The Danish sports scientist Dr Jens Bangsbo, who invented yo-yo test in 90s, says that while the test can be relied upon to judge a player’s fitness capacity, its best used to optimise training and improve endurance. However, the man who has been the assistant coach at Juventus FC and the Denmark national side has a word of caution for those who use this test as a selection criteria.
Dr Bangsbo spoke to The Indian Express.
The test you designed two decades back for football has kicked in a big debate in India.
Basically, yo-yo is a very good tool to get an idea about fitness capacity of an athlete. But the question is whether skill and mental capabilities are also important in a particular sport. Of course, there should be a basic fitness level for them to execute their skills well. I hear that 16.1 is set as the benchmark and I should say that it’s not very harsh or too high. It’s pretty okay. Extremely fit footballers hit more than 20, sometimes 21 also. In any case, the capacity of a player and the sport which he is playing needs to be factored in to arrive at an ‘ideal’ benchmark.
What’s your take on using yo-yo for selection?
You have to be careful about using this as the sole test for selection. You have to be always careful in using it as a selection criteria in sports like cricket. It’s not bad, though, to have a lower level (16.1 is lower spectrum) as everybody needs to have a minimum level of fitness. But whether you should use this for selection criteria is up to the federations but I would say you have to be careful; as there are other qualities that one seeks in a sportsman.
So in your opinion, how should yo-yo test be used?
The test is a tool to measure the individual’s capacity. What is more important is to use this as a tool to measure and get better. This is a useful tool to find out how we train and how to improve the training to get the players fitter. This is how it is used by football clubs and that’s the constructive way. Since the level (16.1) isn’t that high, I can sense that they are expecting a minimum fitness level in their players. You may say that a player can perform well despite not reaching that level but as a team if it wants a certain minimum fitness level as part of its culture, 16.1 isn’t tough. But to use it for selection is different: I again say, you have to be careful about it.
NBA doesn’t use it for selection.
The way I see it’s best to use it for improvement of a player, for the development of a player. This helps in monitoring a player’s fitness capacity over a period.
Does workload prior to doing the test play a part? Indian players like Rayudu were involved in a strenuous tournament called IPL. Workload matters in Yo-yo, does it affect results?
To get a proper assessment, the players need to be well recovered. It can be difficult if you have done a lot of work before that. You’ve to make sure they are well recovered and are not rushed into this test.
Does familiarity of the test play a part? If a player is doing this for the first time, would it affect his scores? (It’s been reported that Rayudu did this test for the first time)
Whatever test you do, you need to be familiar with it. Which means you need to be careful if a player is doing the test for the first time. Generally, one should be familiar with the test before using its results (for selection).
Physiology of different individuals like how much oxygen the body pumps affects the test and it can vary from an individual to individual?
Well, yes but oxygen pumping is just one part of the test. A marathon runner can probably run 400 metres in the test, a footballer can do 1300 because of the different nature of the sport and how they have train and built physically.
Why did you devise this test in the 90’s? What was lacking in other tests?
All the tests in 90s, especially in football, were continuous running tests. Run for 12 mins or whatever and you never stop which is different from any intermittent sport like football or basketball where a player stops and runs a lot. We needed to have a specific test. It should also not last too long; if it’s for 25 minutes, it’s not a good test. So I devised this yo-yo for that reason.
Finally, have you watched a cricket game? And did you think two decades later a test you devised for footballers will be throwing up debate in far away India?
(Laughs) Well, I had no idea. But I will say this, despite all the problems some players are having in India, it’s important to use this opportunity to see how to optimise the training to improve fitness, and use this as a tool for that. One has to be careful when using this as a selection criteria. And yes, I have watched a few cricket games. I was in New Delhi, but didn’t watch any game live though. I know that Indians are world famous in cricket!