Optimising the Beep Test

Hopefully you're not using the Beep (or more correctly, the Multi-Stage Shuttle) Test in your testing and training programs.

But, if like me, you have to due to some decision makers needing to justify their positions some protocols you should know how to optimise the information.

For a bit of background, I was working with a National Sports Organisation where we had to test every player in the Academy system twice a year. Unfortunately, none of the tests correlated with, nor predicted performance or development, least of all the Beep Test.

In fact, one year an email went out where another Academy was patting itself on the back for having one particular player run a 17 or 18 on the MST and breaking the official, NSO record. Less that two weeks later that kid wasn't in the Academy as his results in the actual sport weren't good enough...

As an Academy we wondered if we could use the Beep Test in other ways that might actually feed into our programs. Aside from the easy to administer, easy to compare, low value numbers, the Beep Test may be able to offer some insight that may benefit the Coach.

Regardless of whether you want to run the Beep Test or have to run the Beep Test, don't only record the numbers, have a look for these Athletes:

The Gritty Athlete

This Athlete isn't the fittest or the fastest, and probably has their tongue hanging out early, but they're hanging in there. They might miss a shuttle but work so hard to get back on time they make the following one. Their desire is greater than the current fitness, and that isn't the worst place to be. They're great to work with because they will push themselves to their own limited limits, and often push the more talented Athletes to their's too.

The Easy Stopper

AKA the Non-Gritty Athlete. Without missing a shuttle and hardly looking tired, this Athlete suddenly pulls out. They were just about to get uncomfortable so ended the test. It's amazing how often this behaviour carries over into other aspects of their life, particularly training and competition.

The 2nd Finisher

Watch this one closely. They usually wait until the first person drops out and then pull out straight after. In other words, they're aiming to 'not be the worst'. They're the ones who do things not because they believe in them but because the Coach is watching, or because it looks good. It's hard to become a Champion with this mindset.

The Big Stage Competitor

If there seems to be a mismatch between the Test results (they seem rather low) and their ability to endure in the Sport (they can keep grinding), they might just be a Big Stage Competitor (read: one of the best rugby players in the world had a very low score). This is the Athlete that will step up on the big stage, they need that pressure to compete and rise; and probably (and maybe wisely) don't see much benefit in this aspect of your program.

The Great Trainer

The anti-thesis of The Big Stage Competitor, their MST results often look way better than anything they have produced in competition. They're a dream to coach in the training setting and a nightmare to coach in performance setting. While they may not 'make it', do not discard their value to the training environment - they often lift the (physical and professional) standards.

The Quick Recoverer

This isn't a positive characteristic. The fact that the MST is meant to be a maximal test suggests that it should take a long time to recover. This person hasn't learnt to, or decided not to, push themselves. If it's the former, this education should be infused into their program (think: resetting their Central Governor). If it's the latter, as a Coach you have to decide 1) what is the underlying cause? and 2) can the behaviour be modified?).

Caveats:

1) Obviously do not base your program on a single MST (or any other test), this may be one way of revealing some aspects of your Athlete's character and perhaps used to any trends that may develop.

2) Hopefully, as a Coach, you have a Growth Mindset and don't just put the Athlete in a box without realising that many of the 'negative' attributes can at least be modified to help build the Athlete. 

As with most things in life, reducing an Athlete to a bunch of numbers hardly does anyone any favours so maybe this guide may add value to your program.

PS If you've found any other characteristics please send them through.

Grant Jenkins only likes doing things that add value to his Athlete's program. For more information click here, contact him here or follow him on Twitter @Grant_Jenkins

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