Performance profiling and goal setting

February 28, 2017

Performance profiling for junior athletes

Improve your performance! 

Often we have to work on the things we least like doing in order to get better results. It would be great for confidence and motivation if we could just focus on our strengths all the time but competition exposes our weaknesses and our strengths.

Performance profiling is a technique in sports psychology that helps athletes to map elements of their performance and benchmark them so that they can identify areas for potential improvement and set training goals to help them improve.

Writing a performance profile

You can do your own performance profile or work with a coach to do this. The four performance areas in a performance profile are: tactical, technical, physical and mental. What do you need to do well in each of these areas to become a great athlete? A good way to help you identify these elements is to think of a World class athlete in your sport. What qualities or characteristics make a successful athlete in your sport? For example, a performance profile for a tennis player might include:

  • Tactical: Knowing what kind of game to play on grass or clay
  • Technical: Strong technique in all strokes 
  • Physical: Good speed and endurance
  • Mental: Being able to stay focussed when you loose a point

    When I work with junior athletes I encourage them to develop comprehensive lists for their performance because the more specific they can be, the better. This helps them to be really focussed on the key elements of their performance that need developed.

    1) List these elements into a table like the one below.  

    2) On a scale of 0 (not important) to 10 (extremely important) rate how important each of these elements is for an elite performer in your sport. These things are desirable, but may not be essential. For example, we might argue that perfect forehand technique is desirable for a tennis player but there are many highly successful tennis players whose technique isn’t perfect.

    3) Think of that high performing athlete in your sport and give them a rating in each of the elements on a scale of 0 (undeveloped) to 10 (very developed). In most cases the elite performer score will be 10 – they will have the attribute and it will be very well developed.

    4) Rate yourself on the same scale. Ask yourself how good you think that you are in each of the  elements and note it down. The ‘maths’ step is where you do a subtraction sum: elite performer rating minus your self rating  and then multiply by ten. This is your "discrepancy score".

    Sport performance profile

    If this profile is completed by you and your coach independently it can be very helpful. Often coaches aren’t aware of the self-perceptions of the athletes they coach and profiling can lead to very constructive conversations.

    Goal setting

    Performance profiling junior athletes
    In the tennis example above, the greatest discrepancy scores are for forehand technique and for focus after losing a point. These are the areas with the greatest potential for improvement for the athlete. We would set training goals in these areas. It is important to be realistic:  work on a maximum of three or four factors with the highest discrepancy scores. In many cases I have found that once you sort these major issues out, many other things just fall into place. By using performance profiling you can determine which areas need work and then set training goals to improve these areas. It's a great technique to help you make the most out of your training.




    Tony Westbury Tony's research interests include sport psychology interventions for performance, and behavioural change/exercise psychology. 
    Tony holds a PhD from University of Brighton and is accredited by the British Psychological Society Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist BASES as a Sport and Exercise Scientist.

     Tony's new book: Ask a Sports Psychologist, a Question and Answer Guide, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.












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