Understanding The Stages of Talent Identification In Sports

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When we talk about talent identification what are we referring to? Talent identification can be defined as that process by which children are encouraged to participate in the sports at which they are most likely to succeed, based on results of testing selected parameters. These parameters are designed to predict performance capacity, taking into account the child’s current level of fitness and maturity. As talent identification is often confused with talent development, it is necessary to keep the above definition clearly in mind. Talent identification is the first step in the progression from a beginner in a skill to a developed potential athlete; talent development follows this as the next important phase in the achievement of sporting success.

But wait? Before testing these perimeters, do we understand the stages of development of a child?

Stage 1: Age 3- Age 8 (Recognising physical inefficiencies)

This age band is important in accessing the capabilities of the child in the cognitive and affective ability to perform a skill. For example, in Track & Field, a child is introduced to the basic skills such as running, jumping, throwing. Each of the events in Track & Field will require a combination of a run, jump or throw. The fundamental movement skills will be to begin with drill like settings. You will be able to access the disparity of the kids in their movement skills, some adapt to the immediate tweaks in the drills, others find it hard to coordinate maybe because a prerequisite to that skill has not been ingrained. For example, to perform an ankling drill (stepping over the ankle motion), the child has to understand the movement pattern of a slight hop in the air and not merely a shuffling of the feet.

Stage 2: Age 9 – Age 16 (Physiological, psychomotor changes)

This age band focuses on the ever changing dynamics of the body’s growth, strength, stature. For this age group, identifying patterns of psychomotor change will enable practitioners to select intermediate skills in an activity. Taking Track & Field as an example, a drill that can be taught at this age will be a step over (or high knee drill). This drill can be broken down into 2 parts. Firstly, it is about a cyclic action “stepping over the knee”, secondly, it is in a flexed knee position, keeping you heel close to the gluteus (butt) The imperative function of a drill to be taught will be the ankling drill. Without a prior knowledge of the ankling drill, the child might find it hard to transit to a high knee drill. A few factors such as flexibility, motor patterns needs time to develop as a kid.

Stage 3: Age 16+ (Sport specific test, new adaptations)

Now we come to the interesting stage where we can implement drills or workouts that have sports/ events specificity. In the event of sprints, the 100m sprint which holds dearly to me as I love the rush of speed and the quest to be faster. At this age band, using training methods to teach the kid will be essential. For example, knowing the ideals of periodisation of training plans into (macro (yearly), meso (monthly), micro (weekly)) plans can facilitate learning outcomes and adaptations to new stimulations. For developing a sprinter, there are 2 vital primary movement patterns that has to be understood. Firstly, a sprinter needs a good cadence/ stride length. This is linked with flexibility – muscle laxity, joint mobility. Next, a sprinter needs a fast strike rate/ frequency. This is linked to the types of muscle fibres (often it is genetic). Introducing power weight lifting exercises will increase power that can be produced on the track for linear velocity.

Current State of Talent Identification

With the initiation from international sporting bodies such as the IAAF (Athletics), FIFA (Football) that are the governing organizations, it has a decentralised way of ensuring talent always renews. In each of these governing organisations, many of the different nations around the world have an affiliated sporting organisation in charge of ensuring there are development pathways, competition plans, opportunities to showcase talent. However, a bulk of talent that may be left “un-identified” can be seen in developing nations with a lesser focus on sporting excellence. Thus, the search for new talents can be in such emerging markets.

Talent Identification in the future

As Esa Peltola (Talent Identification Consultant) with Australian Sports Commission states it. In the future, extensive international cooperation is necessary if talent identification programmes are to be improved, A good level of co-operation can help to create international data banks so that available information can be widely used. It can also help to create norms for various tests. In addition, more research is needed in order to collect a greater range of data on the development of fitness. ability parameters and human growth and development. This kind of information should be collected in both developed and developing countries. More extensive research can generate a greater number of valid tests and improve the validity of existing ones: for example, the role of psychological and sociological factors in the prediction of sporting success is still unclear.

2017 will be an interesting year for Global Talent Track, I am planning to utilise the efforts from my company to build up an international database that will aid sports/ teams/ coaches/ trainers/ players to ensure talent development has data analytics paired with ensuring the longevity of developing talents and to give opportunities for anyone, everyone that has the potential to enter into elite sports. The quest to continue to innovate and to advance in talent identification will be the focus for the year. Looking forward to a year of favourable outcomes!

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