Key Performance Indicators in Strength and Conditioning
Updated: Aug 21
KPI has become a “hot” term in the strength and conditioning world. The concept of KPIs is not new, but by fully understanding this term we can increase the efficiency of our data collection process. In this post we are going to go over KPIs for sports, how to determine which to pursue, and what to do with the data you collect. This post will not be an all-encompassing resource, but will provide a basic outline from understanding KPIs to implementing them.
What is a KPI?
A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a critical indicator of progress towards a goal. In sports, KPIs are the measures we have determined to be crucial to the success of the team. They also allow us to efficiently collect data by focusing on what matters most. A good example would be vertical jump height for a volleyball team. If the players on the volleyball team jump higher it is more likely that they will have success in their sport. There are certainly a lot of other things that go into a jump and we might determine that rate of force development is a better KPI if we have the means to accurately measure it. Ultimately, a KPI is a metric that has been determined to be vital for success in the sport and is measurable.
How do we determine KPIs?
I think this is the most difficult part of the process because it requires deep thought and analysis of the sport in question, as well as, conversations with the coaches and support staff of that sport. This is not a task I would want to tackle alone due to my role on the team as support staff. If I have a list of KPIs that does not match the head coaches, it could create issues down the road. It could also mean that we are both chasing different adaptations and our training program isn’t as effective as it could be. Everyone involved in the training process should be part of the discussion and everyone’s idea/thoughts should be heard. This can be extremely important if the strength coach doesn’t fully understand the sport, the style of play of the team, or the objectives of the coaching staff. Through this discussion we should break down the sport and the qualities we feel have the highest correlation with success. It’s also important to understand the technology, space, and limitations of the staff and support staff. Our goal should be to determine 3-6 KPIs that we can effectively measure, monitor, and track over time. Three to six is not a definitive amount, but I think it is a manageable number of data points to measure on a consistent basis. Another point to note is that not everyone on the team has to have the same KPIs. Consistency is nice and it makes collecting/interpreting data easier, but the end goal is performance and not everyone needs the same thing. Two quick examples would be a libero on a volleyball team and an individual who is returning from a major injury. We have determined that jump performance is critical to the success of a volleyball team, however a libero does not need to jump high in order to have success. Their reaction time and ability to move quickly in all planes is more important to their individual, and ultimately the team’s, success. The individual who is returning from an injury might not be able to perform jumps at this time so a KPI centered around jump performance will mean very little for this athlete. Instead, we may want to look at range of motion or strength of the injured joint.
We know our KPIs, What now?
After we have determined our KPIs, we start collecting the data, monitoring it as it’s gathered, and tracking it over time. Some KPIs, like hours slept, can be monitored daily while others, such as eccentric rate of force development, might need to be measured less frequently due to technology/time/space limitations. Once we have this data it’s important that we know how to interpret it and have a plan of action if needed. The plan of action can be simple or complex depending on the KPI itself. If the KPI that is lagging is hours of sleep, the plan of action can be as simple as education. Teaching the athlete(s) the benefits of proper and consistent sleep might be enough to change their behavior. If it’s the eccentric rate of force development, it will require a much more complex plan of action. This plan of action might also be determined by whether it’s the whole team or an individual that had a lagging KPI. Education can certainly be part of that plan, but a change in programming for the individual or team might be required. This then leads into a conversation with the coaching staff about how a change in programming might coincide with the practice plan or schedule. This will not be a simple or easy fix, but if we have determined that eccentric rate of force development is a KPI for our team, then it is necessary to address.
KPIs are an essential part of effectively programming for a team over time. Even if you haven’t used the terminology KPI, you have likely collected, monitored, and tracked certain data points over time. These were your KPIs. By understanding what a KPI is, how to determine the correct KPIs for your situation, and how to efficiently monitor them, you can streamline the data collection process and hopefully create a healthy dialogue between all members of the coaching and support staff.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Hopefully you were able to find something to take away and implement in your practice.