By Josephine Joy B. Reyes, MPE
Most sports are striving to find ways of identifying talent more effectively. Consequently, many children also strive to attain excellence in sport. Apparently, the question is, are these children exposed to the right sport?
Several models and approaches have been used to effectively identify a talent. Australia and the United Kingdom have acknowledged the early participation of adolescents in the screening process and benchmarks have been set on physical and physiological characteristics. As testing and screening continues, an athlete who manifests increased potential in a specific sport is honed by allowing the individual to participate in a talent development program, which sees an interplay of quality coaching, training, nutrition and even education.
To date, our training pool still consists of players who were either chosen by a coach or asked to train because of competition ranking. Incidentally, most countries purely rely on competition structure to identify talent in particular sport. However, is this wide range of exposure enough to identify a talent? As discussed from the preceding article, Talent Identification (TID) is the process of recognizing current participants with the potential to excel in a particular sport. The general idea is to objectively measure the performance capacities, taking into account the child’s current level of fitness, maturity and training history. This is totally meaningless without good sports programs to support the whole process.
Following the mass screening, top-performing individuals will be selected based on the results of tested parameters, which is mainly referred to as Talent Selection (TS). These group of talents will be undergoing a series of tests, different from the battery of tests conducted in TID, where the main qualities required for a particular sport will be evaluated. Generally, the test selection is more specific. In essence, the scientific approach of identifying talent involves a series of rigorous assessments and filters to detect individuals that have ‘higher probability’ for podium success.
Finally, succeeding TID and TS is Talent Development (TD). The ‘raw talents’ must be provided with adequate infrastructure to enable them to develop their full potential. The making of the future is, indeed, challenging. This includes the provision of appropriate coaching, training, and competition programs along with the access to facilities and equipment. Principally, science- based support systems (e.g. psychological analysis, strength and physical conditioning, along with computer-based match and performance analysis) are now fundamental to the preparation of future elite athletes. Furthermore, TD is all about providing the most suitable learning environment to realize the potential of these talents as it plays a crucial role in the pursuit of excellence.
Developing sporting pathways is the function and key responsibility of the governing body of the sport, may it be in the local or national level. In the same manner, player pathways should be designed so that they will enjoy life-long recreational involvement in such sport and to develop those with talent. Previous involvement in a sport is NOT a prerequisite for identification. Moreover, it occurs when a child has not yet engaged in any competitive sport but has displayed attributes showing athletic potential while playing recreationally. Therefore, children have to try lots of sports in the ‘sampling’ years – 7 to 11.
JOSEPHINE JOY B. REYES is presently a faculty of the Sports Science Department of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Santo Tomas. Concurrently, she holds a consultancy position as Head of the Sports Physiology Unit of the Sports Science Center of the Philippine Sports Commission.