I read. A LOT. I believe that if you want to be in an industry, you need to know it inside and out. Right?
Sure, I read the news and the club websites and I follow popular blogs and Twitter accounts but it is completely underrated to read papers. Legitimate papers. I don’t think lots of people do it (at least, not by young ones who want to get into the Australian sports industry, from what I see) so I do it.
One of the papers I read recently was about the characteristics of starters versus non-starters in the AFL. These were mostly anthropometric factors (to do with fitness, essentially) and the findings were pretty interesting.
Now, I can’t share everything with you, for several reasons. One: it’s not my research. While I understand it, it feels wrong to just go on about it as though I know everything. Two: I read these things to stand out to employers. If I tell you everything, then you don’t have to do the work, now do you? (wicked laugh to self). But I will tell you the things I found most (and least) interesting.
Starters are older. They’re generally around 24 – 27, which makes sense because that’s when men hit they’re physical peak. But basically it means more experience. Starters had played, on average, 90 games at the elite level as opposed to non-starters who only played around 20. That’s not surprising, but I also wonder how clubs balance it out – if you only ever played experienced players, what happens when they retire and your kiddies have no experience? Would love to talk to a coach about this one…
Starters have higher vertical jumps, greater fly time, and greater hamstring flexibility, particularly on the right side. Again, not surprising, but here’s what I liked about this: defenders jump higher than the other positions. And, starters have greater flexibility because they can kick on both legs. Most favor the right side, but because non-starters usually haven’t mastered kicking on both sides, they aren’t as flexible.
Of the 19 categories related to fitness, starters perform better in 18 of them. They didn’t mention what that lone category was…
Starters are usually shorter and heavier. This one surprised me. Heavier may explain itself in terms of muscle (we all know muscle weighs more than fat) but I was/am confused about shorter. I wonder why. Can anyone explain that to me?
Lower body strength has little to do with vertical jump, speed, or acceleration. It’s interesting, especially because people usually link these, but they aren’t really linked, according to the paper.
Acceleration and sprinting are two of the most important factors. While some players move around the entire time, most don’t. Or, they move slowly, which requires limited endurance (although starters do exhibit more endurance). But AFL players are known to have many sprints of less than 6 seconds, meaning the ability to accelerate and sprint are two factors that play a major role.
Bench press is a good measure of success. They say it’s because bench press reflects actions on the field. Other than pushing (which, last I checked, is not okay) what movement does it imitate? I’m curious…
This paper only looked at the players at the West Coast Eagles, so I’m very interested in how this translates to other clubs and if it would generally remain the same across the league. They did acknowledge, and I agree, that there are other factors that determine whether someone is a starter, such as their reputation and previous year’s performance. But the reason I like this study is because it’s easily compared and translatable. For example, if all your starters have a vertical jump of… say more than 28 inches (which is VERY good), why would you draft someone whose vertical jump is only 22 (which is only above average)? I can see selecting someone who is at maybe 26 or 27, but you want players that don’t need a lot of work, right?
Anyway, that’s what I learned this morning while eating yogurt. What did you do with your breakfast time?
PS – Do you like posts like this? Should I do more? Comment or tweet me your thoughts 🙂