Christina Rasnake MS, CSCS, USAW, FMSC, RPR. The University of Delaware Strength and Conditioning
Collaboration is a keyword that we use daily at the University of Delaware. Our Sports Performance team works together to prepare our student-athletes with the best opportunity to perform at an optimal level. Since our department stresses data-driven decision making we found it a great opportunity to partner with Sparta Science. We are approaching a full year of integrating the Sparta Science data with our programming and how we have conversations between our strength & conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, team doctors, sport coaches, and the student-athletes.
The UD Protocol
Our Sports Performance team has scanned every Varsity student-athlete at the University of Delaware and the importance of our scan can be seen in our strength & conditioning programming, rehabilitative plans, and recovery plans. As we began collecting data, our Sports Performance team wanted to stress consistency in our decision making based on the Sparta Movement Signature. Because consistency is key to all methods of testing for valid and reliable data analysis, we follow a standard protocol of testing across all our Varsity teams.
When we program our lift session, we program based on the time of the year (i.e. In-Season, Off-Season), and found it important to perform the Jump Scan consistently based on the season – and this dictates the emphasis of our training methodologies. All our student-athletes perform baseline testing at the beginning of each academic year (Balance, Plank, and Jump Scan).
When a team is in their Off-Season phase, we test at the end of each lifting phase or every 4th week. We want our goal when tracking and analyzing the data to test every 30 days and use the Sparta Movement Signature to assign LED grouping (Load, Explode, Drive) based on the lowest variable. If the strength and conditioning coach or athletic trainer are working with post-surgical or chronically injured athletes, they can test when deemed necessary.
Our In-Season teams are tested more frequently based on playing time or starter vs non-starter. The starters or high minute/rep student-athletes perform the Jump Scan every 2 weeks at a minimum to gather more information on fatigue levels, changes in practice load, and injury risks. The non-starters or low minute/rep student-athletes perform the Jump Scan every 30 days, similar to our Off-Season protocol. Our protocol of Off-Season, post-surgical, or chronically injured athletes is the same for In-Season testing.
We have multiple teams that test every week on a consistent day to track trends during the In-Season phase. The more data we can collect, the more consistent our analysis of the data will become, and we can help our student-athletes stay fresh and ready to compete. The frequency at which we scan our In-Season student-athletes will make us more aware of fatigue and potential injury risk as well as alert us to external factors (stressors) that affect performance (i.e. mid-terms, poor diet, pain, lack of sleep). Scanning our Off-Season student-athletes coordinated with our lifting phases allows our program to adapt based on a need’s analysis centered around the Sparta Movement Signature, creating an individualized plan.
Collaboration in Sports Performance
The consistency of collaboration with our athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches creates a seamless and steady conversation about our student-athletes health and performance because of frequent screening. Working with the athletic trainers allows our department to be on the same page with lift sessions, rehabilitative sessions, and best practices for recovery. Since the strength and conditioning coaches see how the student-athlete moves in the lift or run sessions, and the athletic trainers see how they move at practice this information can be used in conjunction with the Sparta Jump Scan data. Using this information allows collaboration to create recovery groups based on needs. Some of our teams have used the LED grouping to assign recovery groups with Sparta-specific exercises, mobility work, or soft-tissue work to better assist the athlete to perform and become a well-rounded athlete.
With more data to review, we can make better decisions to assist our student-athletes. This data-driven state of mind becomes a proactive model instead of a normal medical model that is reactive to the needs of the student-athlete. If we can use our data appropriately, we can make decisions to assist our student-athletes to perform at an optimal level, and remain healthy during a long season. This validates our consistent and proactive approach to save us time and money, as well as producing more successful competitive seasons.
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