Numbers, Process, and Monitoring

In professional sports, where athletes and their coaches are making money, believe me those individuals know their numbers.  When Usain Bolt prepared for a 100-meter sprint he knew about how fast he’d run.  So did his opponents.

When Coach Belichick begins a game against any team in the NFL he knows what that team’s expected yardages are for nearly every play and his defense works to read which play is coming their way in order to stop the play. Odds makers and bookies know this on  broader scale – football isn’t a total mystery. 

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a professional athlete you know how fast, strong, or accurate you are in your sport.  You may not be as fast as Usain Bolt, then no one else is either, however, you do know how fast you run – if you’re a runner.  If you are a power lifter you know how much weight to add to a barbell during exercise and about where you’ll lift in competition. 

There are variances to that knowledge. These variances in performance don’t amount to huge gains or loses. But, it is those variances that often make sport so interesting. Like an NFL upset or Bolt losing to Americans Gatlin and Coleman at the World Championship in 2017. (2017 was Bolt’s final year as a professional)

Eli Manning data

Suppose, for example, you are an archer that has been preparing for a tournament shooting a 5-spot.  You might not keep records your practice scores.  You might record how well you perceived your adherence to your shooting process.

If you’ve created a method of gaging your process of success that excludes knowing the scoring result you’ve missed a critical piece of information. 

While you might perform well at the 5-spot tournament you may be surprised, one way or the other, as scores are being called and recorded while you watch.  Without having trained to recognize scores as only one part of the process you could find that during competition a mental pressure to achieve a score creeps into your thoughts.

On the other hand, during your practice sessions if you’ve kept a measurement of your scoring you will become desensitized to the numbers.  What those numbers can provide is a floating bar to inform you of how you’re performing within your process.

In a tournament you don’t need to be thinking about your process.  Competition is a time where you trust your training and shoot. Process practice is for practice. During competition “You get the job done or you don’t,” Bill Belichick once said. Afterwards, you can sit down and evaluate your performance. Then, you’ll find what you need to work on for the next event.

Say that prior to the 5-spot tournament you’ve kept a database of the practice outcomes associated with scoring.  From that database you can review your most recent 30 scores.  Your data teaches you that your average practice score is 299.5 (300 is the maximum score).  You might further learn that your standard deviation is 0.99 points and your range  (‘range’ in this context means – minimum and maximum scoring)  is 297 through 300. Additionally, you can discover from your data that of the past 30 scores you ended up with 297 (3 times) for 10%, 298 (2 times) for 6%, 299 (1 time) for 1% and 300 (24 times) for 80% of your recorded practices. 

Numbers in sport are important

Understanding your numbers should give you the confidence to see yourself earning 300 points (you do it 80% of the time) at your tournament.  You also know that your variance is less than one point, 0.99.  But, your range is 297 – 300 or 3 points. 

Obviously, you aren’t likely to win a 5-spot tournament with a score below 300, although it has happened outside the professional divisions. Knowing that you score 300 at a rate of 80% means there is immediate room, 20%, for improvement.  Once you are landing 300 scores 100% of the time you set a goal of achieving 60X.

Coaching tip

While monitoring your performance can be done using a variety of matrices, scoring is one very objective value.  By following scores you’ll see improvement and create goals. You’ll further learn not to be intimidated by numbers and not reach a panic point when you are off on a shot. What matters is how you recover from that missed X. 

Remember, everybody misses and the score will take care of itself.

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