KPIs: Why Key Performance Indicators are Critical for Athlete Development
Athletes and their coaches are some of the most driven, motivated, and dedicated people on the planet. Years of dedication, commitment, and sacrifice to one sport and one goal; becoming the best.
Numerous factors play a part in athlete performance, including coaching, program design, and delivery, tournament planning, nutritional education, and technical analysis (to name a few). But, have you ever wondered how coaches track athlete performance?
In business, Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are terms we’re all familiar with; however, the use of KPIs has only recently gained traction when it comes to sports.
What Are KPIs in Sports?
KPIs are quantifiable measures of performance that coaches can use to evaluate an athlete’s progress over time. Specific, attainable, and timely performance measures indicate to coaches exactly where an athlete ranks on a particular skill.
Here are some common KPIs that can be measured across a range of sports:
- Hockey- shot outcomes
- Baseball- exit velocity
- Basketball- defensive rebounds
- Soccer- pass completion rate
What Are SMART KPIs?
As with goal setting, KPIs follow the same proven approach.
SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time.
Smart – Your KPIs must be documented simply, describing what needs to be accomplished clearly and precisely.
Measurable – Your KPIs need to be quantifiable measured.
Attainable – Your KPIs have to push the athlete, but they must not be “out of reach” or simply unattainable.
Relevant – Your KPIs need to correlate to specific and applicable objectives.
Time – Your KPIs need a deadline and timeframe.
Key Performance Indicators for Athletes
Rather than telling an athlete, “Work on your shooting attempts” in hockey, KPIs can be put in place to provide more detailed feedback.
In this situation of a hockey coach, the KPIs number of successful attempts and number of unsuccessful can be measured throughout the season. With the feedback now more refined through the development of KPIs, coaches can instead say “In the last 12 weeks, you had 6 successful attempts and 14 unsuccessful attempts.” A hockey player will now know why they need to work on attempts.
The hockey coach can continue to measure these KPIs: the number of successful and unsuccessful attempts and track the athlete’s progress over time.
While this is an example of how KPIs can improve player feedback and increase the accuracy of athlete evaluations in hockey, KPIs can be used in any sport.
Practical Example of KPIs
An example of KPIs for measuring the performance of elite soccer players might look something like this.
Offense or Attack
- Effectiveness and frequency of crosses
- Spatial structure
- Variety of crosses played
- Effectiveness of aerial battles
- Goalkeeping analysis
- Turnovers and skill
- Percentage of passes that create shots on goal
- Percentage of errors transitioning from defense to attack
Benchmarks and Metrics
Benchmarks and metrics are both crucial elements of KPIs. As a coach or manager, ensure your KPIs provide valuable insight into how athlete performance has improved.
Benchmarks are the areas that you and your management have strategically identified to be crucial in developing the athlete or organization. On the other hand, metrics describe elements of the KPI, such as “how many” or “how much,” along with attainable timeframes and deadlines.
A practical example would be international events such as the Olympics or World Championships. In a sport or event where the athlete or team has historically won 5 or 6 gold medals, does seven medals become a success, or is it 4 or 5?
The most critical aspect of creating a KPI is ensuring it is underpinned with reliable baseline data that compares past to future performances. Subsequently, collecting data is essential, and knowing what type of data needs to be collected in advance is paramount.
Simplify Your KPI Tracking with SkillShark
In the fast-paced world of sports, there’s no room for disorganization or missed opportunities. With SkillShark, you can score players on individual metrics most important to your sports organization or academy. The data collected instantly generates reports, providing you with KPIs to assess athlete performance.
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