Unlocking your athletic potential: The power of video review
Why video review?
When taking part in a sport, there is often little room for calm and clear reflection during the activity itself. Tiredness and emotion cloud our judgement and intense focus reduces our capacity to think with any real overview or perspective. To analyse our performance as we go, we must rely on the feeling of our technique, and from our narrow, often clouded focus try to determine the effectiveness of our tactical decisions. There are hundreds of cues and messages that we miss due to time and energy constraints. In short, there is a huge amount to learn from our performances which it is difficult or impossible to access in the centre of the storm.
We will separate these learnings into four areas, and discuss why they are important and how to approach them using video review, one at a time. Those areas are:
· General Overview
Learning technique is a long and arduous process. It takes many hours of deliberate practice and countless repetitions. Most people, once they have learnt the basics can recognise good technique when they see it in other people but it can still take a long time for them to be able to replicate that same good technique. Part of the reason for this is that they rarely if ever get a chance to see themselves performing that technique, so they only have the feeling in their own body, and the corrections of their coach, from which to assess themselves.
It is usually just a fraction of training that is done under a coach’s supervision, with immediate and direct feedback. That leaves the remaining 80-90% where they must rely on the feeling in their own body to judge their technique. For more experienced athletes it is possible to evaluate the resulting effect of specific actions to help make those judgements, but in young or less experienced athletes, there are too many contributing factors to the effectiveness of actions.
Dance schools have mirrored walls which immediately gives the students ‘double’ the amount information from which to improve their technique, from without as well as within. This undoubtedly serves to improve technique at a faster rate.
Video review can be used as an athlete’s version of the mirror.
Using video footage to check an athlete’s tactical awareness and decision-making is a way of speeding up their understanding and development.
Considering the negative effect on cognitive function of fatigue and stress, it is clear that athletes are often not processing information perfectly during performances. Sometimes the mind is so clouded that they are not able to think rationally at all and, when asked later on, are not able to recall what they were thinking or indeed even describe what actually happened. In terms of optimal development it should not be acceptable to just leave these experiences be. Wherever possible athletes should record and watch their performances, looking critically at any successes, failures, changes in tactics, noticing any patterns in movement or actions, and making notes of any of this they think they can learn from. From this position, back home, without the fatigue and emotion, an athlete will be able to notice a huge amount about the match/race/fight and their own performance that they could not get by reflection alone.
The act of reflecting on a performance is a fantastically important tool for development. Thinking about a match once the emotions have worn off can lead to useful takeaway pointers for how to do things better or differently the next time. An athlete can reflect on their own effort and attitude, about specific behaviours that were good or not, and decide which they want to take with them and what they want to leave behind. Especially in the case of a disappointing performance, reflecting on it in this way can allow the athlete to process it and put it behind them, now better prepared to move on to the next match. The classic format for reflecting on any performance is with three questions; What went well? What didn’t go so well? What do I want to do better/differently next time?
The combination of reflection and tactical/technical review is a potent one for getting a clear overview of the strengths and weaknesses of an athlete. This is best done with the involvement of a coach who asks questions and helps the athlete identify relevant aspects of the performance. From this process the coach can get a sense of both what the athlete was feeling and how that translated into action during the performance. It then becomes easy to see if the athlete struggles with a particular mental aspect of the game (e.g. anxiety or lack of confidence), a physical aspect (e.g. speed, agility, cardiovascular fitness) or has some technical or tactical aspects that they must work on.
The power of this method is that the athlete can see just as clearly where they need to improve, which leads to a high level of buy-in from them for making the necessary changes. Gone are the days of the coach simply telling an athlete where they are lacking, with video analysis the athlete can be in the lead to making those observations and decisions themselves.