“Actionable Data” is a buzzword in the sports performance industry right now. The world of big data often brings forward more noise, distractions, and confusion to sports performance practitioners. It is easy to get caught up with new technologies and data tracking devices because we confuse digital with scientific. Sexy and cool can help to excite coaches and athletes, but there are more explicit requirements needed when it comes to using data to help your athletes or organization. Is the data reliable? Is it valid? Is it practical? And perhaps most importantly, how is it going to change what you do?
Is Data inherently "actionable"?
The goal of collecting data should never be simply data collection. Athletes today are poked and prodded constantly. As soon as an athlete realizes you are not using the data you are asking them to record, they devalue the assessment. Filling out RPE, wellness questionnaires, and surveys become pointless if the athlete is not honest in these assessments. GPS and HRV data can become just as unreliable if athletes are not following proper procedures or giving honest efforts. Even something as simple as writing down the weight on the bar will go undone athletes don't understand it's value.
"What gets measured gets managed" is a great thought, stressing the inherent value of collecting data. However, as the pendulum swings, we need to remember that this data needs to lead to some sort of intervention. Collecting and analyzing data is all for not if this data cannot be applied to help your athletes or organization.
Previous injury is the number one predictor of future injury. Athletes with extreme imbalances can be at greater risk of injury. Lack of sleep can decrease performance and increase injury risk. There are many other “known” causes of performance drops and injury spikes, however there is no value in this information if we do nothing with it. If you are not willing to use the data you collect to make any decisions, I would recommend ceasing data collection now, and making better use of your time.
Collection and analysis is a means to an end: Intervention
Because of the vast amount of data we have been able to collect over 7+ years with 40+ partnered sports and military organizations around the world, we have been able to find trends, injury risks, and performance indicators associated with the SPARTA Scan. We not only have data from the games, injuries, and assessments, but data from previous interventions that we analyze to define best practices. The true power comes from the validated interventions our coaches and partners are able to put into place to help their athletes to stay healthy and perform at a high level.
With any data collection or athlete monitoring that is going to take place, there are four questions you and your organization need to ask yourselves:
- Is it reliable?
- Is it valid?
- Is it practical?
- What am I going to do about it?
Our mission at SPARTA is to help more athletes to continue to perform. Though we may be considered a sports technology company, our mission does not allow us to write off other technologies or companies simply because they are the “competition.” We are constantly vetting and testing other technologies to see how best we could advice our coaches and partners to use this data to best help their athletes.
No matter your background or bias, the goal is, and always should be, to do what is best for the athletes based on the information available. Remember that the ability to take action is not going to be based simply on the type of technology used. Reliability, validity, and practicality are nonnegotiable... but intervention is where the true power lies.