PURPOSE: The current study was designed to compare agility, body composition, power, and strength measures of NCAA Division-I (D-I) and Division-III (D-III) female athletes. METHODS: Subjects were field hockey (FH), softball (SB), and volleyball (VB) athletes. Body composition (BC) utilizing air displacement plethysmography [D-I (n = 16): Bod Pod] and bioelectrical impedence [D-III (n = 15): Tanita BC-418] was measured for VB. Agility tests [pro agility (PRO: FH, SB) and t-test (TT: VB)] and power tests [vertical jump (VJ: FH, SB, VB), 3-step VJ (VB only)] were measured. Maximal upper [bench press (BP: FH, SB, VB)] and lower [squat (SQ: FH,SB,VB)] body strength were measured. Pearson product moment correlation coefficients were computed to determine if a relationship existed between BC and performance variables for VB. Pearson product moment correlation coefficients were computed between all performance tests for FH, SB, and VB. Independent group t-tests were used to examine test score differences between D-I and D-III. RESULTS: FH athletes: A positive correlation (p ≤ 0.01, r = 0.73, n = 71) existed in D-III between SQ and BP. D-I (n = 25) had better (p<0.01) PRO scores (5.0 ± 0.2 vs 5.3 ± 0.3 sec) than D-III (n = 26). SB athletes: A positive correlation existed between BP and SQ in D-I (p <0.05, r = 0.44, n = 18) and D-III (p< 0.01, r = 0.53, n = 74). D-I SB (n = 18) had higher BP (p<0.001: 118 ± 16 vs 97 ± 16 lb) and SQ (p<0.01: 194 ± 22 vs 169 ± 36 lb) values than D-III (n = 74). D-I had better VJ (p<0.05: 19.5 ± 2 vs 17.9 ± 2.5 in) and PRO (p<0.001: 4.9+0.2 vs 5.2+0.2 sec) scores than D-III (n = 22). VB athletes: No difference existed in BC between D-I (23.8 ± 4.8%, n = 16) and D-III (23.4 ± 5.3%, n = 15). No relationships existed between BC and BP, SQ, VJ or 3-step VJ for either D-I VB or D-III VB. A positive correlation existed in both D-I (p ≤ .01, r = .71, n = 16) and D-III (p ≤ 0.01, r = .60, n = 51) between BP and SQ. D-I VB (n = 16) had higher BP (p<0.01: 106 ± 21 vs 93 ± 12 lb) and SQ (p<0.01: 189 ± 21 vs 165 ± 28 lb) values than D-III (n = 51). D-I had better VJ (p<0.05: 21 ± 2.2 vs 19.3 ± 2.6 in), 3-step VJ (p<0.001: 25.2 ± 1.9 vs 21.5 ± 1.9 in), and TT (p<0.001: 11.3 ± 0.7 vs 9.9 ± 0.6 sec) scores than D-III. CONCLUSIONS: D-I SB and VB athletes were stronger, faster, and more powerful than D-III athletes of the same sport. Overall, the performance test means of D-III athletes were ≥50th percentile rank for D-I athletes of the same sport (3). No relationship was found between BC and performance tests in D-I or D-III VB. The sport of VB requires players to execute similar skills with quick, reactive, multi-directional movements in a relatively small court. VB athletes tend to have similar body types. Previous research has shown BC to be a weak predictor of performance in sports with male athletes of homogeneous body types (5). Prior research has shown significant relationships between BC and performance tests male athletes with heterogeneous body types (1,2,4). Future research that addresses the relationship between BC and performance tests in other women's sports with athletes of heterogeneous body types would be of interest. There is a need for the establishment of normative data for many sports and levels of sport. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Strength and conditioning professionals can play a vital role in establishing normative data by keeping detailed records of performance testing for all sports and athletes, which can also be used to set goals and to measure the training program's effectiveness.
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