I find myself fascinated with the TV shows, “Britain/America has Talent”, as they showcase talent to the world. The audience can really get behind an act, and if you are amazing enough, you could have the whole theatre on their feet, praising you for a brilliant performance.
For 99.9% of the population, the only thing that matters is the end performance. Having trained a few thousand athletes over the years I tend to see things a little differently. If you are a coach, an athlete or a performer who has been in the game for a while, you learn to appreciate the performer more than the act itself.
The sum of that performance that you gave is the sum of years of pain, doubt, drive, obsession, successes, failure, highs, lows, lies, achievements and countless hours in the pursuit of perfection. It is typically the iceberg effect. What you see on top is so beautiful, but the mass of the iceberg lies beneath the sea, unseen by most. All those occurrences I mentioned above are located below the sea.
The two questions one should ask is, “how do I identify talent?” and then “how does one groom the talent?”.
The answers to the questions are not easy. Neither are they simple, because if it were that easy and simple then coaches would be rich and would produce stars all of the time.
Identification of talent in sporting terms boils down to the number of factors.
1. Does the athlete have the right profile for their position and sport?
2. Is the athlete able to demonstrate high skill levels?
3. Can the athlete make decisions and perform under pressure?
4. Does the athlete possess some level of mastery?
5. Does the athlete display the athletically well-balanced attributes that point towards a lower risk of injury?
6. Does the athlete have the right temperament, do they want to learn and listen?
7. Has the athlete developed healthy coping mechanisms for failure, are they resilient enough to bounce back quickly?
8. Does the athlete bring a positive or negative attitude to the environment?
9. Does the athlete have a family support structure?
10. Does the athlete have an inner desire to be better at all costs?
Talent is never about just one attribute, like being able to kick a ball through the poles consistently, it goes beyond the obvious because let’s say you are the top kicker in the country but have a bad attitude and love to party; there is no coach in the country who is going to allow you near his team. The risk of you influencing the team in a negative light is too great a risk for the coach, his team and his own career.
In order to want to work and develop talent, the above can be prioritised by importance and, yes, the athleticism, balance, injury-free, and great handling skills is a priority but if you find the other attributes are lacking, then you need to dedicate time and quality training in these areas. Another important skill that was not mentioned is having “life skills”. Developing talent is a holistic approach and goes further than the sport.
I remember a young athlete coming from a working-class family getting an opportunity to play football in a big European club for their reserves side, with a succession plan in the first team but threw it all away due to girls, status and poor decisions abroad. Football was a priority here in South Africa and his lifestyle was regulated by his father and family but the minute he got some freedom and his own money, he made some bad choices subsequently ending his journey overseas.
I see parents every day, and their children who have big hopes and dreams of playing abroad, but it is important to understand, there is more to nurturing talent, and the sooner parents, coaches, athletes and scouts start incorporating a holistic approach, the more our athletes will be prepared for when success comes knocking.
Sean Van Staden is the proud husband of an amazing woman and mom and the ‘Daddy Pig’ – (thank you Pepper Pig for brainwashing my children, in a good way) – of two little Gremlins, Jordan and Haylee, who are fast approaching three and four years of age. In his quest to give his children the tools to succeed, Sean’s blog tackles topics of nutrition, physical development, exercise, mental toughness, building confidence, self-esteem, sport, wellness, and just about anything that will help his children, and hopefully yours, grow in the right direction.
You can find Sean at ASP – Sports Science