Testing for Linear Speed with Carl Valle

We’ve all heard the shortest path from A to B is a straight line, but HOW we measure linear speed isn’t as clearly understood. My guest on this episode, Coach and Sport Technologist Carl Valle, has honed his expertise in performance data as well as an understanding for practical application of equipment and software.

In this first of a four-part series with Coach Valle we discuss linear speed and how to most reliably and validly test it. We began first with how we currently measure speed – in America we tend to think in terms of 40-yard dash times, but in other countries it’s generally in meters per second or kilometers per hour. Either way, sport performance testing usually consists of picking an arbitrary distance and measuring the speed to see how fast someone can run.

It’s not quite that simple though because usually the testing protocol itself can be learned and/or taught. For example, take into consideration a laser timer: if an athlete’s initial hand motion crosses the laser before their core body even begins movement, have they started “going” yet? Regardless of the testing protocol, there needs to be just that – a protocol – to ensure consistency and fairness across measurements.

Another facet of testing is the human error side of things (think reaction time to start and stop a timer). Coach Valle states that a human should oversee the testing process, but the testing process should not be dependent on the human. In this regard, a proper testing protocol can help eliminate human bias and error.
An additional expert tip from Coach Valle is that a good sprint test should be long enough to get you peak velocity and precise enough to understand acceleration. We reviewed a few sport specific tests for speed and their respective pluses and minuses.

We finished up the episode with a conversation around the differences and implications of peak velocity versus acceleration. After all his years of experience and expertise, Coach Valle firmly believes peak velocity indicates someone’s trainability capacity and true talent more so than acceleration. Acceleration is far more coachable and trainable, and as such, a good coach can mask a lot of talent issues by coaching acceleration well. When we’re able to raise peak velocity, we’re able to accelerate more efficiently, which in most sports is where majority of time is spent (relative to peak velocity).

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