Statistical methods for analysing discrete and categorical data recorded in performance analysis

J Sports Sci. 2002 Oct;20(10):829-44. doi: 10.1080/026404102320675666.


In this paper, we identify appropriate statistical methods for analysing categorical differences in discrete variables or 'performance indicators' resulting from performance analysis. The random mechanisms associated with discrete events do not follow a normal distribution; that is, the normal distribution is a continuous not a discrete probability distribution. We propose appropriate statistical methods based on two key discrete probability distributions, the Poisson and binomial distributions. Two approaches are proposed and compared using examples from notational analysis. The first approach is based on the classic chi-square test of significance (both the goodness-of-fit test and the test of independence). The second approach adopts a more contemporary method based on log-linear and logit models fitted using the statistical software GLIM. Provided relatively simple one-way and two-way comparisons in categorical data are required, both of these approaches result in very similar conclusions. However, as soon as more complex models or higher-order comparisons are required, the approach based on log-linear and logit models is shown to be more effective. Indeed, when investigating those factors and categorical differences associated with binomial or binary response variables, such as the proportion of winners when attempting decisive shots in squash or the proportion of goals scored from all shots in association football, logit models become the only realistic method available. By applying log-linear and logit models to discrete events resulting from notational analysis, greater insight into the underlying mechanisms associated with sport performance can be achieved.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Sports*
  • Statistics as Topic / methods*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*