Debunking The Myth of Performance Data

At SPMI, I have worked with athletes in over 35 sports. One key component every sport focuses on is the emphasis on performance data. For example, in baseball, players are focused on areas such as batting average or ERA. In Tennis, players are tracking first serve percentage, number of unforced errors, Golfers are big on shooting low scores, and greens in regulation. No matter the sport, data measures performance and success. But is performance data a good thing to focus on during an athlete’s performance?

The answer is a definitive no. If anything, focusing on data handicaps performance. Almost every issue I’ve encountered with athletes regardless of age or level related to pressure in competition can be traced back to focusing on data. Many athletes mention their moments where their mind obsessed about a specific number.

“I had 3 holes left to play and was two shots back. I knew that I needed to birdie two of the next three holes in order to stay in it.”

When dissecting this comment, it shows just how much the golfer divided his focus during the most important moments of his round. Focusing on data divides an athlete’s focus and goes against all sports psychology and sports science research that supports the behavior that when performing to one’s full potential an athlete must reduce their focus to just 1 task.

I want to share one example of an SPMI athlete who made the discovery to not focus on data and was able to make significant improvements in their performance. For confidentiality purposes, I will leave his name out of it. The example comes from a professional race car driver. He discovered the power of eliminating data when testing new Indy cars. In racing, teams are big on data. Drivers often receive data on lap times, and even on individual turns. This athlete and his team made the decision to eliminate data by placing tape over the steering wheel areas that showed the speed and other metrics. To give you an idea on indy steering wheel data, a typical Indy car steering wheel has 13 main features! The discovery was highly significant. Not only did the driver finish with the fastest lap time of his class but he also broke his previous fastest track time by seconds (In racing 1 tenth of a second is highly significant to performance).

Now you're probably thinking, If he's not focusing on data, then how is he tracking his performance?

The answer is feel. He and many top athletes who are mentally tough track their in the moment performance on feel. Feel is a key component of our 5 senses and while athletes improve their skill levels they are also improving their sense of feel. This consistent positive sense then gets stored in the lower part of the brain where it is easily accessed just by focusing on it. At SPMI, athletes learn how to maximize the sense of feel among many other skills to help them to increase their focus and overall performance especially in moments when it matters the most. 

Take a minute and think about how you feel when you are performing your best and when you are performing your worst. Do you have strong memories of both? Your answer resides in the recesses of your mind.