KPI’s: Why Key Performance Indicators are Critical for Athlete Development

KPI’s: Why Key Performance Indicators are Critical for Athlete Development

Youth Sports •

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 sport.

What is a Key Performance Indicator?

To put it simply, a business, or in our case, coaches and sporting organizations, use measurable values to indicate just how effectively specific objectives are being met. KPIs are used to track and evaluate the success of the targets set; from the CEO to the sales and marketing teams, KPIs are an integral part of every position.

Before you can set KPIs, a solid plan needs to be in place, outlining the organization’s intentions regarding how to achieve specific objectives. However, implementing a program does not guarantee success over the long term, and without SMART KPIs, the plan will almost certainly fail.

SkillShark offers a customizable athlete and team evaluation experience to conduct tryouts, summer camps, and organizational reviews, all of which help draft and design future KPIs.

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 must be measurable; this helps determine when the objective was achieved. 

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

Measurable goals and objectives must be incorporated when developing a plan to improve athlete or team performance. These objectives provide feedback on the progress of the athlete or team and allow the coaching staff to monitor improvement. 

KPIs should identify a quantifiable shift or improvement within a specific time frame and should not be in place to simply have athletes complete tasks by a particular date. 

Concept, strategic importance, athlete goals, and intent, are all integral and should be directly related to the KPIs you have in place. Remember; if the KPI can only be used once, it’s probably not a relevant or realistic KPI.

Here is a straightforward approach that can help analyze the validity of your KPIs.

Start by asking: 

  • What target are you specifically measuring? And what does that performance indicate?
  • What is the metric we are using?
  • The deadline and timeframe?
  • Is the KPI reoccurring, or is it a one-off?

Practical Example of a KPI

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
  • The variety of crosses played

Defending Phase

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

During Play

  • The percentage of passes that create shots on goal
  • Percentage of errors transitioning from defense to attack

Benchmarks and Metrics

When it comes to KPIs, two critical elements need to be addressed, “benchmarks” and “metrics.” As a coach or manager, you need to ensure your KPIs provide valuable insight into how athlete performance has improved. 

The “benchmark” is simply the areas in which you and your management have strategically identified to be crucial in developing the athlete or organization. 

On the other hand, “metric” describes 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 historically the athlete or team has won 5 or 6 gold medals, does seven medals become a success, or is it 4 or 5? 

The metric also helps track and evaluate the coaches’ expectations initially outlined in the original plan. Another excellent way to track and assess performance is integrating “satisfaction surveys” as a component of the KPI. Satisfaction surveys are especially relevant for teams and larger sporting organizations that may view member satisfaction as the measure.

The most critical aspect of creating a KPI is ensuring it is underpinned with reliable baseline data that allows comparing past to future performances. Subsequently, collecting data is an essential factor and knowing what type of data needs to be collected in advance is paramount. 

With SkillShark, you can assess players based on individual metrics and assign preferred weights to categories or specific skills. The data collected can instantly generate reports vital in reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of your key performance indicators.

Assessments and Monitoring

Research and experience suggest that coaches and organizations continually strive for best practices. A critical component of that is conducting meaningful assessment and monitoring through ongoing reviews. 

The review process must be vigorous, expansive, and all-inclusive to effectively identify underperforming areas that might need adjustment or even a complete overhaul. Reviews should be conducted at regular intervals throughout the year using a combination of constant informal feedback coupled with measurement against key performance indicators. 

The ultimate objective of the review process should be to support a culture of continued learning and refinement while capturing the opportunity to improve performance continually. Again, it’s important to emphasize that these are not single stand-alone reviews; rather assessments conducted frequently throughout the season. 

The Final Phase

Regardless, any plan will need to undergo evaluation and eventually be replaced by a new project with different objectives, goals, and timeframes.

Designing the new program and the methodology used begins with a reevaluation to help ascertain the effectiveness, quality, and impact of the plan previously in place.

Understanding who needs to be involved and in what capacity, what information they require, viable timeframes, and deadlines all need to be part of the assessment process. 

Michelle Corry

Michelle is SkillShark’s dedicated marketing cognoscente. She is an avid athlete, dedicated professional, marketer and creative visionary. Michelle lived and breathed sports most of her life, being awarded athlete of the year back in early 2000, including a rugby scouting invitation from Team Canada. SkillShark has changed her perception entirely in terms of what she thought was possible in sports evaluation today.