Sunday, January 11, 2015

Talent Development Environments

Developing Talent Development Environments
Since reading the Talent Code a few years ago I have been interested in the ideas suggesting a talent development environment. To prepare for a recent meeting I was having on this topic with a club I went back and re-read some of the books in my library and did a bit of research on what the 'academic' literature was suggesting could be the 'talent development environment recipe'. I find it useful to write these ideas down as part of the process of coming to understand them and in this post I share the summary of my reading. This is what I summarised as the 'recipe' from what I read:
1. Character Assessment
It is about getting the 'right; type of person into the club. The player to look for is self-motivated: that is, the degree of determination and persistence in pursuing one’s ambition: if you like, the players ‘drive’ to develop their game.
“the ultimate factors accounting for achievement are likely to be the unique personal and behavioural dispositions which the individual; brings to the actual performance” (Kane, 1986, p.191)
I have heard this referred to as the 'no dickheads' policy, which you can read a bit about in these columns-

2. Development of the fundamentals
Unless you are working in junior sport, you are looking for youth player with a strong fundamental movement skill foundation upon which more sophisticated and demanding movement models can be built. In junior sport, you are focused on building, developing and extending those fundamentals and players confidence in their 'fundamentals'.

3. The practice environment is a learning environment. That sport coach 'as educator' builds on: 
-          Volume of practice: in particular representative ‘play’ and game based practice as part of an overall focus on deliberate practice where the coach is a designer of a learning environment.
-          Quality of coaching characterised by deliberate efforts to change aspects of performance rather than execution of mechanical movement routines.
-          Avoiding ‘automaticity’ and developing functionally adaptive movement models responsive to the situational dynamics of the performance environment.
-          Focusing on player potential not performance with young players.
-          Building the brain for performance: a) develop perception-cognitive skills (ability to detect patterns of play); b)perception-action coupling (movement response matches the situated need of the performance in context) c) develop ‘action plan profiles’ and ‘current event’ profiles that enable players to generate appropriate strategic decisions ~ that is, develop players decision making and anticipation skills.
-          Further developing individual player strengths (Their  ‘weapon’) and developing weaknesses into capabilities through clear articulation of short, medium and long term-goals with players.
-          Practice history profiling to develop individualised training interventions
-          Individual player biomechanical profiling of movement skill fundamentals .
-          Youth Squads focussing on developing player potential and not on winning.
-          Ongoing/continuous development opportunities includes player goal setting/review/reinforcement as part of the process of developing clear expectations for improvement.
-          Systematic processes of influencing and utilising as many people as possible. For example, education of parents, support staff and coaches, including practical coaching education and supporting coach education. 

4       Club culture: One that
- Foregrounds player ownership of responsibility for their own development and performance as they grow as athletes and people.
- Systematic use of role models to influence player development
- Opportunities for as many players as possible/opportunities for late developers

“talent emerges with the right experience” (Martindale et al., 2007)

Suggested 'pop culture' reading that does a reasonable job of summarising research in these areas:

I have also begun to think about what these ideas might 'look' like in the context of physical education in schools. Bailey & Morely (2006) Towards a model of talent development in physical education. Sport Education and Society, 11(3) 211-230 is a good start for this discussion. The 'pursuit of excellence' model by Williams and Reilly (2000) summarised for PE in their paper proposes five steps in a talent development environment:
Discovery-Talent Detection
Identification: Performance prediction- Talent identification
Provision of practice: Provide a suitable learning environment - Talent development
Access and Opportunity: On-going process of identification

I recommend reading Richard Bailey's blog on PE and Talent Development 

In summary, I understand that a talent development environment will progressively introduce the volume of practice through quality of coaching necessary for deliberate practice and purposeful play, it will address the gap between the potential of the player and what it is they can become, and recognise that while there are some people with the innate 'drive' to succeed others will need an 'external agent' like a club coach and/or supportive club environment to assist them to activate their potential into its possibilities.

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