Talent Identification – the way we currently do it – doesn’t work.
Here are some things that do and some ideas on how to do it better.
- Leadership is about the future;
- Management is about the present;
- Education is about the past.
So what’s this got to do with why Talent ID programs in the Western world are dismal failures?
There is a fundamental reason why TID – the way it is currently done – does not work in the western world.
TID programs are looking for “talent” based on what the research (i.e. research that was conducted some time in the past) has previously defined as “talent”.
However, sport is a constantly changing, evolving, dynamic environment and as such, any reliance on previous research and past methodologies in an attempt to identify something to forge the future is hopelessly out of place and largely irrelevant.
Talented athletes change sport.
They do things that no one before them has done. They see records not as barriers but as goals to be achieved and bettered and in doing so they change the sport. They set new standards of performance and change our beliefs about what’s possible.
So what good is setting up talent i.d. programs that at their foundation use the measurement techniques used to identify past generations of athletes?
What we need is a new approach to talent identification – one that incorporates a “futurism” approach into the identification and development programs.
A “futurist” approach in TID means looking at the future direction of the sport, predicting the types of athletes and athletic qualities which will prove successful in that future and identifying / developing talented kids who possess those qualities.
This is a fundamental shift that everyone involved in talent identification needs to make if they are going to be successful.
There are five core principles that need to be included in all successful talent identification programs:
- Physical talent gets you drafted or selected into elite squads or picked in talented athlete programs. However duration and quality of sporting career is dependent on character, values and perseverance. So the successful TID program which is seeking athletes who can sustain a career as a senior elite athlete needs to be more focused on personality, character, values and attitudes than physical abilities;
- The TID program needs to fit the demands of the sport – and not the other way around. Sporting federations and organisations must lead the direction of talent identification and not be dictated to by nationally driven and funded generic talent identification programs;
- Start at the end and work backwards. Start with a clear vision of what the future champions of the sport will need to be successful and work backwards from there. Predict the standards that will be world records and gold medal winning performances of 2012 / 2016 / 2020 and 2024 then use talent identification to find athletes capable of achieving those marks. Don’t waste time setting up talent id programs to find out what would have won in 2004!!!!
- Spend 100 times more on talent development than on talent identification. Talent is so much more than natural physical ability. Athletes only reach their potential through the total development of physical, mental, technical and tactical abilities. Real talent is harder to HIDE than find – the real skill is in helping talented athletes realise their full potential;
- Strive to find uniqueness and release the potential of individuals…don’t box athletes into current models of what “talent” is. The fundamental element in excellence is uniqueness. Greatness comes from individuality and being different – not from fitting a theoretical model of what “talent” is supposed to be. The best talent identification models must seek uniqueness, individuality and difference and not reduce everything to percentile rankings of what some data model prescribes as talent.
Funny thing is – most people in elite sport know these 5 principles – but for some reason sit back and wait for someone to come up with a magical talent id system which will unearth superstars by having them do a few jumps, a couple of runs and a sit and reach test!
Makes you wonder where we actually find the great ones doesn’t it?
Not really – we don’t find them………they find us.