Think over all the talent identification processes you’ve either witnessed or been involved in over the years. Typically, they tend to be comprised of some sort of test; usually physical, but they can be augmented with psychological and anthropometric measures. For example, when I was 14 I was invited to a Talent Identification day where I was put through a number of different tasks; standing long jump, 30m sprint, endurance run, seated medicine ball throw. I didn’t score particularly well in any of those tests, apart from the 30m sprint, where I was in the top 1% of all scores ever recorded. It was recommended that I take up sprinting. Read more
On last week’s GAINcast we looked at best practices in talent identification. But as we said, talent identification means nothing without talent development. On this week’s episode we dive deeper into talent development and look at how to best put a system in place that gets the most out of the talent you have identified. After all, talent only equals potential, not success. Read more
Welcome to this month’s edition of Sports Science Monthly, where we take a look at recent research in the realm of sports science. In this edition, we take a look at running coordination, the nature vs nurture debate, causes of illnesses and injuries, vitamin D supplementation, caffeine, and test familiarization. Read more
Talent is a divisive topic, but it is hard to argue that you can create a champion without any talent. Properly identifying and nurturing that talent is therefore a key element of high performance. On this episode we discuss the complexity of talent, how to approach it as a coach, and Vern’s multi-step approach talent identification. Read more
Over the years I am convinced that athletes make clear choices about their level of achievement, it has nothing to do talent or ability (Some of the most talented athletes I have been around have chosen not be the best). It clearly comes to attitude and desire to be the best. Here are the three levels of achievement from my experience: Read more
Are athletes born or are they made? This is the crux of the nature vs. nurture question that has been debated to death by the athletics community. The debate never moves forwards since, like so many things in life nowadays, everyone takes a position at the extreme when the best answer lies in the middle. Read more
Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t teach speed”? In my youth, and despite my complete lack of any technical ability, I was reasonably effective at both soccer and rugby. Notice that I said effective, and not good. Playing rugby at school there actually was a pre-planned move which involved giving me the ball, and getting me to run without even considering passing until I either scored or was tackled. Playing soccer, I was moved to the wing, and my team would just punt the ball into space for me to run on to. No talent required. I was successful only because of my speed – I was already a national age group champion at that point. It was here that I would hear my teachers, coaches and team-mates comment “you can’t teach speed.”
But can you? Read more
At any given level of sport, the most talented athlete at that level will get lots of praise. The trouble with judging talent is that what makes one person more talented at each level is subject to change. Here is why talent is important but not the most important factor for furthering success. Read more
Over the last decade, youth sports have undergone a drastic transformation: general athletic development is being replaced with specialized preparation at earlier ages. This transformation began a long time ago, but has been accelerated as people saw the success of Tiger Woods (shown to the right) and the Williams sisters. Now I see more kids choosing to focus on one sport year-round than the three-sport letterman of years past. This is the topic of my most recent article for Juggernaut Training Systems.
This trend is bad, but the common reaction against it is to focus again on only generalized training. As I argue in the article, there doesn’t need to be a choice between specialized and generalized. A combination can work even better and I bring in some examples from the throwing world.
One chapter of the David Epstein’s The Sports Gene discusses the role of body type in sports and how this has evolved in almost a Darwinian fashion over the last century. At the beginning of the modern Olympic era elite athletes tended to have the same body type. As Epstein explained, in 1925 the average Olympic volleyball player looked similar in stature to an Olympic discus thrower, high jumper, or shot putter. American Robert Garrett was the first modern Olympic discus and shot put champion standing just 6-foot 2-inches and 180-pounds. There is a reason he could easily be mistaken for a high jumper: he also won silver medals in the high jump and long jump. The scientists of the day even had theories of why this was the ideal athlete for each sport. Epstein notes that:
Anthropometrists felt that human physique distributed along a bell curve, and the peak of the curve-the average- was the perfect form, with everything to the sides deviating by accident or fault.
Fast forward a hundred years and each of those sorts has developed a distinct type of athlete that works best for it. Read more