Sunday, November 05, 2006

More On Youth Fitness and the Mile

A friend disagreed with my post on the basketball guys running the mile in 6:30. And I agree with her, the mile run has no predictive value of basketball ability, nor does it prepare one for true basketball fitness. But I don't think asking high school players to pass this traditional field test is asking anything out of the ordinary with regard to an assessment of general fitness or of the disciplined mindset for being successful as a team.

Data from the President's Council on Physical Fitness states that a 6:30ish mile time is approximately 70th percentile for high school boys age 16 & 17.

High school sports aren't just about the sport specific success--they are also about participation, self-discipline and team work. High school basketball isn't just about shake 'n bake for the dunk on Sports Center.

And here are some other interesting things to consider. There are about 1100 guys at this school, which has a very strong basketball tradition. There are 4 teams: varsity, the B team (sophomores) and 2 freshman teams. Guess how many freshman were at tryouts this week for 24 freshman spots? 87 Yep, there were 87 guys for 24 spots. Now, these guys don't have to do the mile, but I wonder how many of them could've beaten their varsity tryout counterparts if they were asked to run it?

Lastly, I don't know if the guys are asked to run the mile in gym class. But I do know they are only required to take 2 semesters of physical education/health during their first 2 years of school. They are offered elective weight training classes in their last two years, but there are no other physical education electives. I'm fairly certain structured general cardiovascular fitness is not stressed in the curriculum, so unless he plays soccer or actually runs cross country, chances are the average boy is lacking in this area.

Anybody have thoughts on this? Are mile, 1.5 mile, 2.0 mile run requirements for high school, FBI, military service or firefighters realistic? Are we dumbing ourselves down by not asking this type of fitness from our young people through structured physical education benchmark tests? Or are we getting rid of silly tests and traditions that weren't appropriate in the first place?


harrowdrive said...

Testing is very important for performance, but at the participation level I think its more important just develop a love of sport/activity.

In the UK we have enough trouble getting kids attention for long enough to participate in cricket, football (soccer) or anything else. Making them hate participation by insisting on Decemeber morning cross country runs in the frost (oh the memories) isn't great. Offering a range of activities and sports to choose, try and develop if they want is what I would like to see.

Katie said...

I think that benchmark tests are important because they provide a "right of passage" for all those on the team. However, there are some problems with this philosophy. I like to base fitness testing off of personal bests. You should be able to reach close to your personal best as a preseason benchmark.
If you have a big hefty post player, is he going to have to make the same times as a guard? The guards shouldn't have to push themselves to make a 6:30 mile, but a large post may never make it, and he definately will have to push himself much harder than the small guard. Fitness testing should be about reaching and pushing to a personal goal, striving for maximum fitness and the team standard should be used as a bare minimum that everyone can reach with a little effort.

In addition, the mile is not the best test for bball. Bball is a stop and go sport where fitness is about recovery (yes, training the aerobic system will help your ability to recover, but it is not the best way). You must be able to give an all out effort (anaerobic), then recover and sprint back down court. I would use a 300-yd shuttle test, 150-yd shuttle repeats, or yo-yo intermittant test before I would use the mile as my benchmark.

Another problem with the mile test is that to train for the season, the athletes will merely run 1 mile runs (train to the test) instead of running suicides, sprints, or playing pickup. I don't think the mile will make them better at cutting on the basketball court.

JR said...

At my college, the men's basketball team, which I play on has to run a mile under seven mins. If you can't do it the first time, everyone will run it again the same day. And continues everyday till the team makes it under seven mins.

So maybe thats a reason for the highschool players if they plan on playing in college. And this school is division two.