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Making Performance Testing Competitive amongst your Team Sport Student Athletes – The Maties Cricket Approach

Performance Testing – for many student-athletes, these words are as stressful as “end of year exams”.  It’s a time when you compete against not only yourself, but against your teammates to see where your athletic strengths and weaknesses are.  Have all the early morning and late afternoon gym and conditioning sessions paid off?  Am I progressing in my athletic development?  Am I stronger, faster, more agile, or more explosive than I was previously? These are all questions student-athletes pose themselves ahead of performance testing, which can place an immense amount of stress on themselves and inhibit their performances.

I try and reduce the potential stress that surrounds performance testing by “gamifying” the testing week.  I have found that student-athletes love to compete amongst one another and when some healthy competition with a fun aspect is brought into the testing week, it generally helps to deliver better physical performances.  Hence, “Le Tour de Fitness”.

Le Tour de Fitness is a play on the world-renowned cycling race “Le Tour de France” where professional cyclists and teams compete daily on some of the world’s toughest cycling routes in France.  Various coloured jerseys/caps are awarded to the cyclists who win certain competitions that take place within the overall race.  For example, while everyone wants to outright win the Tour de France and claim the yellow jersey/cap (the maillot jaune), the cyclist who accumulates the most points during the stages that involve cycling up various mountains will be awarded the maillot à pois rouges or polka dot jersey/cap as the “King of the Mountains”.  Other jerseys/caps include the maillot vert or green jersey/cap (sprinters jersey), and the maillot blanc or white jersey/cap (best young rider).  We have adapted these competitions into our performance testing at Maties Cricket with great results.

The “King of the Mountain” title (polka dot jersey/cap) is awarded to a member of the Maties Cricket High Performance squad that outperforms all other student-cricketers on the endurance-based performance tests.  The Green Jersey/Cap is awarded to a member of the Maties Cricket High Performance squad that outperforms all other student-cricketers on his speed-based performance tests.  The White Jersey/Cap is awarded to a first-year member of the Maties Cricket High Performance squad that outperforms all the other first year members of the HP Squad across all the performance tests in the gym and on the field. And finally, the Yellow Jersey/Cap (the most prestigious of all the Jerseys/Caps) is awarded to a member of the Maties Cricket High Performance squad that outperforms all other members of the HP Squad across all the performance tests in the gym and on the field.

These jerseys/caps are awarded after each of three performance testing opportunities (stages) across the year, with the points accumulated in each stage contributing to the overall winners of each category for the year.  So far in 2022, we have completed Stage 1 with Stage 2 starting the first week of the second semester once the student-athletes return from their mid-year break.

I have found that by simply adding in these mini-competitions for the student-athletes to compete for has helped to create a positive narrative and a “buzz” around the performance testing of the squad, which has in turn helped to deliver on maximum effort being given during performance testing.  Perhaps you can try to gamify or include some mini competitions within your sporting environment, either as a coach, sport scientist, or strength and conditioning coach, to try and make performance testing more enjoyable for the athletes you work with.

Grant van Velden

Manager: Sport Technology and Training Innovations at the Maties Sport High Performance Unit

Performance Scientist for Maties Cricket