Chris Ritter: Is A$$ESSING a Dirty Words? (Part 2)

Chris Ritter is a former college swimmer at Cal State-Bakersfield, and is the founder of RITTER Sports Performance. He has trained two Olympic Gold Medalists along with numerous other national and international level swimmers. He has used his educational background (a degree in Exercise Science) and swimming experience to develop the RITTERFAST, RITTERLIVE, and RITTERSURGE training systems. Follow him on Twitter at @RITTERSP.

This is part 2 of Chris Ritter’s look at how to approach athlete testing. For part 1, click here.

Is A$$ESSING a Dirty Word? How to Approach Testing Athletes Part 2

Last week we looked into assessing and testing from the viewpoint of those that think it can’t be done enough and is a great tool. This week we’ll look at the opposite side: don’t waste your time with assessing and testing.

The thought process for most who hold this view is that they have better things to do with the limited training time that they have. They might even want to avoid some of the negative psychological affects that can come with assessing and testing that we discussed a few weeks ago.

If saving time is your main goal through not assessing you might be looking at it the wrong way. Yes on the surface you may come away with more time actually “training” but how effective is that if you don’t know which direction you should be going in your training?

Every athlete has physical imbalances, limitations or weaknesses. You can’t escape it, with the sedentary society we live in and coupled with an endurance trained sport like swimming. Sometimes a simple fix on a minor issue can open up much more potential in an athlete than years or training and trying to pound the improvement out of them.

This view could be compared to having unlimited gas in your car with the goal of driving from Los Angles to New York. The only catch is you don’t have a map. So you have unlimited resources but limited direction. Would that situation be better than if you were given just enough gas to make the trip but route was mapped out for you? The latter would leave you with limited resources yes, but a great set of directions.

The reality is that you already have limited resources. Everyone does. The choice you have is how much direction do you want to help you get the most out of those limited resources? Do you want to drive through your season blind and hope you make improvements or do you want to know exactly what you should be targeting?

The question really isn’t to assess and test. But rather how much do you want to maximize what you have? Do you want to have the most efficient training possible? Or do you want to guess and hope you have enough gas in the tank to get to your exit?

Here’s some parting thoughts for whichever camp you may fall into when it comes to assessing and testing.

What to do if you’re in the “more assessing & testing the better” camp of thinking:

Remember to limit how often and how many assessments or tests you have your athletes take part in. Find a balance between familiarity of the test and confusion of what to do for the test to get the best results from your athletes. Use it as a tool, not an ironclad predictor of performance. Allow the athletes to have a greater potential than a test or assessment gives them. Beware the power of self-fulfilling prophecies that a test or assessment can bring to an athlete’s mind.

What to do if you’re in the “who cares about assessing & testing” camp of thinking:

Realize that you have a limited amount of training time to accomplish what the athletes need to be successful. With proper assessing and testing you can pinpoint your training to get the most results out of your training time. You aren’t going to go overboard with too much assessing and testing but you do need to perform some to give you a more precise map for the training plan. Use your training time well by gaining valuable information from testing and assessing.

So what’s my viewpoint on the matter? I want information to guide my athletes’ training, but not at the cost of their performance or perception. Be smart and know how to get a lot of useful information from the least amount of testing and assessing possible. Don’t fly blind but don’t get into a situation where you or your athletes are paralyzed by the analysis.


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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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