Caitlin Bassett: By scrapping skinfolds, AFL are undervaluing it as performance metric

Caitlin Bassett
The Nightly
3 Min Read
With the news that AFL clubs are no longer allowed to perform skinfold testing on draftees, they are passing up an opportunity to educate athletes and provide support before they hit the big league.
With the news that AFL clubs are no longer allowed to perform skinfold testing on draftees, they are passing up an opportunity to educate athletes and provide support before they hit the big league. Credit: Michael Willson/The Slattery Media Group

Stripping down and getting pinched by callipers is not fun, but it’s an important part of measuring high-performance outcomes.

With the news that AFL clubs are no longer allowed to perform skin fold testing on draftees (both male and female), they are passing up an opportunity to educate athletes and provide support before they hit the big league.

As someone who never had low skin folds, it would be easy for me to say that I felt like I was being body shamed. However, I saw it from a different perspective.

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My focus wasn’t on the number, but how I could change that number through manipulating training and diet. Why do elite teams do skin folds? To track the effectiveness of training.

In a team sport, programs can’t always be individualised, so skin folds are an important way to track how each athlete responds to the workload. The data collected from skin folds becomes part of a larger picture in an athlete’s development.

As a younger player I’ll admit I found it stressful and confronting at times, but as I was learning how to be elite it was useful to track progress.

When I got my first elite contract at 16 I had never had a dietary program and my skin folds were through the roof. I found that with better education and training my skin folds lowered, because I was putting on muscle for the first time, which — of course — helped me be a better player.

Maybe I was lucky and ended up in the right sport, because Netball Australia has unique guidelines around skin fold testing.

As a Diamond, it was an opt-in process and was used to assess progress and was kept confidential. At the highest level, none of the players opted out as we saw it as a way to monitor progress and we were all striving for feedback.

To be elite you need to be able to receive feedback, and testing is a crucial part of measuring performance. That’s the only way you can get better.

To be elite you need to be able to receive feedback, and testing is a crucial part of measuring performance. That’s the only way you can get better.

You need to know what you are in for before you can commit and if you aren’t comfortable getting feedback about something that will help you maximise performance outcomes, I don’t think being an athlete is the right job for you.

We all have to do things in life we hate, that’s just a reality.

The more you do skin folds the easier it gets and the better you understand your body and what it needs to.

Imagine being Harley Reid stepping into West Coast for the first time and not being prepared for the physical testing, on top of everything else that gets thrown at a first-year player.

Being an elite athlete is not easy, nor should it be.

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The front page of The Nightly for 21-05-2024

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