Predicting caliber of performance and on field contribution of NAIA division football players

G.B. Long, J. Walker, R.L. Herron, S.H. Bishop, C.P. Katica, and G.A. Ryan

University of Montana Western, Dillon, MT

Accurately predicting sport performance is a highly variable and valuable measurement and evaluation issue. Coaches and scouting personnel often use performance in the weight room and on-field drills to determine an athlete’s aptitude for a given sport or position. The National Football League conducts annual combines to assess athletic ability in a variety of tests (40 yard [yd.] dash, vertical jump, 20 yd. shuttle, etc.). Rarely, are these data normalized and combined to determine an athlete’s overall potential in their sport relative to their competitive peers. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to combine and normalize off-season performance tests of 70 NAIA football athletes to determine if a prediction of on-field contribution could be estimated using off-season testing with Z-scores. METHODS: Athletes completed a 5 test battery of vertical jump, hang clean max, squat max, 10 yd. dash, and 20 yd. shuttle. Athletes were separated by position grouping: Bigs (OL, DL), Middles (RB, QB, TE, LB), and Littles (WR, DB). Additionally, athletes were grouped by previous season contribution level: Starter, Contributor, Projected Starter/Contributor, or Bench. Z-scores were obtained for each variable tested and combined to form a 5-test Z-score value for each athlete. Average 5 test Z-scores were compared for each position grouping and contribution level using an ANOVA, with post-hoc t-tests conducted on all significant findings. RESULTS: A significant omnibus result was observed between all groups (p = 0.01). Starters (Z = 1.43) and Contributors (Z = 2.19) had higher 5 test Z-scores than Projected Starter/Contributor (Z = 0.52) and Bench (Z = -1.24) players. This finding held true for all position groups except Littles (p = 0.13). In all groupings, bench players had combined 5 test Z-scores below average (Z < 0.00). CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study suggest that the off-field testing battery did account for some variance in determining the caliber of on-field performance and contribution in NAIA football players. These findings may set a standard for colleges and athletes to assess performance and determine where opportunities for improvement warrant well designed strength and conditioning programs that translate into greater success on the field.

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