If a 1500 metre runner appeared to lack speed towards the end of a race, an effective coach would observe this and design a training program to address this situation. Similarly, if psychological factors require attention, the intervention must be tailored to specific needs. However, where as speed, or lack of it, can be directly observed, psychological factors are often hidden.
A key problem for coaches seeking to address such issues is how to work out what the problem is when they cannot observe what is going on in their athlete's mind. A direct question does not always provide the full facts since athletes can be reluctant, at least initially, to discuss such things. An approach that is becoming popular in sport is Performance Profiling.
Over the past few years, Performance Profiling has become a new tool in the athlete & coach's armoury. Performance Profiling has three major purposes:
Performance Profiling comprises of four steps:
The first step is for the coach to introduce to the athlete the idea of Performance Profiling and how it can help to direct training to areas of specific need. This process can be aided by a sense of mutual trust, and it should be made clear that any information gained about the athlete will remain strictly confidential. Coaches should stress that there are no right or wrong answers involved in the process but that honest appraisal will facilitate a more productive outcome. The coach needs to explain that the process will focus on the athlete's current feelings regarding their preparation for competition.
The athlete becomes actively involved in this step of the process, and the following question should be directed to the athlete:
What in your opinion are the fundamental qualities or characteristics of an elite athlete in your sport/event?
Spend five to ten minutes listing the qualities or characteristics that the athlete feels are important. If an athlete finds this difficult, the coach can use prompts, but it is for the athlete to decide on what characteristics are chosen. The coach should try to get the athlete to list the key psychological factors, but the same process can be applied to technical skills or physical attributes, such as strength, speed, agility, balance etc. In this step, the athlete should try to identify 15 to 20 characteristics.
The next step is for the athlete to rate each of the identified characteristics.
The table below provides an example of these calculations for part of an athlete's performance profile.
For this particular athlete refocusing after errors and concentration are key concerns that could be addressed. This can be via intervention strategies such as self-talk or a quick set routine, depending on the exact circumstances and preferences of the athlete.
Reassessment should always relate to the same characteristics identified in the initial profiling process and be conducted every four to eight weeks.
The coach-athlete relationship is much stronger when goals and targets are shared and agreed in this way.
The figure below illustrates a tennis player's self-assessment (yellow) and the coach's assessment (red) in relation to the athlete's backhand strokes on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 10 (excellent). This shows that the coach and athlete are in general agreement over most of the relevant characteristics but in major disagreement over the backhand volley. In such circumstances, video analysis of the player's performance might be a good way to resolve such differences and produce agreement on how to proceed.
Performance Profiling can help coaches develop a better understanding of their athletes by:
Genetic ‘profiling’ for Athletics and Sports Performance
Our genes control our biological systems such as muscle, cartilage and bone formation, muscle energy production, lactic acid removal, blood and tissue oxygenation. Research by Kambouris (2011) identified that variations in the DNA sequence of these genes have an impact on an individual's components of fitness (endurance, speed, strength etc.), vulnerability to sports injury and nutritional requirements.
Knowledge of the appropriate gene DNA structure suitable for an athletic event or sport and the athlete's gene DNA may allow an athlete to select the most appropriate sport for them and plan their training and nutritional programmes to optimise health and performance.
Mauffulli & Merzesh (2007) found that mutations in collagen called COL5A1 led to the structure that supports the tendon being more loosely connected, making the tendon less stable and perhaps more susceptible to injury.
The following references provide additional information on this topic:
Some of the information on this page is adapted from Crust (2002) with the kind permission of Electric Word plc.
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The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: