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Performance Profiling

If a 1500 metre runner appeared to lack speed towards the end of a race, an effective coach would observe this and design a training program to address this situation. Similarly, if psychological factors require attention, the intervention must be tailored to specific needs. However, whereas speed, or lack of it, can be directly observed, psychological factors are often hidden.

A key problem for coaches seeking to address such issues is how to work out what the problem is when they cannot observe what is going on in their athlete's mind. A direct question does not always provide the full facts since athletes can be reluctant, at least initially, to discuss such things. An approach that is becoming popular in sport is Performance Profiling.


Over the past few years, Performance Profiling has become a new tool in the athlete & coach's armoury. Performance Profiling has three major purposes:

  • To aid in identifying an appropriate intervention
  • To maximise the athlete's motivation and adherence to the program
  • To monitor any changes over time

Factors that influence Performance

The factors that can influence performance are:

  • Lifestyle and support
  • Movement Skills
  • Physical Preparation
  • Psychological Behaviour
  • Technical & Tactical skills


Performance Profiling comprises four steps:

  • Step 1 - Coach outlines the Performance Profiling process
  • Step 2 - Athlete identifies the characteristics of an elite athlete in his/her sport/event
  • Step 3 - Athlete rates each in terms of a level of importance and self-assessment
  • Step 4 - Athlete and Coach analyse the results and agree to a way forward

Step 1

The first step is for the coach to introduce to the athlete the idea of Performance Profiling and how it can help to direct training in areas of specific need. This process can be aided by a sense of mutual trust, and it should be made clear that any information gained about the athlete will remain strictly confidential. Coaches should stress that there are no right or wrong answers involved in the process, but that honest appraisal will facilitate a more productive outcome. The coach needs to explain that the process will focus on the athlete's current feelings regarding their preparation for competition.

Step 2

The athlete becomes actively involved in this step of the process, and the following question should be directed to the athlete:

What in your opinion are the fundamental qualities or characteristics of an elite athlete in your sport/event?

Spend five to ten minutes listing the qualities or characteristics that the athlete feels are important. If an athlete finds this difficult, the coach can use prompts, but it is for the athlete to decide on what characteristics are chosen. The coach should try to get the athlete to list the key psychological factors, but the same process can be applied to technical skills or physical attributes, such as strength, speed, agility, balance etc. In this step, the athlete should try to identify 15 to 20 characteristics.

Step 3

The next step is for the athlete to rate each of the identified characteristics.

  • On a scale of zero (not at all important) to 10 (extremely important), the athlete rates the perceived importance of each characteristic for an elite performer in their particular sport/event.
  • The athlete uses the same zero to 10 scale to rate their current perception of themselves in relation to an ideal state of 10.
  • A calculation is then carried out to determine the 'Discrepancy' value. The higher discrepancies indicate areas that may need to be addressed through training or other intervention.

Step 4

The table below provides an example of these calculations for part of an athlete's performance profile.

Characteristics identified by the athlete Athlete's perceived level of importance
Athlete's self-assessment
(10-ASA) × API
Confidence 10 8 20
Concentration 9 6 36
Control 10 7 30
Commitment 9 8 18
Refocusing after errors 9 5 45
Enjoyment 8 8 16

For this particular athlete refocusing after errors and concentration are key concerns that could be addressed. This can be via intervention strategies such as self-talk or a quick set routine, depending on the exact circumstances and preferences of the athlete.

Reassessment should always relate to the same characteristics identified in the initial profiling process and be conducted every four to eight weeks.

Alternative approach

  • Coach outlines the Performance Profiling process
  • The athlete identifies a set of characteristics
  • The athlete assesses his/her performance against each characteristic (self-assessment)
  • The coach assesses and rates the athlete against each characteristic
  • The athlete and coach analyse the results and agree to a way forward

The coach-athlete relationship is much stronger when goals and targets are shared and agreed in this way.

The figure below illustrates a tennis player's self-assessment (yellow) and the coach's assessment (red) in relation to the athlete's backhand strokes on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 10 (excellent). This shows that the coach and athlete are in general agreement over most of the relevant characteristics but in major disagreement over the backhand volley. In such circumstances, video analysis of the player's performance might be a good way to resolve such differences and produce agreement on how to proceed.

Tennis Profile


Performance Profiling can help coaches develop a better understanding of their athletes by:

  • Highlighting perceived strengths and weaknesses
  • Clarifying the athlete's and coach's vision of the key characteristics of elite performance, and highlighting any differences
  • Highlighting discrepancies between the athlete's and coach's assessment of performance
  • Providing a means of monitoring progress

Genetic ‘Profiling‘ for Athletics and Sports Performance

Our genes control our biological systems such as muscle, cartilage and bone formation, muscle energy production, lactic acid removal, blood and tissue oxygenation. Research by Kambouris (2011)[2] identified that variations in the DNA sequence of these genes have an impact on an individual's components of fitness (endurance, speed, strength etc.), vulnerability to sports injury and nutritional requirements.

Knowledge of the appropriate gene DNA structure suitable for an athletic event or sport and the athlete's gene DNA may allow an athlete to select the most appropriate sport for them and plan their training and nutritional programmes to optimise health and performance.

Mauffulli & Merzesh (2007)[3] found that mutations in collagen called COL5A1 led to the structure that supports the tendon being more loosely connected, making the tendon less stable and perhaps more susceptible to injury.


  1. CRUST, L. (2002) Performance profiling: a coaching tool for pinpointing strengths and weaknesses, designing training strategies and building better communication with athletes. Peak Performance, 183, p. 7-9
  2. KAMBOURIS, M. (2011) Predictive genomics profiling in athletics and sports performance. Br J Sports Med, 45 (2), lecture 27
  3. MAUFFULLI, N & MERZESH, M. (2007) Genetic aspects of tendinopathy. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 11 (3), p. 243-247

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • BUTTERWORTH, A. et al. (2013) Performance profiling in sports coaching: a review. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 13 (3), p. 572-593
  • WESTON, N. et al. (2013) A review of Butler and Hardy's (1992) performance profiling procedure within sport. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6 (1), p. 1-21
  • WESTON, N. J., GRENLEES, I. A. and THELWELL, R. C. (2011) The impact of a performance profiling intervention on athletes' intrinsic motivation. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 82 (1), p. 151-155

Article Reference

Some of the information on this page is adapted from Crust (2002)[1] with the kind permission of Electric Word plc.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) Performance Profiling [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: