We’re often contacted by parents who are facing the same scenario – time and time again the same identified “talented” kids are put forward and advanced, while the kids who are putting in the effort to gain improvements are overlooked and not getting the same recognition.

In many cases talent is often easier to identify than the effort a child is putting in. Improvements are measurable, but effort is an internal vice that only the individual alone can truly measure. So, it is understandable why talent identification and selection can be complex; however, this can’t be used as a scapegoat as to why some children are left behind while others are advanced.

We like to think that adults in youth sport operate in one of two environments:

  1. A Climate of Performance where the result is the focus, or
  2. A Climate of Development whereas the name suggests, development of the child’s skill, sporting knowledge base and well-being are the focus.

The environment you operate in can have drastic and lasting impacts on the experience that a child has with and in sport.

We should all be striving to create the best possible sporting experience that we can for all children so they stay in sport for years to come, reap the many benefits participating in sport can have on growth and development, and ultimately fall in love with sport just like so many of us are.

Providing equal opportunities for each child to participate and be acknowledged for their sporting achievements, no matter how big or small, is a great place to start.

We’ve created a tool that you can use called the Good Sports Spine to help identify what environment you are operating in. Try identifying your behaviours and where you sit on the continuum and if you are creating the best possible sporting experience for a child.

The counter argument   

We hear the counter argument – if we don’t advance and identify the talented kids then sport will lose its competitiveness in the long run.

There is a need to identify talent, however the age and degree that this takes place can have negative effects on both the talented children and those deemed less talented. Have you heard of the phenomena of early specialisation?

As adults we need to keep perspective that not every child is going to grow up to be, or even want to be, a world beater on the sporting stage. Research time and time again tells us that some of the main reasons children play sport are to:

  • Have fun
  • Play with their mates
  • Learn new skills
  • Be fit and healthy
  • Have a sense of fair play.

There are the kids who dream of being the best. If these children truly do want to be the best, then they will apply and commit themselves to achieving that goal on their own accord. Naturally, they will rise to the top no matter what environment they are put in.

As adults we must know and respect that children’s sporting potentials are different. Trying to achieve and celebrate each child’s potential will be a far more rewarding experience for adults and children, rather than just seeing the “talent” of a few children highlighted.

Your future champion will still be a future champion but consider reframing your thinking as champions can come in many ways.