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Talent ID

27

Yolana du Plessis practicing at the hpc.

talent tion needs to be followed by selection into a formal program for developing playing abilities and nurturing the individual holistically towards realising the potential predicted. Eventual success is ultimately dependent upon a myriad of circumstantial factors, including access and opportunities to practice, staying free of injury, and the type of mentoring and coaching available during the developmental years. Personal, social and cultural factors also influence ultimate performance. Skills such as speed, dynamic and static balance, focus, power, and agility are packaged differently by different sporting codes, but it is critical for youngsters to have baselines for basic skills. These skills will transfer to a youngster’s primary activity, so everything that a youngster does to improve the quality and extent of baselines from which sportspecific skills can grow, can enhance opportunities to excel in sport.

Performance Excellence Excellence in performance shares common roots, regardless of its form of expression. The concert pianist, research neurologist and Olympic athlete are all products of multi-stage development systems. The common factors shared by these pathways to excellence are surprisingly strong. Bloom was one of the first researchers to deal with the topic of talent development. In his book, Developing Talent in Young People, he determined • Darlene A. Kluka, Ph. D., Extraordinary Professor, Department of Biokinetics, Sport and Leisure Sciences/Center for Leisure Studies, University of Pretoria.

Jennifer Kwhela is a talented gymnast.

Tennis star Grant Ive

Talent search improves performance

T

he talent search programme of the former Deutsche Democratic Republic (DDR) was probably the most systematic model, which became a pillar of that country’s tremendous international success in elite sport. Within this system, not every individual displaying talent was selected for systematic training. Youngsters were selected for specialisation, only on the provision that they were healthy and free of medical anomalies; could tolerate high training loads; had a psychological capability for training; and maintained good academic achievement levels. Australia adopted some elements of the DDR talent identification approach by implementing a talent search programme in preparation for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, especially for individual sports like rowing, swimming, cycling and track. In contrast, the West Germans never developed a systematic approach. Even after the German reunification of 1990, elements of a successful system were not seriously considered as appropriate measures of talent identification in a democratic society (Pfutzner, et al., 2001). The quality of talent identification may influence international sport success. A comparison of the medals won at the Summer Olympic Games shows a significant drop in the medals won by Germany after unification (see table). In addition, the German Olympic team

1992

1996

US

14%

13%

2000 11%

Russia

15%

8%

10%

China

7%

6%

7%

Australia

3%

4%

6%

Germany

11%

7%

5%

(Rütten & Ziemainz, 2004)

was the oldest at the 2000 Olympic Games. The mean ages of the top teams were (Pfützner et al, 2001): US 27.3 years; Russia 26.0 years; China 23.4 years; Australia 26.6 years and Germany 27.5 years. A high retention rate has been identified as a major condition for Olympic success. The German team had the lowest in 2000 (Rütten & Ziemainz, 2004): US 72%; Russia 40 %; China 50 %; Australia 65.8 % and Germany 18 %. Apart from the quality of the talent identification system, a high retention rate may be affected by the quantity of potential talents available. While talent development in China can commence with approximately 120-m youngsters aged 10 –14 years, the base in Australia is only 1.3-m. Countries with smaller populations therefore need to depend more on very systematic approaches to talent identification. Australia has implemented a systematic Talent Search Program, which has already shown several achievements at national and international championships.

Population size and talent pool 10-14 yrs 20-m

15-19 yrs 20-m

Russia

13-m

15-m

28-m

2.8-m

China

120-m

99-m

219-m

21.9-m

US

Total 40-m

Talent pool 4-m

Australia

1.3-m

1.3-m

2.6-m

0.26-m

Germany

4.6-m

4.6-m

9.2-m

0.92-m

(Rütten & Ziemainz, 2004)

Your Sport 2nd Quarter 2008

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