Fitness testing is primarily used to determine an athlete's strengths and weaknesses, so as to design the most appropriate athletic training program. Another use of testing is for talent identification, to direct the athlete to a better suited sport or to play in a more appropriate position or compete in an more appropriate event in their chosen sport.
Talent identification in sports has been used with varying degrees of success. Talent ID has generally not been very reliable in predicting the future success of juniors (mainly due to varying growth patterns) and for sports which rely heavily on other factors such as technique, tactics and psychological factors. Successful programs have been for sports that do not have a large participation base, and have clear physical attributes for success that can be tested for.
However, being a successful athlete in any sport is a result of a multitude of factors, and they may also not be easy to test for. In addition to the physical and physiological attributes which usually make up a talent identification process, other factors such as motivation, determination, resilience, positive attitude, resistance to injury, ability to learn and perform skills can all be important. Finding potential athletes is one thing. The success of a talent ID program relies on getting the athlete into the best training program, support system and onto a sport career pathway to the elite level.
A general non-sport specific testing battery can provide you with an idea of a person's basic strengths and weaknesses, and from this they can be matched to sport which makes the best use of their strengths. You can also use muscle fiber testing to determine the relative composition of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, to help match the person to appropriate sports. More specific tests can be performed when athletes for a certain sport are being recruited. Here are some example sports, with a few of the factors that may be of interest.
- Rowing - good height and arm reach, with a excellent aerobic base.
- Volleyball - height, vertical jump ability
- Cycling - body height/weight ratio, leg power for sprint cyclists
- The Australian Institute of Sport has has a very successful history of recruiting and developing athletes into non mainstream sports, such as in rowing and the winter sport of skeleton. A program called Talent Search for Australian school children has been used in the past, and now there is an online system of recruitment, called eTID, recruiting athletes for the sports of canoeing, cycling, rowing, triathlon, athletics and beach volleyball (see more on the AIS Sports Draft and online TID program).
- South Australian Institute of Sport (SASI) Rate Yourself Program uses social networking to broaden its talent identification program. People are asked to enter fitness test results from which potential athletes are selected for further testing.
- AIS Sports Draft
- AIS eTID program
- SASI Rate Yourself Program
- Muscle Fiber Composition Test
- Fitness Testing for Talent Identification is also mentioned in Benefits of Fitness Testing section of the Fitness Testing Guide.