Coaches seldom realize when they decide to place an athlete in an event at a young age exactly how critical this decision is. At this time when the coach is simply thinking of picking up a few points, an athlete’s entire career might be bolstered or wrecked and a pattern of self-confidence or eternal self-doubting can be established. This decision might well have determined whether an athlete will eventually experience success or failure, receive a scholarship or not, or remain in the sport. It’s a serious matter. So here are my thoughts on talent identification.
Talent Identification. Before event selection, our first calling is talent identification. Obviously when looking for athletes for speed oriented events, people who can run fast are the best candidates. But how can you tell who might be fast later in life? When finding athletes for the sprints, hurdles, jumps, and throws, there are three key variables to look for.
- The ability to produce force quickly
- The ability to move body parts (the limbs) quickly
- Body type
The Ability to Produce Force Quickly. A major clue in the search for talent in the speed and power events is the ability to produce large forces quickly. This shows the athlete’s power and elasticity. This ability can be measured subjectively by watching youngsters as they perform hopping and jumping games. What you are looking for is a high ratio of displacement to ground contact time. In short, you want people who can jump high or far, but seem to spend little time on the ground. Sometimes in the triple jump you find athletes who seemingly just peck at the ground but still jump good distances – these are athletes who will become champions when taught to use correct impulse values. Watch kids on the basketball and volleyball courts, looking not only for the person who can jump, but the person who can land from a jump and quickly jump high again. The cutting and direction changes you see in sports like soccer, football, and basketball are like sideways plyometrics. Athletes who are good at these skills fit this mold as well.