“An Eye for Talent”: Talent Identification and the “Practical Sense” of Top-Level Soccer Coaches

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Southern Denmark
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The purpose of this study is to explore how top-level soccer coaches identify talent. I draw on Bourdieu’s work to challenge a commonly held assumption that talent identification is a rational or objective process. Analysis of in-depth interviews with eight coaches of national youth soccer teams indicated these coaches identified talent in three ways. First, coaches use their practical sense and their visual experience to recognize patterns of movement among the players. Second, the coaches’ classificatory schemes are characterized by their preference for so-called “autotelic” players, that is, players that, from the coaches’ perspective, exhibit a potential to learn, practice, and improve. Third, the study shows that talent, of which the coaches act as arbiters of taste, is socially configured in top-level soccer.

The author is with the Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230, Odense M, Denmark; mkchristensen@health.sdu.dk

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