Recruiting new team members is critical in a mission to achieve the highest levels of performance.  Whether you’re starting from scratch or adding to an existing team or in some cases having to redesign a current team, it’s the sweet spot. Yet, despite organisation leaders acknowledging this, and many technical directors of sports team’s claiming they have their recruitment processes “nailed”, choosing new team members is still left wanting.  Until now!   Over recent months, work has been undertaken in one sports code which may set the tone for helping choose athletes for the “draft.” A big-ticket item in many codes around the World.


One of the significant changes in elite sport in the last couple of decades has been the huge explosion in the use of data to assess, review and influence performance.   For anyone who has participated at an elite level either as an athlete or as a member of staff, this is no longer an add on but intrinsic to the daily and weekly program. Be it technical and tactical with software analysing past footage and summarising every second of every movement together with the conglomeration of physiological assessments which lead discussions on finding those improvement “1 percenters” in both individual and team sport.   And if that’s not enough, simulations can be created based on analytics of past performance to forecast likely outcomes.  Then play these out in the training environment prior to competition day.

With the stakes so high in elite sport, much analysis is undertaken behind closed doors.  Every opportunity taken to get a step ahead of the competition.  Visit any elite sports team and there will be numerous staff with laptops in hand, in the training environment then in rooms, cutting and analysing video clips,  chatting to coaches, sometimes connecting to a big screen leading the analysis on what the software has identified. Graphs and pie charts summarise all this, leading to adjustments for the next competition. Messages agreed and shared with coaches and athletes. 

Of course, broadcasters and commentators have jumped on the vast array of data now available with fast turnaround. Whilst data has been used in sport for many years, now it’s so accessible and beautifully presented for the viewer. An  intrinsic feature of every sports event with sports presenters commenting on averages, percentages, highest performers of the month, the year, by time, by distance, by position, by lane and so on.  It’s part of our life.  Information is power.  This is not only occurring in sport. “Big data” companies have become powerhouses in the business world too.  Analysing and tracking spending by item, by location, by time, by age and so on is an important input into business decisions.  But what next?  If everyone has the same data, how do teams get one step ahead? 


This is an area of work that isn’t just of interest to me.  It’s a life-long passion.  Undergraduate and post graduate research, Doctorate research and professional life have all taken me into the same area of interest which is still in my view the holy grail.   Can we practically measure the behaviours of individuals in teams then influence this to achieve greater performance both as an individual and as a contributor of a team?   The answer is yes.

WBBL01 Grand Finalists Sydney Sixers players and Coach, Ben Sawyer undertaking a High Performance and Mental Agility program

Measuring emotional agility and communication processes is something the XVenture team has been researching and working on for a number of years. The EARL Measure has been used and applied by thousands already and in the last few years, the building of “standard” processes to measure and effect communication processes utilising an AI engine has also delivered new knowledge on how individuals and teams work. Exciting times for deeper relevancy of behavioural and social sciences, particularly when people genuinely grab the concepts and processes, and see significant improvements. In fact, major research results are just a few months away from completion with senior executives from two global corporations, applying these principles.  Learn how an integrated mind works, apply the principles, and see the results. 

I’ve been involved in working with elite sporting teams, both at international and national level in building mental and emotional strength in nine different codes and delivered solutions in the same space to hundreds of coaches in business, too, as part of my work I’ve been researching and applying different approaches to measuring individual and team styles, personalities, and performance for nearly forty years.  All used as attempts to help improve performance.  Sometimes I use my own models and programs and also where fitting, integrate programs such as Belbin, TMS, Lencioni’s models and mental toughness models from Clough and Strycharczyk. I also regularly apply Pentland’s work around sociometrics too.  All have been and are helpful.

However, I’m now feeling brave enough to state that the same mistakes keep happening.  How do we know?  Well, my conversations with coaches/executive leaders and my professional observations on teams are still the same now as they were twenty years ago.  The same complaints still occur.  “Someone” we expected to perform underperformed.  “They” just didn’t fit in.  “Their” numbers haven’t eventuated. So, we’re either making the same mistakes and not learned, measuring the wrong things, haven’t built the right tools and techniques or simply don’t know how to influence improvements in performance effectively. 


Recently, I started to get interested in the “draft” process used in certain sporting codes to choose athletes: AFL, NBA and NBL, NFL and most recently cricket.  The stakes are high as is the money involved so choosing the right athletes for the team is mission critical.

I have had the good fortune of working in football (soccer), basketball and cricket at elite level and through this have learned more about the process and the impact of getting it right (or wrong).  This really got me thinking.  Are the right measures being used to choose players?  In reviewing what teams typically do to choose players, I believe the answer is no.  Despite all the data available, the key aspects we know as scientists is that behaviours influence performance. Yet, behaviour isn’t typically analysed as part of the decision-making process in player selection. It's typically technical and physical capability only with a smattering of tactical prowess in some instances. So, it set me on a path to identify a  new way of looking at performance which could be an additional source of help in making these critical decisions.

Working with a World championship and domestic winning coach in cricket I embarked on building a Behavioural Performance Index (BPI) which could be helpful for the next draft.

Working with the team analyst in 2022 and then coach and analyst in 2023, we built an index which combined three key behavioural aspects which we believed could help us to identify each player’s mental conditioning throughout the tournament.  In determining the key aspects of the Index, we agreed on Confidence, Focus and Attention, and Motivation as three aspects which have been consistently discussed in the coaching environment, used and applied in a professional capacity and significantly cited as fundamentals behaviours for high performing individuals:  (Google scholar references over ten million citations on the subject areas.)

Each of the three aspects were discussed in detail and a number of technical attributes were identified for confidence: focus and attention and motivation.  For each aspect, up to five technical attributes and associated definitions were documented.  From here the team analyst mined the data for each player for each definition of the index.  These were then aggregated, and data extracted from the season’s performances for each player.

The table below is the first reveal of a BPI for an elite cricket team. 

We anticipated  that higher draft players should be achieving higher BPI levels for either batting or bowling. (Note the figures in bold denote batter, bowler or allrounder. ) However, when we place the BPI against traditional performance measures typically used in assessing and selecting elite cricketers, we can see higher levels of performance played out for some but not all.  There are some notable outliers where early draft players showed lower BPI results and unsurprisingly  lower levels of performance followed.  Note player 3 and 5 in particular in the table below.  Also note player 11, a late draft who achieved a relatively high batting BPI but a low batting average, though this was possibly due to this player batting down the order late in the innings. 


It is early days in the development of the Index. It  isn’t meant to be a substitute for the traditional performance analysis undertaken for each player but more an adjunct to what’s already known.  The work on refining and improving its use will be undertaken throughout 2024 and beyond and further research will also be undertaken in its application for other codes too.

Science already confirms that positive behaviours not only impact’s individual  technical and physical performance but has an impact on team performance too.  The recommendation for team selectors is to embrace behavioural aspects of players in making choices in a draft.  Just as important is to develop and apply the activities which can be adopted to impact a positive shift in behaviours once the team is chosen.  This can and will lead to better outcomes for individual and team performance. 

If you’re selector, coach or administrator and are keen to integrate the BPI into your team, I can adapt this to suit any sporting code.

#sport #draft #teamselection #performancemeasures #football #APL