Performance profiling is a valuable technique, used to identify and organise training, preparation and the development of an individual (Richards, 2008). This technique can provide important information on athletes, which can be used to implement realistic goal setting strategies and help maximise their intrinsic motivation (Butler et al. 1992; Jones, 1993). If applied correctly, these interventions can help focus the individual on the key aspects of their performance and help direct their training to the areas of perceived need.
A Theoretical Overview
The premise underlying the coach-athlete relationship is the ability to help the performer reach his or her full potential. Butler et al. (1992) suggest that the rapid spread of performance profiling across a number of sports is because coaches have now recognised the potential in enhancing their understanding of an athlete. Performance profiling allows the athlete to have a more active role in evaluating their own performance (Butler et al. 1992; Gucciardi et al. 2009). Characteristically, sports psychology includes undertaking a subjective analysis of the athlete and their chosen sport, individual assessments of the athlete, implementation of appropriate training techniques and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme (Butler et al. 1992).
Performance profiling can be an effective tool in raising the individual’s self-awareness of their current ability and enhancing adherence to different programmes of intervention (Butler et al. 1993; Jones, 1993). The flexibility of their performance profile has previously helped coaches and sport psychologists gain a better understanding of their athlete’s vision of a champion performer, monitoring of the athletes progress, discrepancies between the coach and athlete and an improved analysis of performance following an event (Butler et al. 1992). In order to work effectively alongside each other it is important that the discrepancy of opinion is reduced, as both the athlete and practitioner (e.g coach) must be aware that there may be disagreement at some stage.
Intrinsic motivation may be enhanced when the athlete is comfortable within the environment (Kremer et al. 1994). Therefore, it is essential the athlete choses a familiar environment to perform the performance profile, for example a training complex or a gym.
To avoid any major discrepancies or misunderstandings between athlete and practitioner, a process of ‘gaining entry’ must take place (Fifer et al. 2008). This helps to establish a more secure relationship between the two parties, by gaining an understanding of each of their expectations for the process.
The first stages of performance profiling involve the athlete selecting a number of personal performance factors for which to base the performance profile around. These factors can be broken down into 4 performance components; Tactical, Technical, Physical and Mental (the TTPM model). Using the example of Soccer, performance factors could include; Shot Accuracy, Sliding Tackle, Sprint Speed or communication. The athlete is required to complete a self-rating assessment of their current level on a 1-10 scale before rating the selected performance factors due to their importance (1 – not at all important, 10 – crucial). Realistic self-assessments are hard to achieve if an athlete is completing his/her first performance profile, or if they are an inexperienced individual. Therefore the practitioner may need to offer guidance to the athlete in order to produce a fair self-assessment.
Finally, the athlete must decide a performance rating (1-10 scale) for their ‘Ideal’ or ‘Champion’ performer. This does not have to be a real athlete for example, Gareth Bale – World Class Winger, but should be their image of a top performer in their chosen sport. More effective performance profiling has taken place when the athletes’ ‘ideal’ performer competes at a similar level, therefore providing a more realistic target to aim for.
The equation used in order to produce the ‘Final Score’ for each performance factor is:
Difference between ‘Ideal’ (Champion) and ‘Self-Assessment’ x Importance = ‘Final Score’
The ‘Final Score’ enabled the athlete to identify which performance factors scored highest and therefore needed improvement.
Conclusions for the athlete
The performance profile serves to provide the athlete with a developmental agenda and training focus in order to improve their performance. For team sports such as Soccer, any individual improvements made by an athlete may appear to have less impact than improvements in a solo sport, for example Golf.
After analysing an athletes’ performance profiling results, the next stage of the process would be planning and implementing an effective goal setting strategy. This can be done using the SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-Phased, Exciting, Recorded) principle of goal setting. Erez et al (1983) stated that the most effective goals were set by the athletes themselves. However although performance profiling does encourage accurate self-assessment by the athlete, Butler (1997) realised that athletes may not always set appropriate goals, and may need guidance from the practitioner to steer them towards more suitable ones.
The outcome of performance profiling is to motivate athletes to improve factors of their performance, therefore enhancing their overall ability. Performance profiling has been demonstrated to be a useful tool for any athlete in order to analyse their own performance effectively (Jones, 1993). Through motivation and determination, carrying out performance profiling and implementing a subsequent goal-setting programme, the athletes’ performance in training and competition can improve.