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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

If it Matters, Keep Score

Shane Battier has a story about bagels.

The former NBA player and current Vice President of Basketball Development & Analytics for the Miami Heat shared it on the Sloan Sports Analytics podcast, Trash Talking, last week.

A friend of his owned a bagel factory in Toronto.

Production had slipped. More and more misshaped bagels were coming out of the line, unable to be sold.

The predictable response for the factory owner would've been to admonish the workers, demanding higher quality and greater attention to detail. However, Battier's friend chose a different route.

He installed a bagel counter that all the workers would see on a daily basis as they walked in and out of the factory. It displayed the number of misshaped bagels that the facility had produced each day.

Perhaps in the competitive spirit of keeping the number down, or the fear of being responsible for making the number go up, the factory workers' performance improved dramatically.

Nothing had been said. The mere presence of the counter had improved quality across the factory.

There's a good lesson in coaching here. If there is something in practice that matters (i.e. a key performance indicator, or KPI), tangible feedback can elevate performance. We work with athletes who are competitive by nature. If they know and understand where they're at on a specific KPI, they'll come to recognize what better looks like.

What's important in the weight room? Film it. Measure it. Record it.

How important is consistent attendance at practice? Record it. Post it.

Those are just a couple examples. Put another way, I think you signal to an athlete where they should put their focus by what you choose to measure and record.

Know what matters. Then, find a way to show that it does.

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