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National Talent Centre Talent Identification Pre-Reading

(Cesar Meylan - NZF Football Fitness Manager)

More Players - More Opportunities to Fulfil their Football Potential Talent Identification in Football: Bridging the Gap Bet een !urrent !oaches" Methods and #port #ciences Models

Theoretical Model in Talent Identification

From a science perspective, the pursuit of excellence can be broken down into four key stages as illustrated in Figure one {Williams, 2000 # !2"# Talent detection refers to the discovery of potential performers who are currently not involved in sport and are not ma$or in football due to the high participation# Talent identification refers to the process of recognising those with the potential to become elite players# Talent development implies that young athletes are provided with a suitable learning environment so that they have the opportunity to realise their potential# Finally Talent selection involves the ongoing process of identifying players at various stages who demonstrate prere%uisite levels of performance for inclusion in a given s%uad, team or individual sports#

Figure $% &ey 'tages in the talent identification and development process (he ob$ective of this manuscript is to clarify the key components of the talent identification process in which coaches for &' Football &ational Talent !entres are in(ol(ed% For this purpose, general current coaches) approach on this process will first be exposed# (he pitfalls led by this philosophy will be highlighted and recommendations to avoid these mechanisms will finally be outlined#

The !oach )ri(en Method of Talent Identification (his section is based on the findings from interviews of national coaches in *urope # +t highlights the mechanisms behind a coach perspective on talent identification and suggests where the gaps are# +n most cases, when coaches are asked how they proceed in the talent identification, they will answer by ,+ can see- and responds to a ,gut feeling- when they describe how they selected gifted players# ,'eeing- is a primary metaphor for knowledge# . characteristic of the primary metaphor of ,seeing- is that it consists of evaluating sub$ective past experiences which establishes itself as knowledge in the person who has seen or perceived something# 'o when coaches say talent is something they ,got a glimpse of-, something experienced ,as a %uick flash- and resembling ,a familiar pattern- they have made a sub$ective $udgement of a visual impression and ac%uired a personal visual experience# /onse%uently, the identification of talents is not based on precise evaluation of isolated elements but builds on a practical sense of visual impressions as a whole# (his means that talent identification rests on a multifaceted intuitive knowledge comprised of socially constructed ,images- of the perfect player# When a coach selects a talent, he has the feeling of doing something self0evident, logical, and inevitable as he distinguishes between different talented football players without being explicit about the generative principles that guide his observation# *ven though coaches do not have a common language to fully express their choices, the ,football skills- and the ,personal %ualities- of young football players comprise the primary criteria in the classificatory schemes of the coaches, although personal %ualities predominated# /lassification of ,football skills- relates to identification of the observable, immediate performance of skills among different football players# (he coaches differentiate between two categories of ,football skills-1 game intelligence and peak competences# Game intelligence is predominantly regarded by coaches as the tactical and mental ability to read and predict the game and move effectively in relation to time and space# Peak competences cover a broad spectrum of chiefly physical and highly technical skills such as speed, heading precision and low passing# /lassification of ,personal %ualities- encompasses seeing and knowing the football player as a person, that is, recogni2ing the %ualities that are less football0specific but still regarded by the coaches as significant for a further development of talent# .ccording to the coaches, a talented football player has a ,drive to succeed- and an attitude signalling ,will and perseverance-# .ttitude is a dominant category in the classificatory scheme that distinguishes one highly skilled football players from another# (he coaches especially like an attitude that reflects the players ,willingness to learn, to work hard, and to dedicate themselves- to football 3 not $ust at the regular training session but also in their own time# /onse%uently, the classificatory schemes of the coaches concern not 3

only the present make0up of a player but also the player)s presumed potential to learn, to practice, and to improve# (he interpretation of the young player)s physical, technical and psychological traits is dependent on the sub$ective variation in taste among coaches# /hoices of gifted players are therefore made on taste, knowledge and expertise and this process is viewed as legitimate by coaches# (he reliance on the visual experience and metaphorical language of a coach and the lack of challenge to a limited number of coaches) tastes leaves little space for the sharing of explicit knowledge and the development of a shared language and classificatory schemes# 'uch a philosophy might exclude players, coaches, and other agents who are regarded as a threat to the orthodox, or dominant, logic and who might challenge the power of the established coaches# (his philosophy is described as a ,closed- field and is characteri2ed by an unwillingness to include different viewpoints and, as such, increases the possibility of mistakes# +n contrast, a broadly based scouting system could prevent a ,closing- of the field because scouts and coaches would have to exchange views on talented football players in more scholastic ways 4i#e# explicit or ob$ective ways5 and in doing so, develop explicit categories that arise from their classificatory schemes# (he coaches only partly recognised this scholastic logic compared to the urgency of selecting in practical settings, and apparently do not see it as important as long as surrounding elements in society do not challenge or %uestion their expertise and power as coaches# 'everal conclusion can be drawn to the current ,coach driven- model of talent identification1 65 /oaches use their practical sense0visual experience and the experience based ability they have ac%uired through sustained scouting work and through their feel for the game to recogni2e patterns of movement among players# 25 (he classificatory schemes of the coaches are characteri2ed by their preference for so called ,autoletic- players, who are assumed to be willing to learn and are perceived to be hard working and dedicated# (his autoletic category plays a decision role in the evaluation of talent and indicates that the coaches) construct of talent is based on a taste for certain perceived traits# 75 /oaches act as arbiters of taste and usually to do not have to, or are not willing to, describe their choices in an explicit way# 'uch approach leaves a lack of consensus around talent identification and can lead to repetitive pitfalls# Pitfalls in Talent Identification 8ecent research has demonstrated that this ,coach driven- method of talent identification has lead to considerable bias in the talent identification process# +n the last 20 years, a phenomena associated with talent identification has been recognised and is referred as the relative age effect 48.*5 6# (hat is, the children born in the first 709 months selection year 4

are over represented in team selection !# Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world, and as a conse%uence, the selection process seems to create one of the largest 8.* amongst sports !# (he 8.* is present across youth teams, from club
9 6

to national level

with a progressive increased incidence with level of excellence

# (he observed bias of

selecting the oldest players within age0banded groups suggests a maturational influence as previous studies focusing on maturity status reported that elite youth football players were physically more mature than the normal population

, and that early maturers were more

represented in the selected teams than normal or late maturers :# (his trend is mostly remarkable between 67 to 6! years old when the differences in maturity status are amplified by the timing and tempo of adolescent growth spurts
:, ;, 60, 67

# Whilst differences in age of less <reater si2e, speed,

than 62 months have little relevance on adult physi%ues, they can have ma$or significance in adolescents undergoing rapid rates of growth and development# strength and power may afford a competitive advantage to players who are older or more advanced in maturity status# =layers who are born early in the selection year often have the advantage of being physically more developed, faster, more agile and have greater longevity in their sport
;, 62, 6!, 6>

# .s a result, they may be more successful than their younger


counterparts, resulting in greater motivation and commitment# ?ounger and less mature players may be regarded as less talented during the selection process because of low perceived competence and lack of success
:, >, 6!

or drop out

# (herefore maturity may

play a crucial role in the coaches) view on youth players) potential# @owever, the physical advantages afforded by age and advanced maturity status during adolescence are largely transient and are reduced or reversed in young adulthood 7# (here is the risk that players who are e%ually talented but physically less mature at younger ages may be dismissed on the basis of their physical characteristics and not on their adult potential

# An the other

hand, players identified as being the most talented during adolescence may fail to meet adult expectations as their late0maturing peers who persist in the sport catch0up in si2e, speed, strength and power# /onsidering the maturity0associated variation in youth regarding physiological and physical components used to determine sport performance, it is clear that biological maturity should be considered in the evaluation of performance capacity more so than chronological age 2# (hose involved in the identification and developments of gifted football players need to be aware of the contributions of growth and maturation as such to the functional and skill demands of football# The *ole of #port #ciences as a #upport to !oaches" Interpretation of Talent 8esearch has demonstrated that the most successful method is to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to identifying talent
6:, 20

# (he complexity of talent and the methodological problems

associated with its identification preclude the use of a mono0disciplinary approach# . 5

comprehensive battery of physical, physiological, psychological and sociological measures must be used# Figure 2 provides a general overview of the different factors to consider in a football talent identification process#

Figure +# =otential predictors of talent in football from each sports science discipline (he coaches) perception of talent outlined in the previous section covers most of the points presented in figure 2# @owever, it relies solely on sub$ective choices and is dependent on variation of taste# Buantitative measures should be taken for most of these parameters and put in perspective with the coaches) view# @ere are a few examples of the different methods that can be used to %uantify these 9 corners# #ociological Predictors% 'ome of these factors can be %uantified via a focused interview# @aving supporting parents is important but excessive pressure should be avoided# . shared excitement, supportive and positive behaviour, and acting as a mentor are crucial components to the success of the young athlete in the first phase of development# +n difficult times, athletes with parental support have shown to easily go through this phase, highlighting the role of the parents# (he dedication and commitment to spend hours and hours practising and refining skills are real determinants of excellence# . %uestionnaire should be able to determine how many hours the young players is training in a structured 6

environment 4i#e# school, club5 and playing in an unstructured setting 4i#e# backyard football5# +f the player does not seem to fill the re%uirements of number of hours played and has potential, he should be provided with access to appropriate facilities and opportunities for meaningful practice# Psychological Factors - Personality% (he young athletes should be more task0oriented and less ego0oriented# (ask0oriented athletes are more likely to participate in the sport for skill mastery and personal improvement and are interested in the game for its own sake# *go0oriented players place greater emphasis on participating in sports to improve self0 esteem and social status by trying to be better than others# . task or mastery orientation will lead to a stronger work ethic, persistence in the face of failure and optimal performance# *go 3 or outcome0oriented individuals are likely to have low perceived competence and tend to perform less well in evaluative contexts# (he young athlete should not be prone to anxiety when performing new activities and show some self0confidence, determination and willingness to attempt the novel# @owever, these should not be the limiting factors as mental skills such as anxiety control and self0confidence can be refined through psychological training# 'pecific %uestionnaires are available to %uantify these differences in task orientation and anxiety management# Psychological Factors - Perceptual !ogniti(e #,ills% =erceptual0cognitive skills are factors that distinguish elite from non0elite team sport athletes# Cecision making, anticipation, creativeDgame intelligence are some of these perceptual0cognitive skills to be sensitive to when selecting a young athlete# 'uch abilities need to be considered in the first place as the physical and physiological determinants may play a smaller role at a senior level compare to these perceptual0cognitive skills# /omputer based software can be used to determine how players recognised pattern of play but this sector is predominantly the role of coaches when assessment is performed in game situation# (o %uantify the ability of a player during a game, specific criteria can be used, generating a volume of play and efficiency index# Physical and Physiological Factors% .nthropometric measurement can be used to predict the players) adult height

and their time from peak height velocity 69# (hese methods can be

subse%uently used to estimate the players) maturity status# 'uch information is crucial to interpret both the physiological testing 4e#g# speed, endurance5 and game performance# =hysiological testing should be conducted with accurate and reliable e%uipment to ensure a true diagnosis of performance and monitoring of training effects#

!onclusion (raditionally, coaches have been responsible for the talent identification process# (he coaches) view on talent identification covers most of the areas %uantified in sport sciences but is left to a sub$ective %ualitative analysis# (herefore, this approach has shown to create bias and errors in the talent identification process due to his sub$ective nature# @owever, with time and financial restrictions, it is still the most common way to identify gifted players and still represent the most global method# From a sport sciences perspective, a few recommendations can be made1 $- ./press clearly hy a player is selected to gain ob0ecti(ity +- Be a are of player"s birth date 1- .sti2ate player"s physical 2aturity 3- !onsider technical abilities rather than physical attributes 4- Identify players that recognise patterns of play 5- Identify players that are tas,-oriented rather than ego-oriented 6- Identify the players that can cope an/iety ith pressure and do not suffer fro2 e/cessi(e

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