By Scott Caulfield
Head of Strength and Conditioning at Lumin Sports
Director of Strength and Conditioning at Norwich University
The field of sports science has traditionally relied heavily on objective data for athlete evaluation - think physiological measurements like VO2max and Wingate tests, biomechanical analyses such as sport kinematics and mathematics, performance metrics and movement screens.
These objective tests and data sets are indeed valuable, but don’t reveal some of the most important components of an athlete profile. This is where subjective data comes to the fore and can contextualize raw numbers with human nature.
Subjective data refers to anecdotal information based on an individual's perceptions, experiences, and emotions. It can provide valuable insights into an athlete's overall wellbeing, motivation, and performance.
In part one of this series, I’ll explain why subjective data is essential to:
- Monitoring athlete wellbeing
- Understanding motivation and mindset
In part two of this series, I’ll expand on the power of subjective data and its impact on:
- Personalizing training and programs
- Enhancing injury prevention and rehabilitation
- Capturing athlete experiences and perspectives
Monitoring athlete wellbeing
Subjective data from self-reported motivation, soreness, mood, stress, and sleep surveys can help coaches assess an athlete's overall wellbeing and recovery status. Using a platform like Lumin Sports which allows athletes to complete daily check-ins on their mobile, coaches can track trends over time and detect early warning signs of overtraining, injury risk, or other health issues. Coaches can use this information to adjust training loads during practice or in the weight room, optimize recovery strategies pre and post-events and attempt to prevent performance declines.
As I work in a small staff, Division 3 setting, having the ability to efficiently look at self-reported data, rather than having to personally check-in with every athlete, allows me the option to modify planned training programs on the run and reduce injury risk for all my athletes. For example, in conjunction with Lumin Sports, I use the strength and conditioning app Volt Athletics. Timely subjective data from Lumin Sports means I have the information required to easily adjust an individual’s Volt workout if their presenting with high stress and exhaustion. This can be done in the gym, in real time and I can be sure the athlete’s injury risk is reduced significantly.
Many S&C professionals are familiar with my friend Dr. Bryan Mann's JSCR paper from 2016; Effect of Physical and Academic Stress on Illness and Injury in Division 1 College Football Players. For those unfamiliar, to summarize, Dr. Mann et al. found that injury potential was twice as high during periods of high academic stress. Essentially, they're more likely to get hurt during a test week than in training camp, which should tell us that paying greater attention to player feedback at these times of the year (midterms, finals, pre-holiday break week) can be of great benefit to our athletes and athletic program. For me, it's not just about adjusting training loads if athletes are highly stressed or tired, but it's giving athletes the knowledge and then the strategies to improve how they feel as well as their performance. Giving athletes the means to see this data and encouragement to reflect on what tools and interventions they have in "their toolbox" to turn a bad day around is a massive part of our program's athlete education.
Understanding motivation and mindset
Subjective data can provide insights into an athlete's motivation, attitude, and psychological factors that may impact performance. Self-report measures, such as readiness and wellness questionnaires, can help identify an athlete's intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, confidence level, stressors, and coping strategies. I have found this helpful in my role as a S&C coach as it allows me an extra ‘check-in’ or touch point with an athlete who reports a motivation or stress level that seems out of the norm. When this happens, I can pull them aside and have a quick conversation, and often it's been an easy way to connect with them where I may not have if I hadn’t seen the data. This information can assist strength and sports coaches in tailoring training programs, setting goals, and utilizing sports psychology to optimize athletes' mental readiness for competition.
Looking ahead to Part 2
Now that we’ve covered off on the importance of subjective data on athlete motivation, mindset, and wellbeing, I’ll refer you to the second part of this series for an in-depth look at how subjective data influences training programs, enhances injury prevention & rehabilitation, and capturing athlete experiences and perspectives.
Mann, J. B., Bryant, K. R., Johnstone, B., Ivey, P. A., & Sayers, S. P. (2016). Effect of physical and academic stress on illness and injury in Division 1 college football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(1), 20-25.
"As a professional cycling team we have athletes based all over the world, and at times we don’t see them in person for several weeks during the season or months during the off season, and even longer in the current climate. The Lumin Arc platform and Phila app allow us to simplify and centralise both qualitative and quantitative data on the athletes and is a valuable tool for us both for helping with team selection decisions, but also for general monitoring of the athletes health and well being."
"Lumin's Arc platform is a game changer in professional cycling. Arc has given our team real insights into the athlete’s performance and how they are feeling and training every day. This has and will continue to improve our decision making in a globally disparate team."
"We are a sport and a team with such a diverse work force which is geographically dispersed. Keeping in touch with each other is critical , every day that a rider is not able to train is a day lost to the team and to the rider. Technology and the partnership with Lumin has enabled us to be more connected than ever in a meaningful and relevant way, keeping us on the road."
"I can comfortably say that Lumin has saved us well over 40% in time spent collecting and preparing data, meaning we can spend more time putting the data to use."
“I am able to see all of my data in real time combined into the one system. Everything from my wellness to my performance data on one system is incredibly powerful. I’m able to connect all of my data to my coaches, performance staff and the people allowing me to be at my best. I’m able to integrate my 3rd party hardware and it will upload instantly to the Arc platform for instant analysis. As an athlete we often are asked to use a variety of different tools to monitor all of our performance metrics, With the Arc Mobile and Arc platforms this now consolidates this monitoring and data collection to very few seamless steps, allowing me to concentrate on racing and performing at my best."
"The Arc and Phila platforms have provided us with the ability to understand and monitor our group more in depth, while reducing our admin time with the data analysis perspective, giving us more time for what matters, developing our players on the field."
"The interactive, user-friendly nature of the platform helps to sort through large data sets to find the relevant information. With around 25-30% reduction in work-force across the league as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to maintain the same level of analysis across the 2021 season through the Arc platform."
"Since using Arc by Lumin Sports, we, as a high performance football team have been able to consolidate a-lot of our existing data storage and analysis platforms so that we can now use one central platform throughout the department. Seamless integrations with real time visuals has been at the forefront of my work and where I see the most benefit and potential from the Arc platform from my point of view."