03 March, 2016

How to Move the Needle of Performance

How to Move the Needle of Performance

Photo Credit: Michael Gil

Performance is about moving the needle of capacity of the players you are coaching. It is about developing the skills of your players to progress and compete in the division or age category that are in and enjoy the experience.

We assess performance against how successfully a player carries out a task or movement. Often this is based against a normalised capability for age or competition level, such as a beep test score or an accuracy of kicks over distance.

Sometimes as coaches we get stuck training for a performance outcome, forgetting what truly makes up that great performance.

Performance is underpinned by robust and repeatable patterns, linked by strong parts. It is the training of these parts and patterns, by first having carried out an evaluation of where the weak links in the performance are, that moves the needle of performance.

Performance = Robust and repeatable patterns linked by strong parts 

For a well-rounded athlete, the performance across four key areas is required to lay the foundation for sport specific skills. These four areas can be broadly categorised into:

  • Movement
  • Nutrition
  • Recovery
  • Mindset

To achieve a performance outcome then repeatable and robust patterns across these four areas must be attained. These patterns are made up of different parts that interact together in order to make up a successful pattern.

In a previous article, Treating Athletes Like Performance Cars, I spoke about the joint-by-joint approach – this being an assessment method of the parts that make up our movement patterns. So a player that has a slow 5km time trial and always gets injured might not need to get stronger by running more. They might actually have a broken pattern or weak part in their movement that needs fixing – A handbrake needs to be released.

The player who can pass a netball fine in training, but then struggles to make passes in a game doesn’t need more practice passing. The part that might be broken is their ability to read play.

Like a chain, being a pattern, with the chain links being the parts, when all are working correctly a performance outcome (movement forwards) occurs. Should pressure be applied and there be a weak link in the chain (a part) then the pattern will deteriorate and performance will be affected, should this weak part breakdown.

The challenge in amateur and semi-professional sport is to determine which are the parts and patterns most important, with limited time and resources, to develop. By understanding the sport requirements and players’ strengths and weaknesses, then the objectives of the training plan can be implemented to ensure performance success.

Remember, athlete development is a long-term goal being an accumulation of small, lasting improvements to the four key areas of performance. Don’t rush the development; focus on getting the parts and patterns right and the performance will follow.

© 2019 Paul Mead