Performance Profiling

Performance profiling is a simple technique used by coaches and psychologists to increase athletes’ self awareness of the core qualities necessary for peak performance in a given sport. It often forms part of a goal setting process, and can be done either individually or in groups.


The basic steps involved are as follows:

  1. The coach / psychologist asks players to brainstorm the qualities / skills / characteristics that are important for success in their particular sport (technical, physical, mental factors etc). In team sports it can be useful to do this in smaller groups based on positions, as different positions may well require different qualities. 
  2. A final list of ideal qualities is agreed on. It is important that players also write a definition of each item on this list for when they re-evaluate themselves at a later point, or indeed to enable someone else to rate them too. In most cases the final list of qualities is then turned into a circular target (see attached soccer example), but it can of course also just be left as a written list. Note: (In younger athletes who don’t necessarily have enough insight to create a useful list of core criteria, it is advisable to rather just give them a list that has been compiled by the coach). 
  3. Players then rate themselves on each quality, on a scale from 1 – 10, where 1 implies ‘very weak’ or ‘total novice’, and 10 implies ‘very strong’ or ‘professional’.

performance-profile | Clinton Gahwiler

Performance profiling (PP) is commonly believed to be useful, and it is widely used by coaches and psychologists alike, in spite of there not being much empirical research into its effectiveness. Weston, Greenlees and Thelwell however recently published a review paper on this topic (in IRSEP, vol 6, pp1 – 22), and made the following comments:

  • There is experiential evidence to support the notion that PP raises awareness on 3 levels, namely the athlete’s self awareness, the athlete’s awareness of team mates, and also the psychologist / coach’s awareness of the athlete’s perceptions.

  • The fact that it describes an athlete’s perceptions is a key value to performance profiling. These perceptions - which may or may not be accurate – are crucial in ultimately influencing their attitudes, decisions, effort levels etc. Any assessment procedure that does not consider the athlete’s own perceptions, risks missing out on this important information.

  • PP may be useful in improving intrinsic motivation, although the only real study in this field suggested that it does so when used on 3 occasions over a period of 6 weeks, but not necessarily if only done on a single occasion. 

  • It can be useful within a team context to help identify and clarify roles within the team.

  • It can be very useful to compare an athlete’s self rating with eg a coach’s rating of the same person. Coaches need to however sensitively handle situations in which there is a large discrepancy between the two sets of scores.

  • There is some evidence for PP’s ability to predict performance, but it is at best sketchy. I would not recommend its use for this purpose.

  • It can be useful to monitor changes over time, although it may miss the subtleties, and therefore is most useful at times of significant change eg during pre-season build-ups or in coming back from injury.

In conclusion, if used with care, performance profiling can be a useful tool for coaches and psychologists alike. Hopefully we will see more research in future which enables us to further optimize its benefits.