. Tests should mimic performance requirements and require athletes to use the muscle groups and movement patterns of their sport. For example, rowers should be rowing when they’re tested, and runners should be running. 

  • 3. Ensure validity:

    Tests must be valid: they must really measure what they are intended to measure. For example, a maximum aerobic power test is valid for determining the peak power of the aerobic system, but is not necessarily a good indicator of aerobic endurance. 

  • 4. Standardize:

    Test procedures must be standardized so that they are repeatable and their results reliable. Overall, standardization helps to minimize the effects of factors that can influence test results: warm-up procedures, testing environment, weather conditions, testers’ skill, etc. 

  • 5. Compare data:

    There should be data to compare results with. It should be possible to compare results with normative data: data from other, larger groups. Normative data must be appropriate — i.e., they must apply to athletes of the same sex, of similar age, and of similar developmental level. Comparing test results with inappropriate data can cause results to be misinterpreted. National Sport Organizations, the literature, and other coaches are all potential sources of normative data. 

  • 6. Be timely:

    Testing must be conducted at regular intervals, and results must be properly interpreted and used. They can be used to monitor the progress of specific athletic abilities, assess how effective the training program is, and make modifications as needed. The results of certain tests — strength tests, maximal aerobic speed tests, etc. — can also be used to set training intensities in workouts.

Want more information on how to design tests? The Developing Athletic Abilities module, part of the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Multi-sport module series for coaches, will provide you with additional knowledge! Contact your Provincial or Territorial Coaching Representative for more details!