How can we identify as early as possible the champions of the future? The selection and development of talent has intrigued coaches in many different countries for many years
- Much time and effort has been spent trying to identify the particular physical and psychological characteristics which contribute to elite performance. Debate has surrounded the relative contributions of genetic, social and environmental factors. Yet despite the argument about nature or nurture most agree that talent has to be identified before potential can be reached.The identification of talent has gained in importance over the years as performance standards have continued to improve and the age at which younger athletes reach the top has significantly reduced
- It is argued that the technical complexity, and physical and psychological preparation necessitates that training should start at an early age. Identifying sporting potential means that young athletes can receive specialised coaching and so accelerate development. Relatively little is known about how children are identified as talented and become involved in intensive training. Traditionally school played an important role introducing children into competitive sport
- During recent years considerable publicity has suggested sport in school has changed. Pupils have greater availability of other forms of physical recreation. The National Curriculum and the introduction of statutory hours, it has been suggested, have limited the extra-curricular activity undertaken by teachers
- These changes, it is argued have brought about a decline in traditional school sport.
The prediction of successful achievement in sporting activities presents a major challenge, particularly for national governing bodies and coaches. Is it possible to predict whether an apparently talented youngster will go on to achieve success at national or even international level in late adolescence or adulthood? If successful prediction were possible, this would enable coaches responsible for the development of excellence to focus their attention on those youngsters with the greatest potential.
It is well known that some countries, for example the former East Germany, Cuba and most recently China (all countries with a significant record of international success in the sports on which they have concentrated), have a policy of screening out apparently talented youngsters and putting considerable extra resources into their coaching. The policy in the UK appears to have been more haphazard, although certainly attempts have been made in many sports to identify and promote talented youngsters. However, the greater success of the formerly communist regimes does not necessarily mean they were more successful in prediction. Their international success could equally well have been due to the much higher level of resources they were injecting (in terms of facilities, coaching and time) or to the capacity of totalitarian regimes to order the lives of their citizens (including their talented children) in a way that just would not be acceptable in more democratic societies.
Editor's comments - [ In these reports, an attempt is made to examine which factors might be successfully predictive from early and middle childhood to late adolescence when a group of talented youngsters involved in four different sports are investigated at three time points over a two-year period. The TOYA study was not designed with this aim in mind, but it has produced some relevant data. Before reporting these, it is worthwhile considering the range of factors that might predict successfully.
- the physical and physiological characteristics of the child, which will vary from sport to sport;
- the psychological characteristics of the child. These might include the child's general intelligence, general emotional state, emotional response to success and failure, motivation to win, persistence and concentration;
- the attitude of the family, especially the parents. The quality of family relationships in terms of their stability might also be relevant;
- performance in the sport concerned measured against a set of standard criteria appropriate to the age of the child. ] Reference this?Cryer, J. (2012). This page title in italics. Retrieved date, from In the text: Cryer (2012)
Reference : Rowley, S. and Baxter-Jones, A. (1993). Training of Young Athletes Study (TOYA): TOYA and identification of talent. London: Sports Council (GB)
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