• Dr Michele van Rooyen // PhD Sport Science

Sports Analysis - A Process


Analysis of sporting performance is a dynamic and evolving process. The amount of time that can be devoted to analysis is infinite and must be regulated by the contextual environment. In academics for example, the rigour of scientific questioning can mean months to years being spent on analysis to answer a very specific piece of the sporting performance puzzle. However, in the applied domain where the majority of practitioners work, such time scales are totally impracticable. In this setting a performance can become memorable (for the right or wrong reasons) in an instant, so information needs to be available at the same speed.

So how to start along the analysis path?

As mentioned in a previous article (Issue 3 p15) the creation of an effective analysis environment has to be question driven. But how to create useful questions that fit within your available analysis time?

I believe that every sporting goal can be simplified to answer this most basic of questions;

1) What is my IDEAL sporting OUTCOME?

As an athlete, you will either want to win your selected event or you will want to improve on previous performances. Once this question has been addressed then the sport can be deconstructed to determine how to proceed. To do this, the fundamental elements of performance need to be defined and these include;

2) What are the BASICS of the sport?

What skills are requisite for the Sport from technical, tactical and movement perspectives?

3) How can these skills be MEASURED or DETERMINED?

  • Frequency counts

  • Recording the duration of events either the complete performance or specific elements

  • Does performance vary across the duration of the event?

  • Does the location on the ‘field of play’ have an influence on sporting outcome?

  • What is the motion of the athlete and or associated equipment?

  • For example, how does the form of the pole vaulter change in relation to the flexion of the pole itself or how does the team formation change as the football travels around the field?

Now that it has been established what is to be measured and how this will be done, the next question becomes…

4) What is IMPORTANT to performance and CAN it be CHANGED (with relative ease)?

This is probably the area that requires the most insight and understanding. How can we determine what elements are important to the goal of winning or improving performance? What sources are available for evaluation? Coaching resources can provide details of techniques or playing formations that can elicit successful performances. However, these tend to be generic rather than tailored to specific individuals or teams and depending upon their year of publication might not be up to date with the demands of the modern sports.

Intra-athlete evaluation is a great way of combatting some of the limitations of coaching material because multiple performances by a specific athlete or team can be compared against themselves so that profiles can be created. These profiles will document elements of successful performance versus those of unsuccessful ones. Profiles can be used to track individual development especially important in the case of the youth athlete who will not only be improving their sporting skills over time but will also be growing up physically and emotionally thus changing their performances simply by ageing.


Profiles can also be compared inter-athlete so a greater depth of knowledge into sporting performances can be attained within a peer group. Across peer group comparisons can also show the requirements of performing at a higher level of competition right up until you reach the highest level of the Olympic or World Champion. At this level of performance the differences between competitors will be small and psychological evaluation techniques might be more valuable that physiological ones.

After differentiating the components of successful sporting behaviours through profiling (as mentioned above), the next step would be to prioritise which elements of performance will require the minimum coaching and training input to effect the maximum improvement to performance. The context to this being that changes to skills or techniques will generally require a longer time to positively influence performance outcomes than a simple tactical modification.


5) Performance Monitoring

After these processes have been followed a list of performance improvements will have been established. These recommendations (starting with the simplest) now need to be adopted into the formal training schedule and the monitoring of this modified performance needs to be undertaken, especially under the stresses of actual competition.

The cycle, as illustrated in the flow chart, now begins again with continued enhancement of the current skill or possibly a new element of performance that needs improvement.

To summarise, the analysis of sports performance is a continuous and dynamic process that requires a logical approach that understands and questions the basic and complex elements that comprise a successful sporting performance. An effective support team will then be able to dismantle the areas that are limiting performance and develop new and maybe more sport-specific training procedures that will all focus on promoting greater levels of sporting success.

#Videoanalysis #Monitoring

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