Data is an increasingly valuable resource in the world of modern sport. As teams strive to gain a competitive edge over their rivals, access to objective information is vital for organisations that seek to make informed performance decisions.
The proliferation of data has had numerous benefits for athletes and teams, but it also presents a number of issues. As clubs work with ever greater volumes of information, the management, synthesis, and dissemination of that data can become complex and time-consuming. When faced with multiple data streams and organisational silos, it’s easy for important insights to get lost in an avalanche of information and broken communication.
Designed to improve the way insights are understood, shared and implemented, athlete management technologies help teams to streamline processes and ultimately make better decisions. Helping you to get your athlete management up to speed, this blog article outlines five basic areas that all teams should consider when attempting to improve the administration and communication of data.
If you’re new to athlete management, we hope you find this article helpful as you get used to the task and start to build new functions within your club. If you’re more experienced, hopefully, it acts as a bit of a refresher or even a reminder of just how far you’ve come!
Align staff and departments
One of the main motivations behind investing in athlete management systems is the desire to eliminate silos and ensure that staff are communicating effectively and working from consistent datasets. When there are multiple data feeds informing your sports science, performance analysis and medical operations, it can be difficult to build alignment between departments and processes.
A major benefit of an athlete management system is its capacity to make organisational alignment and data consistency easier to manage. By consolidating all of your data in a central platform, you can encourage greater transparency to make sure that staff have visibility on all data that is relevant to their roles.
When it comes to this consolidation of data and alignment of multiple teams and departments, Baylor University is using Catapult’s athlete management system to drive improvements in those crucial areas.
“Catapult is the piece that brings together the vast range of innovative technologies we use across all 19 of our NCAA sports programs,” said Kenny Boyd, Senior Associate Director for Student-Athlete Health and Wellness. “The ability to have all our data, information and planning tools in one platform means we can better understand and manage our student-athlete health and wellness insights.”
This type of alignment can be further supported by improvements to communication methods. Naturally, effective athlete management processes should look to get all stakeholders on the same page by promoting more open communication wherever possible. Establishing integrated messaging, calendars and alerts are some quick wins that can serve as a starting point for these enhancements, while also helping to transform the sharing and application of data in the short term.
Generate Athlete Buy-in
As with the implementation of any new process, the ability to get buy-in from your athletes is key to sustaining its success within your organisation. Without a strategy for engaging players with an athlete management system, it’s unlikely that they will be fully cooperative in helping you to maximise the potential of the technology.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to capture the attention of your athletes. In Catapult’s athlete management system, for example, you can get players to submit their own wellness and RPE scores through the mobile application.
Engaging athletes in this way helps them to feel like an active part of the analysis process. In turn, this can lead to them taking more interest in your work, a scenario that can create opportunities for you to further educate your athletes and help them to better understand the reasons for doing what you’re asking them to do.
Another means of generating buy-in is centralising your communications and improving the way insights are disseminated to players and staff. An athlete management system offers messaging functionality across mobile and tablet, helping you to reach your players via the technologies that they are most comfortable with.
Reaching out to your athletes like this gives them the opportunity to submit and review information in a familiar and straightforward way. By making the athlete management process as user-friendly as possible, you can encourage positive habits that will help generate engagement and make your work far more efficient.
Ultimately, the success of your athlete management processes can stand or fall based on the level of buy-in you have from your squad. Before you start to introduce new technologies and processes, it’s always worth taking the time to think about how best you can engage and involve your group with the work you’re planning to do.
Automate workflows where possible
The team sports environment is notoriously time-poor, with staff often having to complete technical, labour-intensive tasks against the clock. When we speak to analysts and sports scientists at clubs, we repeatedly hear that an inordinate amount of time is spent working on menial tasks, reducing the time available to communicate the insights that can have a genuine impact on performance.
One of the main benefits of implementing an athlete management system is the ability to automate significant amounts of your workflow. By automating various reporting and integration processes, as well as empowering athletes to engage with the collection of their own wellness data, platforms like Catapult’s athlete management system can save you hours and give staff more time to make a material difference to the performance of the team.
Teams across a wide range of sports are already finding that this type of automation is improving organisational efficiency. For example, 2018 National Basketball League champions Melbourne United have noticed significant improvements to internal athlete management processes.
“In elite sport, anything that can save time is worth its weight in gold,” says the High Performance Manager at Melbourne United. “So to be able to have our wearable data sync straight into Catapult’s athlete management system without messing about importing or exporting CSV files, that was a huge benefit that I saw with the Catapult system. Bringing all of the team’s data into one place just allows me to be more efficient with my time.”
As you collect and analyse more and more information, the ability to streamline data workflows and save time becomes increasingly important. No matter how basic your athlete management setup might be, even small improvements to the efficiency of your processes can have a positive effect on the application and communication of key insights.
Establish a clear scientific process
Tools for the improvement of athlete management and performance monitoring are just that: tools. Without effective processes and practitioner knowledge, they are unlikely to make a significant impact on your organisation.
When it comes to the implementation of an athlete management system, it’s important that they are introduced within the framework of a coherent scientific process. When we talk about this type of process, what we are referring to is the ability to use your chosen tools to measure, analyse, learn and improve.
If you can build an effective data workflow within your organisation, then you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to maximise the benefits that athlete management technologies can have for your team.
Here are the things you might want to consider for each stage of the process:
A good first step is to establish the metrics that you want to monitor, then build a workflow that ensures that they will be measured and communicated consistently across your organisation.
It’s important to make a decision on what the best platforms and processes are for storing and analysing the data you capture. Once established, it’s important that the workflow is followed by all departments to foster consistency in the way information is processed.
If you don’t learn from your analysis, then there’s no point in doing it in the first place. When you’re establishing your analysis process, it’s key that you map out how insights will be shared, understood and acted upon across different groups within the club.
Learning from your analysis makes it easier to identify areas for improvement both on and off the field. By allowing data to guide the decision-making process, you can ensure that you are objectively focusing on the areas where you can make the biggest impact.
By laying the groundwork that each of these four steps requires, you will create the optimal conditions required for an athlete management system to make a positive impact on athletic performance and organisational health.
Avoid the reductionist trap
In organisations that struggle with siloed information and poor communication, one of the biggest issues we see is the tendency towards reductionism.
In the context of sports science and performance, reductionism manifests itself in a narrow focus on specialisms without an appreciation of the full picture. For example, it isn’t possible to have a full appreciation of why an athlete might be struggling with a particular medical issue without knowledge of their injury history. If sports scientists don’t have access to certain medical information or the medical department don’t have visibility of performance data, then they are making decisions without knowing the whole story.
Athlete management solutions can play an important role in helping your organisation to avoid this reductionist trap. By improving informational transparency and opening up new channels of communication, the athlete management system allow you to take a more holistic approach to athlete monitoring.
Competing in the National Rugby League (NRL), the Gold Coast Titans primarily use Catapult’s athlete management system to improve oversight and communication around injury and performance. By using athlete management solutions to map injuries and understand risk factors for individuals, different positions, and the squad as a whole, the Titans are taking steps to safeguard against reductionism.
“The medical reporting feature has been great as it has enabled us to gain an insight into our injuries and understand how they have occurred and to what parts of the body,” said Adam Russell, Former Head Physiotherapist at the Titans. “This allows us to have good discussions with both training and coaching staff to help reduce injury risk.”
When you’ve invested in tools to unlock valuable data-driven insights, it’s imperative that you maximise their effectiveness. By embracing a level of complexity, avoiding reductionism, and giving all staff visibility of the data they need to make the best possible decisions, you will only benefit the performance of your organisation (on and off the field) in the long run.
“The search for simple – if not simple-minded – solutions to complex problems is a consequence of the inability to deal effectively with complexity” – Russell L. Akoff.