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Forward, March!

Performance Intelligence is happening here, now, and everywhere.


Stephen Smith


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Looking at the latest in sports news, one statistic jumps out: the number of U.S.-owned football clubs in Europe’s top two divisions has grown 37% since January 2020. In lots of cases, these new owners at the helm are highly successful investors, so it’s natural to expect a wider diffusion of business principles – the same principles that are at the root of Performance Intelligence – across their clubs in coming days. And it makes sense: Performance Intelligence applies as much to business as it does elite sport; success in both worlds requires relentless focus on holistic, harmonized efficiencies that drive ever higher performance.

But Performance Intelligence isn’t confined to these two spheres — it’s happening everywhere. Organizations are weaving Performance Intelligence into the very fabric of their organizations, leveraging technology, data, and information to leap forward in highly strategic ways.

To get a sense of how a couple of core Performance Intelligence principles – continuous learning and evolution –  are put in practice, let’s first look at how the NFL responded to COVID-19 over the last year.

The NFL had less interruption to fixtures of any league globally, pulling off the season from start to finish in phenomenal fashion because of how they leveraged technology and data. A remote draft. Zoom meetings to replace lengthy, in-person sessions. Texting. COVID-19 created a new normal, which forced the NFL to get smarter and generate efficiencies they’ll absolutely keep going forward. This didn’t happen by accident. As Commissioner Roger Goodell recently explains,

One of the things we talked about throughout the last year was how do we learn from what we are going through? What are we going to take forward?

As I’ve written previously, this ability to learn how to learn is a hallmark of Performance Intelligence and the NFL demonstrated that in spades.

That’s one of the pinnacles of elite sport. But what about the grass-roots?

We see proof of Performance Intelligence’s widespread adoption in Simone Lewis’s work creating cultures of lifelong learning in the academy system. This is a quiet but hugely impactful adaptation, with generational impact.

And again this doesn’t happen by accident, it’s the consequence of an action plan for intentional change, like the ‘whole athlete’ concept that University of Colorado Athletic Director Rick George shared with me last month or Roger Goodell and the NFL choosing to leverage technology.

While Performance Intelligence permeates throughout sport, the mindset is also being embraced by other elite communities, no less concerned with beating the competition.

The U.S. Army’s new Combat Fitness Test is an excellent example. Designed from emerging insights in exercise science and sports medicine to build a better fitness culture, it essentially takes a Performance Intelligence approach: beyond measuring miles and push-ups,

Army leaders are looking to holistically assess how soldiers can perform in combat and the various, unique tactical situations required for different units, from infantry to artillery to logistics.

To close out, let’s go back to those U.S.-owned European clubs: the ones already embracing a Performance Intelligence mindset are far more likely to adapt and seize advantages faster than those that don’t. The same holds for relentlessly adaptive global businesses, for sports leagues willing to leverage technology for big changes, for innovation-friendly units within the U.S. military. The stimuli for each might be different – an attractive investment opportunity, the imperative to outcompete an adversary, the need to respond to COVID-19 – but these examples powerfully underscore how widespread Performance Intelligence has truly become. From boardrooms to battlefields, it isn’t just for elite sport anymore. Performance Intelligence is happening everywhere.

I’ll be sharing thoughts on sport’s most impactful developments and news on an ongoing basis. I welcome your feedback on Twitter or at



  • Human Performance
  • Performance Intelligence
  • Sports Data Analytics
  • Sports Science
  • Views on News

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  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen is Kitman Labs’ CEO and founder. He was previously Senior Injury Rehabilitation & Conditioning Coach at Leinster Rugby Club. Stephen holds a BSc in Sport & Exercise Rehab and MSc in Football Rehab from Edgehill University.

    CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs



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