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KPIs: Why Key Performance Indicators Are Critical for Athlete Development

KPIs: Why Key Performance Indicators Are Critical for Athlete Development

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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 & delivery, tournament planning, nutritional education, and technical analysis. 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 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 an athlete with more detailed feedback.

In this situation of a hockey coach, the KPIs are number of successful attempts and the number of unsuccessful attempts can be measured throughout the season. With the feedback now more refined using KPIs, coaches can instead say “In the last 12 weeks, you’ve had 6 successful attempts and 14 unsuccessful attempts.” A hockey player will now know why they need to work on shooting attempts.

The hockey coach can continue to measure these KPIs: the number of successful and unsuccessful attempts to track athlete 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 soccer players might look something like this.

Offense or Attack

  • Effectiveness and frequency of crosses
  • Spatial structure
  • Variety of crosses played


Defending Phase

  • Effectiveness of aerial battles
  • Goalkeeping analysis 
  • Turnovers and skill 


During Play

  • % of passes that create shots on goal
  • % of errors transitioning from defense to attack
Coach putting arm around players on soccer field

Benchmarks and Metrics

Benchmarks and metrics are both crucial elements of KPIs. 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.”

A practical example would be international events such as the Olympics or World Championships. In a sport 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 based on reliable 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 organization or academy. The data collected from any evaluation will instantly generate reports, providing you with KPIs to assess athlete performance.

Interested to learn more about SkillShark?

The SkillShark product demo is the best way to learn. This includes white-glove setup of your evaluation, tour of SkillShark, and free 25 player trial.

FAQ — KPIs in Sports

A KPI is a measurable value used by coaches and sporting organizations to track and evaluate athlete performance.

KPIs help coaches assess the effectiveness of their coaching methods, training programs, and overall strategies, ensuring that athletes are on the right path towards improvement.

KPIs should follow the SMART guidelines. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, realisitic, and timely.

With SkillShark, you can score players on individual metrics most important to your sports organization or academy. The data collected will instantly generates reports, providing you with KPIs to assess athlete performance.

Assessments conducted throughout the year support continuous learning and refinement of skills, leading to improved athlete performance.

Brenton Barker

Brenton Barker: Former Professional Sports Coach/Manager // Brenton is an Australian with 20 years of experience working with professional athletes. These athletes have combined to win more than ten international events. He holds a Degree in Sports Coaching and was the former Head Advisor to the Japanese Government Sports Institute.