SPARQ (an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness) tests an athlete's overall athleticism. The follow up training is to help athletes improve in all of those areas through dynamic training.
The SPARQ test is slightly tailored to each of the specific sports they test while still maintaining the goal of overall athleticism. Currently, SPARQ tests are available for general athleticism, baseball, fastpitch softball, men and women basketball, men and women soccer, football, and hockey (currently under development). The testing elements are: speed, lower body power (vertical jump), agility, core strength (power ball toss), and endurance (YIRT).
Speed: The speed component is measured at 20, 30 or 40 yards. A short burst of linear speed is a differentiator in every sport. This test measures linear acceleration, which is the ability to transition from a standing start to top speed. To measure sprinting acceleration, an athlete runs down a track and a trainer records his/her time.
Vertical Jump: Although most tests contain a vertical jump, unless it is a basketball specific test, the measurement is not about how high you jump, it is about acceleration. SPARQ combines your vertical jump height with an accurate measurement of your weight to reveal lower-body peak power. Peak power is directly connected to acceleration and speed allowing you to burn past your competition. To measure the vertical jump, an athlete must bend down into a balanced crouch with their arms behind them to help propel them upwards and then they swiftly jump out into the air.
Agility Shuttle: The agility shuttle measures the ability of an athlete to maintain body control through multiple rapid changes of direction at high speeds, your side-to-side quickness and agility. To measure the agility shuttle, an athlete must run 5 yards, touch a marker, proceed to run 10 yards in the opposite direction and touch a second marker, and finally, switch direction and run another 5 yards back to the starting point.
Power Ball Toss: The power ball toss measures your ability to generate explosive power from your core that transfers through to the arms and legs. This test is used to determine how powerful an athlete is by isolating the core by requiring them to load and explode. In the kneeling power ball toss, an athlete must kneel with both knees on a flat surface while raising a 3 kilogram medicine ball over their head. They must proceed to thrust outward, landing in a push-up position.
Baseball and fastpitch softball use a variation of the power ball toss, called the rotational power ball toss, which measure rotational core strength. This test measures core rotational strength and total body power used in batting and throwing. The test involves throwing a 3 kilogram medicine ball using a rotational motion. The ball is held in both hands at waist height and the upper body rotated or coiled to draw the ball back. Then in one motion, the upper body rotates and flings the ball slightly upward. Three attempts are allowed with the maximum distance recorded.
Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (YIRT): The Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test mimics the endurance required for the start-stop-recover-start action that is common to nearly every sport. Athletes in top condition can out-compete and out-last their competition. They are still running at top speeds while their opponents are sucking wind and calling time because of their ability to recover efficiently in between the bursts of high-intensity energy output. This shuttle will have you running, stopping, recovering and running some more, and will reveal who has the recovery ability that allows them to be as effective in the last minutes of the game. To measure the YIRT, a recording is played, giving instruction, and the athlete must proceed to run 20 yards at the sound of a beep. If the athlete crosses the finish line before a second beep is heard, he/she waits for a third beep, in which they must run back to the starting line before the fourth beep sounds. If the athlete does not reach the start line before the fourth beep, a warning is given. The process repeats itself until the athlete has been given two warnings, with the beeps getting closer together as the exercise progresses. The total distance run is what is measured.
Max Touch: This is a basketball specific test that measures the synergy of the physical gifts of height and wingspan with the athletic skills of explosive leg power and coordinated jumping mechanics. To measure max touch, an athlete stands 15 feet away from a Vertec jump measuring device. The athlete is given a significant amount of freedom in choosing how to jump: with one or two feet and any number of steps before the jump. As the athlete approaches the Vertec, they jump and touch the Vertec fingers that record the height of the jump.
Demonstrations of these test can be found for men's basketball, baseball, women's basketball, fastpitch, and general athletic assessment by clicking the links.
After completing the SPARQ testing, your scores can be entered into the SPARQ calculator. After entering the sport that you were tested for, your gender, and test results, you are presented with your SPARQ results and can compare against other athletes by your graduation year and other factors. For those athletes serious about attending a Division-1 school, the 2008 score to be considered is around 80 for both men and women.
I have not studied the SPARQ ratings system over the years, but as athletes specifically train to perform these test they will probably slowly increase. The next post will discuss why it is important that inspiring college bound athletes take this test seriously and who is using it in their evaluations.
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