Trampled in the Rush

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I get the very distinct feeling that in the rush to embrace analytics and all its permutations that coaches are being trampled in the rush. Does anyone else think we need to stop for a minute and take a deep breath and ask where we are going here? Analytics are very seductive, but we need to ask some hard questions. What exactly are we learning? What is real in the numbers and what is manufactured? Is the data valid and reliable? Who is asking the questions that are driving the analysis? What is their bias and experience? How much input do the coaches, athletic development coaches and sports medicine staff have in the formulation and subsequent interpretation of the data? Is the information actionable or just curious?

Although I was not at the recent Sloan Analytics Conference I was told by several colleagues that I highly respect that there was an undertone of coach bashing, putting down coaches for not being willing or able to use the data. Any good system is athlete centered and coach driven, maybe instead of bashing coach’s the analysts need to educate the coaches on one hand and listen more to the coaches on the other. Ultimately it is the coach’s job to produce, to put the athlete or the team in the competitive arena with the best chance to compete to win. No coach in his or her right mind will turn down an opportunity to make his or her athletes better. So it behooves everyone to get on the same page. There is an important place for an educated and experienced coaches’ intuition and experience in the process. Generating numbers is easy, numbers are one-dimensional but performance is multidimensional performed by real living breathing human beings, not programmable robots. Algorithms are interesting and can point us in the right direction but I hesitate to let algorithms drive my coaching. It is all a process with the analyst a part of a performance team. All members of the team should have input, but ultimately it is up to the coach using all information possible to make the athlete better.

Maybe it is a little bit like looking for a black cat in a dark room with black painted walls – did anyone think to turn on the light? Who is going to turn on the light?

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  • Vern, thank you for the article and perspective. @addaero we are asked daily for more analytics and additional ways to slice and dice athlete results. We believe there is true value in the data but there is also qualitative analysis that is needed, required, and is sometimes lost in the rush for quantitative analysis. A few coaches that use our platform appreciate the reporting but pay special attention to athlete notes – how the athlete is feeling, how their body responded to the workout…. Many of our coaches never see their athletes in-person and the data does not provide a clear indication how the athlete is mentally and physically.