What is the 20m Sprint Test?
Speed tests are typically used solely to measure an athlete’s linear speed capabilities. Track sprinters have been shown to accelerate continuously through at least 50m during a 100m sprint event (1, 2, 3). On the other hand, the average sprint distance in team sport athletes has been reported to be between 15-21m (4, 5, 6) and rarely last more than 3-seconds (7, 8, 9). As a result, because team sport athletes perform shorter distance sprints compared to track athletes, it has been suggested that they may achieve maximum speeds within far shorter distances – perhaps as short as ≤21m.
However, though little research has been conducted on this topic, the current evidence has demonstrated that team sport athletes and physical education students achieved maximum speeds around 40m when performed from a static standing start (10, 11) and 29m from a flying-start (10). Thus it can be speculated that the 20m sprint does measure acceleration in team sport athlete. Nonetheless, this difference means there are implications with regards to what the 20m sprint test measures depending on the athlete being tested. For example, the 20m sprint test may only measure acceleration in track athletes, whereas it might display maximum speed in some team sport athletes – especially when performed from a rolling- or flying-start. The test administrators must, therefore, consider their athletes before interpreting the results.
Before the introduction of timing gates, speed tests were typically officiated using stopwatches, though stopwatches are still useful and can be used as a reliable measure, the use of timing gates is highly recommended and essential when a high degree of precision is required (12, 13).