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March 2008

March 2008

Test for Success

EPIC ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE helps coaches get better results with proven testing and training tools
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Beyond any doubt, strength and conditioning programs are becoming more sophisticated all the time, especially at high schools. Education of coaches, modern equipment, improved nutrition and detailed training regimens have all contributed to the trend. • But one very important area, according to legendary strength coach Boyd Epley, has been overlooked – testing athletes to establish benchmarks that can then be used to gauge the effectiveness of a strength training program. “Without a well-defined testing program, it’s impossible to determine whether or not your training program is working,” said Epley. • He should know. Often credited with being the “father” of strength training for football players, Epley spent over 35 years at the University of Nebraska, where he created the renowned “Husker Power” strength and conditioning program that contributed to the school’s five national championships. With a list of honors and accolades too long to mention, Epley is the most celebrated figure in a field he helped create.

Test, evaluate, set realistic training goals, evaluate again – a never-ending cycle. That’s the mantra of Colorado-based Epic Athletic Performance, for which Epley is a consultant. Epic is a new company dedicated to helping athletic programs, especially football, achieve better results though more sophisticated testing and training methods. They do this by providing proven testing and evaluation systems and products that help strength coaches take their programs to new levels.

Epic’s philosophy is that it is critical to test all athletes before beginning a strength training program. Then, customize a program based on the initial test results and conduct further testing that will measure improvement and indicate if the training has been effective.

Epic’s signature testing evaluation service, which is available to all high schools and colleges nationwide, is known as the Talent Identification Index. The Index was used by the Nebraska strength staff under Epley and developed with the help of Dr. Chris Eskridge, a Nebraska professor and statistician. The Index assigns points to four tests of athletic ability – vertical jump, pro agility run, 10-yard dash and 40-yard dash. After body weight is factored in, the points are combined - producing a number that can be used to objectively compare an athlete to others at his position or the entire team.

Most importantly, according to Epic’s president Kevin Reilly, the Index establishes a benchmark that is used to help design a specific training program and, after future testing, determine if the program is working. “The Talent Identification Index shows a coach where an athlete needs to improve,” according to Reilly. “And after training and re-testing, a coach can be assured that his program is working if the athlete’s Index increases.”

Florida State Director of Strength and Conditioning Jon Jost, who uses the Talent Identification Index, says it has changed the way his athletes view testing. “Because the Index takes body weight into consideration, it puts all the athletes on an equal playing field and adds competitiveness to testing,” he explained. “It really keeps the big guys involved, knowing they have the chance to ‘beat’ the DBs. The athletes now talk about their points instead of their times in the 40.” Jost also recommends the Index as a way of measuring improvement. “It’s a tremendous tool when evaluating performance,” he said. “If an athlete’s points don’t increase, then we make an adjustment to their training program.”

Strength and Conditioning Coach Bryan Glover of California high school powerhouse Orange Lutheran is also a big believer in the Index. “The Talent Identification Index is the best tool for player evaluations,” said Glover. "It helps our athletes set goals and take ownership of their workouts to achieve those goals. I really believe that the Index helps our athletes maximize their performance.”

Using Epic’s system is simple. All a coach has to do is log onto their website, enter the athletes’ information and test results, and the system automatically calculates each athlete’s Index. It even allows coaches to add other components, such as bench press, if they wish. Students can also be given access to the site to check out their scores, which can serve as motivation for them to train hard and improve.

“The best part about this system is that it’s been proven to work,” said Epley. “At Nebraska, it was an integral tool for our staff to evaluate talent, prepare custom training routines and confirm that they were working.”

Another benefit, according to Reilly, is the ability to build team spirit. “Students usually dread tests, but not these,” he said. “Coaches can make testing day a fun activity for everyone and spice up the event by turning it into a competition between athletes. They can even use the tests as a fundraiser, where athletes get pledges based on how many points they can accumulate.”

To further assist coaches in their testing and training programs, Epic markets an extensive line of the very finest testing equipment available today plus a variety of books, videos and software that help coaches design and execute proper training programs. They have nutritional supplements that help athletes gain weight or improve lean muscle mass and can even supply speakers to address important topics such as nutrition and drug prevention or conduct on-site clinics to motivate your athletes. “We are committed, as a company, to helping coaches evaluate and improve athletic performance,” said Kevin Reilly. “That includes supplying a long list of proven products and services that can help a coach be more successful and ensure his athletes perform at a higher level.”

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The biggest mistake coaches often make when testing their athletes is using inadequate, inaccurate testing equipment. Hand timing sprints and agility runs or measuring vertical jump using out-of-date equipment produces results that are often unreliable. “With so much at stake for today’s athletes, it is vitally important that coaches have testing equipment they can trust to give them accurate results every time,” said Epic president Kevin Reilly. “That’s why we’ve developed a vertical jump station that’s more advanced than anything on the market and are introducing electronic timing systems that will give coaches accurate test times, every time, down to the hundredth of a second.”

The Epic Jump Station is weighted for added stability which results in a much sturdier measurement device. Plus, it has wheels for easier portability. The measuring “vanes” are in 1/4-inch intervals instead of the usual 1/2-inch. But by far the most innovative feature is the adjustable vane height, which eliminates the need to manually calculate each athlete’s jump by subtracting reach from the jump height. The tester can slide the vanes up or down and set the “zero” base at the top of the athlete’s reach. “Any time you can reduce or eliminate the human element from test measurement, you’ll get more accurate and more reliable results,” said Reilly.

The same is true with timing sprints. “With more and more collegiate evaluators and state and national organizations requiring electronic timing, it’s important for every program to have this capability,” said Reilly. “Unlike other electronic timing systems on the market, ours are very reasonably priced – something that every program can afford.”


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