One of the toughest things to do as coach in the strength and conditioning world is to challenge the status quo and do something unique, new, and different. We feel that the greatest breakthroughs in our industry occur when excellent coaches can get consistent longitudinal data. Such focus can position the coach to be the “decision maker,” holding both the keys to the use and establishment analytic models for that data. The figure to the right comes from a brilliant book by Ben Alamar, Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers.
What is an excellent coach? We feel that one of the greatest markers of a great coach is how many of their athletes are “buying in” to their program. In other words, how many of a coach’s athletes believe fully in the information they are receiving and are putting it to use on a consistent basis? One of the best ways to track buy in is for athletes to log their own work outs. We believe that shifting the responsibility of tracking progress shows that the athletes see the works as their own, and not the coaches. Devising a way for athletes to easily log their own workouts can be tricky, smart phones can be a great way to aid in this type of data gathering as it is a personal device and always with the athlete. You can get a feel for buy in by measuring the percentage of athletes who regularly log their own workouts. Don’t be shocked by the results, as we have found that percentage be be surprisingly low.
Our research has found 50% compliance or more is excellent, and above 80% is unachievable. Even controlled studies have struggled to gain compliance (PubMed). In that study, compliance with the training programs in the “High Risk” (of injury) intervention group was poor, with only 27.5% in the ankle group, 29.2% in the knee group, 21.1% in the hamstring group, and 19.4% in the groin. The researchers defined compliance as having carried out the minimum recommended training volume.
The take home message here is to find a way to start tracking how bought in your athletes are, it’s the best way to make sure that when push comes to shove you’ll be the ‘decision maker.” If your compliance isn’t great at first, don’t be discouraged as such vulnerability breeds value from others. The head sport coach is held accountable by wins/losses and sports medicine is held liable by medical/injury documentation. So if a performance/strength coach wants their voice to be heard, they can present the data from % logging workouts and the subsequent objective results, such as seeing changes in the Sparta signature.
You can improve by making it easier for athletes to self-report (phone app), and giving your athletes more reasons to trust the information you’re giving them. In the end, creating this buy in from athletes and coaching staff will lead to earning a position as a decision maker within an organization or team…finally a seat at the table.