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Ryan W. Guenter, John G.H. Dunn and Nicholas L. Holt

Talent identification (TID) is the process of identifying individuals with the potential to excel in a given domain ( Williams & Reilly, 2000 ). A feature of the TID process in many North American sports is the draft system, a player-selection process designed to equitably allocate the playing

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Stefan Lund and Tor Söderström

The purpose of this article is to explore whether context and coaching cultures influence coaches’ practical experience and their unarticulated and embodied knowledge, and thus their different ways of seeing and defining talent. Using a cultural sociological perspective, we challenge the commonly held assumption that talent identification is, or can be made into, a rational and objective process. Our interpretations and analyses are based upon interviews with 15 soccer coaches in four districts within the Swedish Football Association’s talent organization program. The results imply that coaches’ talent identification is guided by what feels “right in the heart and stomach”; but what feels right is greatly influenced by their experience of previous identifications, interpretations of what elite soccer entails, and the coaching culture in which they find themselves.

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Mette Krogh Christensen

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.

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Nick Dobbin, Jamie Highton, Samantha L. Moss and Craig Twist

In an attempt to improve sporting success at both club and national standards, governing bodies such as the Rugby Football League (England) have resourced talent identification and development (TID) programs to aid selection and training processes for young “talented” players. 1 Clubs are also

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Adam D.G. Baxter-Jones

advance their “catch them young” philosophy ( Rowley, 1986 ) and perpetuated the use of adult anthropometric profiles in many talent-identification programs. In 1960s Britain, the British Sports Council was established to foster cooperation in sport among what were then statutory bodies and voluntary

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Darlene A. Kluka and Anneliese Goslin

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Tyler J. Noble and Robert F. Chapman

specialization age would result in faster rates of performance decay. Finally, we sought to explore the efficacy of the half-marathon as a talent-identification tool for the marathon distance, as it is our belief that the half-marathon distance, as opposed to other common race distances, better mimics the

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Carlos E.B. Gonçalves, Luís M.L. Rama and António B. Figueiredo

The theory of deliberate practice postulates that experts are always made, not born. This theory translated to the youth-sport domain means that if athletes want to be high-level performers, they need to deliberately engage in practice during the specialization years, spending time wisely and always focusing on tasks that challenge current performance. Sport organizations in several countries around the world created specialized training centers where selected young talents practice under the supervision of experienced coaches in order to become professional athletes and integrate onto youth national teams. Early specialization and accurate observation by expert coaches or scouts remain the only tools to find a potential excellent athlete among a great number of participants. In the current study, the authors present 2 of the problems raised by talent search and the risks of such a search. Growth and maturation are important concepts to better understand the identification, selection, and development processes of young athletes. However, the literature suggests that sport-promoting strategies are being maintained despite the increased demands in the anthropometric characteristics of professional players and demands of actual professional soccer competitions. On the other hand, identifying biological variables that can predict performance is almost impossible.

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Áine MacNamara and Dave Collins

The importance of psychological characteristics as positive precursors of talent development is acknowledged in literature. Unfortunately, there has been little consideration of the “darker” side of the human psyche. It may be that an inappropriate emphasis on positive characteristics may limit progress. Negative characteristics may also imply derailment or the potential for problems. A comprehensive evaluation of developing performers should cater for positive dual effect and negative characteristics so that these may be exploited and moderated appropriately. An integrated and dynamic system, with a holistic integration of clinical and sport psychology, is offered as an essential element of development systems.

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Sian V. Allen, Tom J. Vandenbogaerde, David B. Pyne and Will G. Hopkins

Talent identification and development typically involve allocation of resources toward athletes selected on the basis of early-career performance.


To compare 4 methods for early-career selection of Australia’s 2012 Olympic-qualifying swimmers.


Performance times from 5738 Australian swimmers in individual Olympic events at 101 competitions from 2000 to 2012 were analyzed as percentages of world-record times using 4 methods that retrospectively simulated early selection of swimmers into a talent-development squad. For all methods, squad-selection thresholds were set to include 90% of Olympic qualifiers. One method used each swimmer’s given-year performance for selection, while the others predicted each swimmer’s 2012 performance. The predictive methods were regression and neural-network modeling using given-year performance and age and quadratic trajectories derived using mixed modeling of each swimmer’s annual best career performances up to the given year. All methods were applied to swimmers in 2007 and repeated for each subsequent year through 2011.


The regression model produced squad sizes of 562, 552, 188, 140, and 93 for the years 2007 through 2011. Corresponding proportions of the squads consisting of Olympic qualifiers were 11%, 11%, 32%, 43%, and 66%. Neural-network modeling produced similar outcomes, but the other methods were less effective. Swimming Australia’s actual squads ranged from 91 to 67 swimmers but included only 50−74% of Olympic qualifiers.


Large talent-development squads are required to include most eventual Olympic qualifiers. Criteria additional to age and performance are needed to improve early selection of swimmers to talent-development squads.