Athletic Talent Identification
Athletic talent identification is approached from many different angles, depending on which country you are looking at and the sport for which athletes are being recognised and recruited. This article looks at two things; the first being innate talent identification and prediction of future success. Secondly we will look at athletic development and the changeable aspects of young athletes throughout various stages of an athlete’s life.
How Much Athletic Ability is Innate?
It is always popular to believe that great athletes are born and not made. This comes from those that train hard for many years but can’t reach the heights of the champions. That is why these types of people need a back up plan in athleticism. The truth is that when an athlete is young, he/she is more pliable. Meaning that a child’s physiology can change many more aspects through training than is possible for an adult. Also worth noting is that training a child is vastly more different than training an adult athlete. Specificity is less important and a child can excel in a wider range of domains than a fully mature person can.
Lets look at this from an another angle. Certain characteristics in physical and mental development have been shown to be genetic to a certain degree. For instance west Africans are generally great sprinters, east Africans are generally great distance runners, Asians have been shown to have faster reaction time and Caucasians have been shown to be naturally superior swimmers. This side of athletic talent identification is easy to work with. There are certain genetic and environmental factors surrounding entire races of people that identifying talent is a broad activity, therefore making it a lot simpler.
But what about people of the same nationality? Athletic talent identification needs to work within the confines of specific races of people. Without scientific testing and muscle biopsies for instance, how are talent scouts able to assess future ability in an athlete? It has long been thought that things such as muscle fibre type distribution is genetically determined. This would make it hard in identifying potential at a young age because the athlete has not yet had time to develop. But maybe the answer is a simple one. It may come down to what the child athlete is interested in and spends the most time on. Several studies have shown that muscle fibre type and other physiological characteristics related to athletic performance are determined by a number of factors. Genetics is only part of it. During childhood muscle fibre type has been shown to actually change in response to the stimulus it gets during the younger years of childhood and adolescence. So the activities participated in during childhood may actually be a huge contributing factor to the percentage of fast and slow twitch muscle fibres and other aspects related to athletic performance.