Assessing The "Human" Athlete
Why do we assess?
Personally, I think physical and movement assessments for golfers and athletes in general get too overblown and detailed becoming more of a show than actual data collection, wasting both the coach and the athletes time. With that being said assessing and reassessing your athletes is an important part of the development process. Remember that every training session is also a chance to reassess the program as well as the athlete's mental and physical presentation.
What do we assess?
This is where we get an athlete's history, goals, training experience, injury and medical history etc. More importantly, this is where I get to know the athlete, what they want to change, and learn their personality. This, in my opinion, is the most important part of the evaluation. Most of my job is done in the subjective assessment
For golfers and all rotational athletes, I look at a few basic things
1, Mobility-the ability to disassociate the upper and lower body, hip mobility, thoracic spine mobility, and shoulder mobility.
2. Strength and Movement - I have the athlete perform and eventually load the basic movements of the hinge, squat, lunge, press and pull
3. Power - this is usually done by a vertical or long jump and a med ball throw. We can also measure things like bar speed with devices like the PUSH band. This is also where swing speed testing comes in which is the ultimate assessment for power in golf.
4. Their swing - This is where we look at the mechanics of the swing, what the golfer and/or their teaching professional is trying to change and match that up to their physical capabilities
The Human Athlete
I believe in fitting the swing to the student rather than the student to swing. That is why it is important to understand what the student is physically capable of to start off as well as what are realistic goals for their physical development is. This is what objective testing does for me as a coach.
Granted all movements are on a continuum i.e. you can get the client to improve their physical capabilities to better perform a more ideal swing but you are going to still have to meet them where they are at physically, to start that process. You also need to be able to sit down with the athlete to set realistic goals and have them understand the work and time involved in getting them to where they want to be.
Lastly from a skill development standpoint, let's not forget that all golfers can work on the basic skills of things like low point control, face contact and control, tempo, and set up regardless of their physical abilities to start.
Improving any physical trait, whether that be golf swing mechanics and skills, strength and power development, mobility/flexibility, weight loss, etc., is generally never a linear process. It is a dynamic process that changes and morphs with the client's progress, lifestyle, emotional state, goals, etc. We must always remember that athletes are human beings and our programs and assessments should reflect the nature of that. Objective data matters but so does staying in tune with our athletes on a subjective level and changing the program as needed based on changes in both of those areas.
Dr. J.P. Guidry DPT CSCS TPI FL2