Doing Simple Things Well

This morning I read a nice article, 5 Ways to Use Data to Recover From Injury, which did a great job taking the reader through some simple applications of data we may collect as coaches, strength coaches, or rehabilitation professionals.

In today’s sports world of data collection and player monitoring it seems like many coaches in North America are chasing technology and trying to monitor everything without having a good system for making sense of it all. Which leads me to the title of today’s article, “Doing Simple Things Well.”

Like training, it is typically more effective to do a few simple things really well than try and do a number of things poorly (or mediocre).  I always say, in training, try and pick just a few exercises that you want your athletes to get good at and hammer those. Really learn to do them well before you start adding more exercises and making things more complex. With data collection it is the same thing. Do a few things really well before adding more things to collect and potentially overwhelming yourself with more information and excel spreadsheets that you can’t seem to make sense of.

One of the easiest things to collect is questionnaire data. Questionnaire data has been found to be a valid marker of internal training load, it costs pretty much nothing, and it is easy to set up and create a process around.

The questionnaire that we use comes from the research of McClean & Coutts (Int J Sports Phys Perf 2010):


The athlete will take the questionnaire in the morning upon waking (typically after taking their Omegawave reading if they are doing that as well) and the information comes back to me in a spreadsheet that allows me to make adjustments, if needed, to training on that day. The sheet looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 10.28.11 AMThe color coding allows us to quickly evaluate how the athlete is doing and offer the athlete immediate feedback or ask more questions and dig a little deeper into what may be going on. This sheet extends to the right for several columns and includes many of the factors we frequently track. By centralizing the data in one sheet it allows us to evaluate the different parameters against each other and be more descriptive with the athlete or coach regarding what is going on.

Additionally, following training/practice we use a BORG-CR10 Scale to determine how difficult the athlete rated the session (session Rating of Perceived Exertion or sRPE, for short). We take this sRPE number and multiply it by the session duration, in minutes, to achieve a simple training load (in arbitrary units) for that session.

While it may not sound like much and certainly isn’t as exciting as GPS read outs and things like that (we get those as well) this simple approach can be very meaningful and impactful to the athlete, coach, and the training program. Best of all, it costs nothing to implement so there really shouldn’t be an excuse of, “Our team doesn’t have the money to monitor players”.

We need to do the simple things first and we need to do the simple things well.