Define, Gather, Train, Evaluate
Define your goals. In Little League, individual time in play might be something you want to measure, with a goal of having every child play for a certain number of minutes. Other sports value speed, points or defensive statistics. Your values may change within a season or over time. A team may be consistently winning, but that does not mean that they have nothing to improve. They may want to have a goal to reduce errors, improve defense or work to further improve scoring.
Analyze other teams for comparison. A high score, particular skill or good performance may be relative to the time and the people involved. A hook shot used to be a standard skill for all professional basketball players. Now slam dunks are more popular. Marathon times for men and women were recorded at around 2 hours, 58 minutes from 1890-1910, More recently, record times are closer to 2 hours and 4 minutes. You want to compare your team and your individuals to others who are playing the same game at the same time.
Decide if you are going to gather data over one game, half of the season or another time frame. If you gather data for an entire season, then you can compare the next year to the last one.
Compare only like positions. Certain sports have different "job descriptions" and different goals for different positions. The goals of a quarterback are different from a punter. You can only compare your quarterback to other quarterbacks or how this person performed in previous times. Combining each position's statistics allows you to compare your team to others. For example, if your quarterback completes 50 percent of his passes and your punter makes 20 percent of his field goal attempts, you must compare these statistics to other teams to see if your quarterback is weak or your special teams player needs more work.
Determine what factors may be causing good or bad areas of performance. Several studies (quoted in Journal of Sport Behavior, Vol. 18, 1995) indicate that problems related to loss of leadership can result in poor performance. For example, if a coach or star player quits, teams may perform poorly. If they continue performing poorly, the next coach may be asked to leave. This leads to a poor performance cycle. Traumatic events like 9/11 and certain times of the year, such as final exams time for students, can also be causes for lower scores.
Build a training program. The information gained from comparisons will help you determine whether the weakness is offense or defense, so you can then focus training accordingly. Many times coaches must turn to third parties such as physical trainers, nutritionists or team psychologists to create a training plan to improve performance.
Set a time to evaluate results. If your defense was weak and training focused on better rebounding, you may want to analyze statistics from the next few games to determine if your players improved. A single meet or game cannot be used to determine if your players have learned their lessons. As every athlete and fan knows, there are good days and bad days. The important thing to measure is team trends, not events. Team performance must constantly run through this cycle with the objective of remaining competitive and constantly improving.