The Power Of Subjective Data In Sports Science. Part 2

The power of monitoring athlete wellbeing and understanding motivation and mindset for performance.

By Scott Caulfield

Head of Strength and Conditioning at Lumin Sports

Director of Strength and Conditioning at Norwich University

As this is the second and final part of the series, I’ll refer you to Part 1 for an in-depth look at what subjective data is, how it differs to objective data, and its significant benefits in relation to monitoring athlete wellbeing, and understanding athlete motivation and mindset.


This article, The power of subjective data in sports science: Part 2, will focus on


-       Personalizing training and programs

-       Enhancing injury prevention and rehabilitation

-       Capturing athlete experiences and perspectives


Personalizing training programs


Subjective data can help coaches and sports scientists understand athletes' preferences, perceptions, and responses to different training interventions, exercises, environments, or recovery strategies.


For instance, if I know that a particular group of athletes hate to use ice baths, it doesn't make sense to force them to do it when there are many other proven methods to use. Additionally, in a situation where I have worked with them long enough and established a relationship where I trust them regarding training, I am happy to let athletes choose specific weight room movements over ones I prescribed that day. Empowering athletes to have more ownership in S&C programs is one of the best tools to keep them engaged and continually achieving results.


By collecting personal information and preferences, coaches can incorporate them into training program design and give athletes what they want and need leading to enhanced athlete engagement, adherence, and performance outcomes.



Enhancing injury prevention and rehabilitation


 Subjective data can be crucial in injury prevention and rehabilitation. An athlete’s self-reported pain, discomfort and injury observations can help coaches and sports medicine staff monitor injury progression, assess treatment efficacy, and guide return-to-play decisions. At Norwich University, we use the Lumin Sports mobile app which has an excellent interface and allows athletes to pinpoint areas of injury or soreness. That information allows me to discuss training goals ahead of time and even make adjustments to programs if required. In a small setting or with limited resources, the ability for athletes to self-report new injuries via the app and then have a trainer or coach connect with them to follow up is a tremendous asset.


Understanding an athlete's subjective experience of pain, fear, and confidence can also inform the psychological aspects of injury recovery, including coping strategies and motivation to adhere to rehabilitation protocols.


Capturing athlete experiences and perspectives


Subjective data can help capture the experiences and perspectives of athletes, providing valuable qualitative insights into their training, performance, and challenges.


Athlete reports, discussions, or introspections can help us better understand the contextual factors influencing their performance, such as culture, social support, and team dynamics. This information can help coaches develop athlete-centred approaches that respect individual differences and promote wellbeing and performance.


Stronger together: Subjective and objective data


While objective data remains critically essential in sports performance, subjective data provides valuable insights into athlete wellbeing, motivation, mindset, training preferences, and experiences.


The integration of personal data into sports science research and practice can lead to a more holistic and personalized approach to optimizing performance and wellbeing that has the potential to significantly improve entire programs and a team's ability to communicate and make informed decisions.