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  • Norman Brook

Foundations for Talent (Sporting Talent 4)

Norman Brook recently presented a paper on the practice of identifying, confirming and developing sporting talent at a seminar in Fortaleza, Brazil, organised through the International Inspiration programme and hosted by the state government of Ceara.  Brazil will host the Summer Olympic Games in 2016 and identifying and developing talent in Olympic sports will be high on the nations agenda.  The fourth extract from the paper is featured below and two more will be published here over the next  week.


“There is little evidence that talent identification is the “key” to talent development. Play and sampling during childhood, and deliberate practice, commitment, desire, willingness to work hard, and good coaching during adolescence are more pervasive predictors of expertise. These traits are built throughout a young athletes’ career, not identified in childhood.”

Fraser-Thomas and Cote (2007) here suggest that the two important factors in developing talent are the individuals experience in childhood and adolescence. In childhood the foundations of long term participation an excellence are established through play and the sampling of sport.  In adolescence, individual motivation and a quality sports experience allowing talent to develop.

The foundations for participation and excellence in sport are established in young people during their early years in play, sport and physical education.  Balyi (2005) has described three development stages in childhood:

  1. Active Start (0-6 years);

  2. FUNdamentals (6-8/9 years);

  3. Learn to Play and Practice (8/9-11/13 years).


It is during childhood that young person develops physical literacy, a prerequisite for both life-long participation and excellence in sport.

Physical Literacy is defined by Delaney et al (2008) as “the ability to use body management, locomotor and object control skills in a competent manner, with the capacity to apply them with confidence in settings which may lead to sustained involvement in sport and physical recreation.”

Balyi (2005) suggests that there are two phases where those with an aptitude for a sport build the physical and mental capabilities required to achieve excellence in sport:

  1. Training to Train (11/13-15/16 years);

  2. Training to Compete (15/16–21/23 years);

The “training to train” and “training to compete” phases are built on the foundations of physical literacy and are where talent is identified, confirmed and developed.

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