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Sports Med. 2008;38(9):703-14.

Talent identification and development programmes in sport : current models and future directions.

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Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


Many children strive to attain excellence in sport. However, although talent identification and development programmes have gained popularity in recent decades, there remains a lack of consensus in relation to how talent should be defined or identified and there is no uniformly accepted theoretical framework to guide current practice. The success rates of talent identification and development programmes have rarely been assessed and the validity of the models applied remains highly debated. This article provides an overview of current knowledge in this area with special focus on problems associated with the identification of gifted adolescents. There is a growing agreement that traditional cross-sectional talent identification models are likely to exclude many, especially late maturing, 'promising' children from development programmes due to the dynamic and multidimensional nature of sport talent. A conceptual framework that acknowledges both genetic and environmental influences and considers the dynamic and multidimensional nature of sport talent is presented. The relevance of this model is highlighted and recommendations for future work provided. It is advocated that talent identification and development programmes should be dynamic and interconnected taking into consideration maturity status and the potential to develop rather than to exclude children at an early age. Finally, more representative real-world tasks should be developed and employed in a multidimensional design to increase the efficacy of talent identification and development programmes.

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