Lessons from the snow: objective review

simple-gap-analysis

It may be one of the most misunderstood concepts in sport.

Gap analysis is a critical tool to deeply evaluate and improve performance. It’s the final wrap-up of each competitive season and the starting point of a new one. The time to reflect, adjust and implement.

This was our new approach in the season past: to take stock of the season past and reflect objectively on performance. To identify any gaps in preparation, support, equipment, fitness, culture or frame of mind. Determine how to close the gap through new approaches, raising the bar or new partnerships – and set the new plan in motion.

Why is gap analysis misunderstood? The key word is objective. Proper gap analysis is a review of performance to make it better. A very personal, thorough evaluation of how the season went, with an eye towards identifying what went right, what went sideways, what may have been missing … and how to fix it.

It is not a witch-hunt or a negative evaluation intended to find fault. Too often the deep look at the past season spirals into the negative, assigning blame to others. The effective review is the best chance to self-assess to close performance gaps, not widen them.

So what thoughts can we share for a thorough gap analysis?

Write it down. Keep a record of what worked and what did not. With your thoughts on paper, at any time you can go back and review if you’re on track. Fine-tune goals. Update progress and make adjustments. If it’s all in your head, how can you be sure? Keeping even basic self-evaluation keeps the record clear for reflection a year from now.

Set out short and long term goals. The short term is next season, the long term aspirational:  where you want your career to go.

Getting personal is essential. This is “look in the mirror time’. Honesty is paramount. You can be the most objective person about your performance. Did you meet your goals? If yes, then write down what worked – and how you might to it better or more efficiently. If not, what were the gaps – moving through all the key performance metrics: fitness, technique, equipment, attitude, finances and culture.

While the foundation of gap analysis is objective (definition: not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts), the art is layering your own feelings about influencing your performance in the coming year to find solutions. You can be the master of your destiny.

Think the top athletes rely on the coaches, service men, athletic and medical staff to deliver all their needs, their program? Think again. The common denominator across all successful athletes is recognition a program can provide a solid foundation but individual initiative drives the minutiae of success. The successful athlete goes the extra mile of self-examination and sourcing solutions. Don’t be afraid to reach outside your team or your comfort zone to seek ways to close any gap.

Always start with what worked, because it sets a positive framework. These are the things you want to continue to do – but don’t get caught in a trap that “more is better”. Be sure to critically evaluate that what is working is moving you towards your goals. Then evaluate your performance, considering what you may have been able to do better or what may have been missing. Running out of gas in the final gates? Second run performance not as strong as first run, or vice-versa? A nagging worry equipment is not quite aligned or meeting your needs? Keep it personal. This step is about you. About identifying the gaps. Dealing with circumstances you can change.
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A thorough review goes beyond to include those close to your performance. First and foremost would be your coach, but don’t be afraid to include parents or any others who know you well. This is your support environment. Bouncing ideas or ways to improve your performance off your support team demonstrates you are thinking critically about your career. But maintaining objectivity is paramount. Respect the sphere of influence (parents, respect the expertise of the coach; coaches, respect the personal insight of the parents).

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Think like a champion. I’ve had the good fortune to spend quite a bit of time around World Champions and in my view they all share common traits. They constantly evaluate. Continuous improvement is a daily goal. Nothing is “good enough”. They are dedicated and relentless – on the snow, in fitness activity and in having fun. No stone is left unturned. They can be exhausting in pursuing performance, but considering their lofty goals this is a character asset to be admired.

 

About Ken Read

"You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!" - Oh, the Places You'll Go (1990) Dr. Seuss
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