Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports

A special issue of Sports (ISSN 2075-4663).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (3 June 2023) | Viewed by 171372

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Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
School of Health Sciences, Birmingham City University, Seacole Building, City South Campus, Westbourne Rd, Birmingham B15 3TN, UK
Interests: talent identification and development; athlete development and youth sport; birth advantages and the relative age effect; sports psychology and coaching
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Centre for Sport Studies, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Fuenlabrada, 28942 Madrid, Spain
Interests: recovery; physical performance; team Sports; supplements; pre-match intake; fluid and carbohydrate; planning nutrition; intake during competition
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Guest Editor
Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development, CIDESD, University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, 5001-801 Vila Real, Portugal
Interests: talent development; creativity development in team sports and performance analysis
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Faculty of Sport Sciences, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: talent development; coach development; performance analysis in team sports

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

How do talented children achieve expertise at adulthood? The identification of young athletes with the potential to develop and then subsequently excel as senior professionals in their specialist sport remains one of the major contemporary challenges for national governing bodies, sports clubs, coaches, and practitioners. As such, talent identification and development strategies have become pivotal to sporting organisations. Indeed, the complexity of the process of nurturing youth through development trajectories towards adulthood has been enhanced over recent years, with the implementation of modern multidisciplinary paradigms becoming increasingly prevalent in youth sport settings.

With this Special Issue, we seek to collaborate with researchers within the discipline of talent identification and development in youth sport. More specifically, the overarching aim is to explore how youth’s personal engagement in activities (i.e., the what), quality social dynamics (i.e., the who), and appropriate settings and organisational structures (i.e., the where) can foster immediate, short- and long-term developmental outcomes (see the Personal Assets Framework by Côté et al., 2014, 2016). In doing so, it is hoped that contributing research can inform evidence-based youth sport policies and athlete development programmes. Submissions are encouraged from a diverse range of qualitative and quantitative data collection procedures to explore the current context of talent identification and development in youth sport. In addition, commentaries, conceptual papers, and reviews are welcome to synthesise expert knowledge within this discipline.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Athlete development pathways (e.g., early specialisation; early sampling)
  • Birth advantages and the relative age effect (e.g., birthplace effects; socioeconomic factors)
  • Growth, maturation, and physical development (e.g., biological age; fitness testing)
  • Psychological characteristics (e.g., leadership; mental toughness)
  • Perceptual–cognitive expertise (e.g., tactical decision making; virtual reality)
  • Technical development (e.g., skills testing; performance analysis)
  • Positive youth development (e.g., influence of family, peers, and coaches; youth sport dropout)
  • Creating enriching environments (e.g., creativity-based programmes; teaching models)
  • Multidisciplinary approaches to athlete development (e.g., holistic approaches; multidisciplinary models)
  • Qualitative research exploring key stakeholder experiences and perceptions of the talent identification and development processes in youth sport (e.g., interviews; focus groups)
  • Opinions and reviews to synthesise expert knowledge (e.g., conceptual papers; systematic reviews)

Please feel free to contact the editorial team directly if you wish to discuss a potential submission.

Dr. Adam Leigh Kelly
Dr. Sergio L. Jiménez Sáiz
Dr. Sara Diana Leal dos Santos
Dr. Alberto Lorenzo Calvo
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sports is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • talent development
  • talent identification
  • talent pathway
  • expertise
  • long-term athlete development
  • relative age effect
  • cultural factors
  • early specialisation
  • performance analysis

Published Papers (35 papers)

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Editorial

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6 pages, 233 KiB  
Editorial
Special Issue “Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports”
by Adam Leigh Kelly, Alberto Lorenzo Calvo, Sara Diana Leal dos Santos and Sergio Lorenzo Jiménez Sáiz
Sports 2022, 10(12), 189; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10120189 - 24 Nov 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2423
Abstract
We are delighted to share our Special Issue on Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review

16 pages, 509 KiB  
Article
A Multidisciplinary Investigation into the Talent Development Processes at an English Football Academy: A Machine Learning Approach
by Adam L. Kelly, Craig A. Williams, Rob Cook, Sergio Lorenzo Jiménez Sáiz and Mark R. Wilson
Sports 2022, 10(10), 159; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10100159 - 19 Oct 2022
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 4356
Abstract
The talent development processes in youth football are both complex and multidimensional. The purpose of this two-fold study was to apply a multidisciplinary, machine learning approach to examine: (a) the developmental characteristics of under-9 to under-16 academy players (n = 98; Study [...] Read more.
The talent development processes in youth football are both complex and multidimensional. The purpose of this two-fold study was to apply a multidisciplinary, machine learning approach to examine: (a) the developmental characteristics of under-9 to under-16 academy players (n = 98; Study 1), and (b) the characteristics of selected and deselected under-18 academy players (n = 18; Study 2). A combined total of 53 factors cumulated from eight data collection methods across two seasons were analysed. A cross-validated Lasso regression was implemented, using the glmnet package in R, to analyse the factors that contributed to: (a) player review ratings (Study 1), and (b) achieving a professional contract (Study 2). Results showed non-zero coefficients for improvement in subjective performance in 15 out of the 53 analysed features, with key findings revealing advanced percentage of predicted adult height (0.196), greater lob pass (0.160) and average dribble completion percentage (0.124), more total match-play hours (0.145), and an older relative age (BQ1 vs. BQ2: −0.133; BQ1 vs. BQ4: −0.060) were the most important features that contributed towards player review ratings. Moreover, PCDEQ Factor 3 and an ability to organise and engage in quality practice (PCDEQ Factor 4) were important contributing factors towards achieving a professional contract. Overall, it appears the key factors associated with positive developmental outcomes are not always technical and tactical in nature, where coaches often have their expertise. Indeed, the relative importance of these factors is likely to change over time, and with age, although psychological attributes appear to be key to reaching potential across the academy journey. The methodological techniques used here also serve as an impetus for researchers to adopt a machine learning approach when analysing multidimensional databases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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16 pages, 302 KiB  
Article
Stand up and Fight: A Case Study of a Professional Rugby Club Negotiating a COVID-19 Crisis, a Talent Development Perspective
by Ian Costello, Sarahjane Belton and Áine MacNamara
Sports 2022, 10(8), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10080124 - 16 Aug 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 5906
Abstract
A wealth of literature examines the role of challenge from an individual psychological perspective, but research investigating how a talent development system can proactively support athletes to successfully meet the ever-increasing demands of top-level professional sport is less prevalent. This study takes advantage [...] Read more.
A wealth of literature examines the role of challenge from an individual psychological perspective, but research investigating how a talent development system can proactively support athletes to successfully meet the ever-increasing demands of top-level professional sport is less prevalent. This study takes advantage of a naturally occurring but highly atypical developmental challenge as a result of COVID-19 to examine factors influencing the efficacy and effectiveness of the talent development pathway at Munster Rugby. Players and staff (n = 12) took part in semi-structured interviews exploring their experiences of the build-up to the event, the game itself, and the impact post-event. The data were subsequently analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis. Players and coaches highlight the groundwork undertaken to establish alignment and coherence, both horizontally and vertically across the talent development environment, and how this contributed to navigating the challenge successfully. The findings support the necessity of both the player and the talent development system being prepared to enable players to perform at the highest level. The findings point to an overlap between the development and performance phases of a player’s journey and the need to integrate short- and long-term objectives within a talent development system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
15 pages, 274 KiB  
Article
Aspects of Developmental Pathways toward World-Class Parasport
by Lise Storli, Morten Andreas Aune and Håvard Lorås
Sports 2022, 10(8), 123; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10080123 - 15 Aug 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2183
Abstract
The developmental pathways of athletes with a physical disability into world-class parasport are much less researched and understood compared to able-bodied athletes’ participation histories. The purpose of this study was to investigate the developmental pathways of para-athletes toward elite performance. Data from eight [...] Read more.
The developmental pathways of athletes with a physical disability into world-class parasport are much less researched and understood compared to able-bodied athletes’ participation histories. The purpose of this study was to investigate the developmental pathways of para-athletes toward elite performance. Data from eight athletes with physical disabilities ranked among the top performers in Paralympics, World Championships, and/or European Championships were gathered. Thematic analysis of retrospective semi-structured interviews led to the identification of four themes. The findings showed the importance of early childhood sport-related encounters in a family environment followed by sampling of various organized and coach-led sports throughout the childhood period. The youth sport period was highly heterogenous, albeit with important transitions towards elite-level practice environments, competition, coaching, equipment adaptability and the first intentions of becoming an elite-level athlete. Throughout, significant contributions are attributed towards parents, friends, coaches, athletes, and others, towards fostering a sustained motivational climate focused on improvement and further progress. These findings could provide useful information to tailor developmental models towards elite-level performance in parasport. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
7 pages, 518 KiB  
Article
Morphological Characteristics and Situational Precision of U15 and U16 Elite Male Players from Al-Ahli Handball Club (Bahrein)
by Boris Banjevic, Boris Zarkovic, Borko Katanic, Blazo Jabucanin, Stevo Popovic and Bojan Masanovic
Sports 2022, 10(7), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10070108 - 6 Jul 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1793
Abstract
The aim of this cross-sectional study was to determine the differences in the morphological characteristics and situational precision among younger and older groups of handball players. The sample of participants consisted of 30 handball players, members of the younger category of the Al-Ahli [...] Read more.
The aim of this cross-sectional study was to determine the differences in the morphological characteristics and situational precision among younger and older groups of handball players. The sample of participants consisted of 30 handball players, members of the younger category of the Al-Ahli handball club (Bahrein), divided into two groups: older (U16, n = 18) and younger (U15, n = 12). To evaluate their morphological characteristics, eight variables were measured, while two standardized tests were used to evaluate their situational precision. The results indicate that a statistically significant difference between the groups was noticeable for nine variables in total, seven in morphology (body height, p = 0.010; body mass index, p = 0.049; arm length, p = 0.009; upper arm length, p = 0.016; lower arm length, p = 0.040; the planimetric parameter of the hand, p = 0.005; hand length p = 0.004) and two in situational precision (the standing shot, p = 0.003; the jump shot, p = 0.17), and that the achieved difference ranges from a medium to a large effect. For only one variable (body mass, p = 0.734), significant difference was not determined between the groups. It was also determined (by Cohen’s criterion) that handball players with higher longitudinal dimensionality achieve better results for specific precision. Therefore, when selecting young handball players, the aforementioned dimensions should be taken into consideration as predictors of success. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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10 pages, 1279 KiB  
Article
Perception of Affordances for Dribbling in Soccer: Exploring Children as Architects of Skill Development Opportunity
by Michael J. Duncan, Ricardo Martins, Mark Noon and Emma L. J. Eyre
Sports 2022, 10(7), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10070099 - 24 Jun 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3294
Abstract
This study examined affordance perception for soccer dribbling using a mixed-methods approach in male grassroots soccer players. We examined how children construct and perceive skills practices for dribbling in soccer. Fourteen boys aged 10–11 years (Mean ± SD = 10.8 ± 0.4 years) [...] Read more.
This study examined affordance perception for soccer dribbling using a mixed-methods approach in male grassroots soccer players. We examined how children construct and perceive skills practices for dribbling in soccer. Fourteen boys aged 10–11 years (Mean ± SD = 10.8 ± 0.4 years) who were regularly engaged in grassroots soccer participated in the present study. Children were provided with ten soccer cones and asked to create their own soccer dribbling pattern that would enable them to maximise the number of touches with a football and then dribble the ball in the pattern they had created for a 1 min period. Children were interviewed to explore their perception of affordances for soccer dribbling. The test of gross motor development-3 was used to assess fundamental movement skills (FMS), and the UGent soccer dribbling test was used to assess soccer dribbling skills. Children self-rated their own ability for soccer dribbling, as did their coaches. Pearson’s correlations were employed to examine the associations between quantitative variables, and thematic analysis was used to explore qualitative data. Results of the present study suggest that those children who created patterns with less space between cones accrued more touches of the football in their dribbling task (r = −0.671, p = 0.03). Children with a higher perception of their own dribbling ability had higher scores for FMS (r = 0.604, p = 0.049). Those children who scored better in actual soccer dribbling had higher scores for FMS (r = −0.746, p = 0.012) and were rated as better dribblers by their coaches (r = −0.67, p = 0.03). Interview data suggest a feedback loop between perception of ability and actual ability, which influenced the dribbling patterns that were created. This suggests that dribbling performance is scaled to the (perceived) action capabilities of the children, and children can act as architects in their own skill development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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15 pages, 321 KiB  
Article
Does Relative Age Influence Organized Sport and Unorganized Physical Activity Participation in a Cohort of Adolescents?
by Kristy L. Smith, Mathieu Bélanger, Laura Chittle, Jess C. Dixon, Sean Horton and Patricia L. Weir
Sports 2022, 10(7), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10070097 - 23 Jun 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2343
Abstract
Despite their prevalence, the longitudinal impacts of relative age effects (RAEs) on sport and other forms of physical activity (PA) are understudied. This study examined longitudinal participation patterns in organized sport (team and individual), unorganized PA, and non-participation with respect to RAEs in [...] Read more.
Despite their prevalence, the longitudinal impacts of relative age effects (RAEs) on sport and other forms of physical activity (PA) are understudied. This study examined longitudinal participation patterns in organized sport (team and individual), unorganized PA, and non-participation with respect to RAEs in a prospective cohort of adolescents. Data from the first 24 cycles of the MATCH study were used for analyses. Elementary students (n = 929) were recruited from 17 schools in Atlantic Canada. Respondents self-reported PA three times/year. Mixed multilevel logistic models compared the likelihood of participating in each context across birth quarter. Chronological age and gender were considered, along with the interaction between chronological and relative age. Individuals born in Quarter 1/Quarter 2 were more likely to report participation in organized team sport but not individual sports. Relatively older participants born in Quarter 2 were more likely to report participation in unorganized PA. Increasing chronological age was associated with decreased participation in organized sport (particularly team-based) and increased non-participation. Gender was not associated with organized sport participation, but girls were under-represented in unorganized PA and more likely to report non-participation. The interaction parameters suggested that RAEs were consistent throughout adolescence in each context. Longitudinal analyses suggest RAEs are context dependent. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
22 pages, 336 KiB  
Article
Tough Love—Impactful, Caring Coaching in Psychologically Unsafe Environments
by Jamie Taylor, Michael Ashford and Dave Collins
Sports 2022, 10(6), 83; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10060083 - 25 May 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 5256
Abstract
(1) Background: The interpersonal dimensions of coaching in high performance sport have been subject to increasing scrutiny but with limited evidence to guide practice. Similarly, there is increasing practical interest in the concept of psychological safety, often portrayed as an implicitly desirable characteristic [...] Read more.
(1) Background: The interpersonal dimensions of coaching in high performance sport have been subject to increasing scrutiny but with limited evidence to guide practice. Similarly, there is increasing practical interest in the concept of psychological safety, often portrayed as an implicitly desirable characteristic of all sporting environments but, as yet, still to receive research attention in high performance. As a first step to addressing these deficiencies, the present study addressed two research aims: (a) to examine the extent to which matched groups of international and released professional rugby union players perceived psychological safety to be an adaptive feature of their developmental experience and (b) to understand what elements of the player’s coaching experience were perceived to be enabling or disenabling of future progress. (2) Methods: Seven rugby union players who had ‘made it’ and eight players who had been released from their professional contracts took part in a semi-structured interview exploring their developmental experiences. Data were subsequently analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis. (3) Results: Both groups of players found each of their talent development and high performance environments to be psychologically unsafe. Furthermore, players perceived coaches who were the most impactful in their development as offering ‘tough love’. This included a range of ‘harder’ and ‘softer’ interpersonal approaches that presented the player with clear direction, role clarity and a sense of care. It appeared that this interpersonal approach helped the player to navigate, and benefit from, the psychologically unsafe high performance milieu. (4) Conclusions: There appear to be a number of balances for the coach in the high performance setting to navigate and a need for more nuance in applying constructs such as psychological safety. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
16 pages, 651 KiB  
Article
Happy Birthday? Relative Age Benefits and Decrements on the Rocky Road
by Neil McCarthy, Jamie Taylor, Andrew Cruickshank and Dave Collins
Sports 2022, 10(6), 82; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10060082 - 24 May 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 4548
Abstract
(1) Background: There is abundant literature in talent development investigating the relative age effect in talent systems. There is also growing recognition of the reversal of relative age advantage, a phenomenon that sees significantly higher numbers of earlier born players leaving talent systems [...] Read more.
(1) Background: There is abundant literature in talent development investigating the relative age effect in talent systems. There is also growing recognition of the reversal of relative age advantage, a phenomenon that sees significantly higher numbers of earlier born players leaving talent systems before the elite level. However, there has been little investigation of the mechanisms that underpin relative age, or advantage reversal. This paper aimed to investigate (a) the lived experience of relative age in talent development (TD) systems, (b) compare the experience of early and late born players, and (c) explore mechanisms influencing individual experiences. (2) Methods: interviews were conducted with a cohort of near elite and elite rugby union players. Data were subsequently analysed using reflexive thematic analysis and findings considered in light of eventual career status. (3) Results: challenge was an ever-present feature of all players journeys, especially at the point of transition to senior rugby. Psycho-behavioural factors seemed to be a primary mediator of the response to challenge. (4) Conclusions: a rethink of approach to the relative age effect is warranted, whilst further investigations of mechanisms are necessary. Relative age appears to be a population-level effect, driven by challenge dynamics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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13 pages, 773 KiB  
Article
An Examination of Relative Age and Athlete Dropout in Female Developmental Soccer
by Kristy L. Smith and Patricia L. Weir
Sports 2022, 10(5), 79; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10050079 - 20 May 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2360
Abstract
Sport dropout rates among children and youth are a concern for researchers and policy makers. The impact of relative age effects (RAEs) on dropout trends has not been adequately examined in female samples. The purpose of this study was to longitudinally examine dropout [...] Read more.
Sport dropout rates among children and youth are a concern for researchers and policy makers. The impact of relative age effects (RAEs) on dropout trends has not been adequately examined in female samples. The purpose of this study was to longitudinally examine dropout in a female soccer cohort in Ontario, Canada. Registration entries for a one-year cohort were examined across a seven-year period (n = 9908; age 10–16 years). A chi-square analysis established the presence of RAEs in the initial year of registration. Survival analyses assessed the impact of relative age, competition level, and community size on athlete dropout. A median survival rate of four years was observed for players born in the first quartile, while all remaining quartiles had a median survival of three years. Community size did not predict dropout in this analysis; however, competition level was a significant predictor, with competitive players being more likely to remain engaged vs. recreational players (55.9% vs. 20.7%). The observed trends are likely to have a significant impact from both a healthy development and systems perspective (e.g., economic/market loss). Intervention is needed to mitigate current dropout trends in female athletes. Practical applications are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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13 pages, 2117 KiB  
Article
Changes in Athletic Performance in Children Attending a Secondary School with a Physical Activity Profile
by Tomas Peterson, Staffan Ek, Ola Thorsson, Magnus K. Karlsson, Magnus Dencker and Per Wollmer
Sports 2022, 10(5), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10050071 - 2 May 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2302
Abstract
The longitudinal and multidisciplinary research project Malmö Youth Sport Study measured the sports results achieved by two cohorts of pupils using a variable named ACHIEVE, dividing the pupils into three categories (an elite group competing at the national or international level, a group [...] Read more.
The longitudinal and multidisciplinary research project Malmö Youth Sport Study measured the sports results achieved by two cohorts of pupils using a variable named ACHIEVE, dividing the pupils into three categories (an elite group competing at the national or international level, a group competing at the district level, and a third group either not competing at all or below district level). This was assessed three and six years after baseline at age 13. An additional hypothetical measure, based on information from the athletes’ trainers, predicted the category the pupils were expected to belong to after twelve years (age 25). Social variables related to the ACHIEVE variable are sex, socio-economic position of the parents, ethnicity, completed secondary sports school, sports capital, and quartile of birth. After three years, 28% of the pupils belonged to the elite group and after six years, 26%. Thirty-two and 48%, respectively, had abandoned their elite efforts. The elite group remained fairly stable over time but fewer girls than boys advanced to the elite group. The pupils at the school have a homogenous middle-class background. We found little evidence that socio-economic factors affected ACHIEVE. Nearly all parents had been engaged in sports, either competing or as coaches. On admission to the school, there was a pronounced relative age effect (RAE). This remained after three years as the age was significantly different between the three groups but was reduced after six years. According to the prognosis made by the coaches, the elite group would be considerably smaller when the subjects reached the age of 25. The RAE was again significant in the prognosis. A further follow-up when the subjects are 25 years old will reveal not only what proportion of subjects are actively competing, but also if they are engaged in recreational sports, to what extent the RAE is present, and how accurately coaches can predict success. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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11 pages, 279 KiB  
Article
Early Sport Specialization and Relative Age Effect: Prevalence and Influence on Perceived Competence in Ice Hockey Players
by Vincent Huard Pelletier and Jean Lemoyne
Sports 2022, 10(4), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10040062 - 18 Apr 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3213
Abstract
The relative age effect (RAE) and early sport specialization (ESS) have been of growing interest in the sports world, especially in ice hockey, because of their potential adverse effects. However, little is known about their distribution within each level of play in Canadian [...] Read more.
The relative age effect (RAE) and early sport specialization (ESS) have been of growing interest in the sports world, especially in ice hockey, because of their potential adverse effects. However, little is known about their distribution within each level of play in Canadian minor ice hockey, or whether they influence young people’s perceived competence, a variable of interest in long-term sports development. A sample of elite adolescent players (N = 204) and a sample of recreational and competitive players (N = 404) were used to measure these constructs, and chi-square tabulations were conducted to compare their distribution. Our results reveal that RAE (χ2 = 20.03, p < 0.01, Cramer’s V = 0.13) and ESS (χ2 = 66.14, p < 0.001, Cramer’s V = 0.24) are present, but there are apparently no gender differences in their distributions. Neither the level of RAE nor ESS seems to affect the perceived competence of the players, regardless of gender. The results of this study highlight the presence of RAE and ESS in Canadian minor ice hockey, especially at the elite level, but indicate that they do not affect the self-perception of ice hockey players. Additional research on these concepts is needed to obtain a complete picture of their potential impact on sports development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
16 pages, 260 KiB  
Article
An Examination of the Experiences of Practitioners Delivering Sport Psychology Services within English Premier League Soccer Academies
by Francesca Dean, Emma Kavanagh, Amanda Wilding and Tim Rees
Sports 2022, 10(4), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10040060 - 13 Apr 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 4373
Abstract
Sport psychology has become increasingly recognized and accepted within professional sports, including soccer. To date, there is a lack of research that examines the provision of sport psychology within elite soccer, particularly from the experience of applied practitioners working within the field. The [...] Read more.
Sport psychology has become increasingly recognized and accepted within professional sports, including soccer. To date, there is a lack of research that examines the provision of sport psychology within elite soccer, particularly from the experience of applied practitioners working within the field. The current study adopted a qualitative, inductive approach, to examine the experiences of practitioners responsible for sport psychology delivery within elite soccer academies in England. Seven participants (four females; three males), working within academies in the English Premier League, took part in semi-structured interviews about their experience of delivering sport psychology services within elite soccer academies. Results demonstrated that the provision of sport psychology is continually evolving, yet there are a number of factors that appear to inhibit the full integration of the discipline into academy soccer. Six key themes were identified: The breadth of sport psychology provision; what is sport psychology; the stigma surrounding sport psychology services; psychological literacy; the elite youth soccer environment; and the delivery of sport psychology under the Elite Player Performance Plan. Participants identified a lack of psychological literacy among coaches and academy staff, as well as a low level of guidance regarding the provision of psychology within the England Football Association’s guiding document—the Elite Player Performance Plan—leading to considerable variation in the nature of the sport psychology provision. Future research would do well to also sample from a range of staff working within English soccer academies, in order to assess their perception of the level of provision and understanding of psychology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
14 pages, 262 KiB  
Article
The Birthplace Effect in 14–18-Year-Old Athletes Participating in Competitive Individual and Team Sports
by Zohar Maayan, Ronnie Lidor and Michal Arnon
Sports 2022, 10(4), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10040059 - 11 Apr 2022
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3084
Abstract
The birthplace (the place where an athlete was born) effect (BPE) has been found to be one of the environmental variables associated with early talent development and the achievement of a high level of proficiency in sport. The purpose of the current study [...] Read more.
The birthplace (the place where an athlete was born) effect (BPE) has been found to be one of the environmental variables associated with early talent development and the achievement of a high level of proficiency in sport. The purpose of the current study is twofold: (1) to calculate the BPE in 14–18-year-old athletes who participated in individual and team sports and (2) examine how coaches perceived this effect. The participants were 1397 athletes (390 females and 1007 males) who competed in 5 individual (gymnastics, judo, swimming, tennis, and track and field) and 5 team (basketball, soccer, team handball, volleyball, and water polo) sports, as well as 147 coaches who provided their preliminary thoughts about the BPE. Data analyses revealed that although the BPE was not found to be associated with cities of a similar size, it was observed that growing up in cities of small and medium sizes was more beneficial than growing up in towns or cities of other sizes. Most of the coaches believed that certain characteristics of the place or city where the athlete grew up (e.g., proximity to sport facilities) could contribute positively to the athlete’s development. We discuss how the BPE data can aid policymakers in developing a sport policy associated with early phases of talent development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
17 pages, 6228 KiB  
Article
Talent Identification in Elite Adolescent Ice Hockey Players: The Discriminant Capacity of Fitness Tests, Skating Performance and Psychological Characteristics
by Jean Lemoyne, Jean-François Brunelle, Vincent Huard Pelletier, Julien Glaude-Roy and Gaëtan Martini
Sports 2022, 10(4), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10040058 - 8 Apr 2022
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 4718
Abstract
Background: The process of talent identification in ice hockey occurs during middle adolescence when players are selected to participate in “off-season” evaluation camps, where coaches observe their fitness levels and status of development. Recently, the Quebec ice hockey federation opted for a holistic [...] Read more.
Background: The process of talent identification in ice hockey occurs during middle adolescence when players are selected to participate in “off-season” evaluation camps, where coaches observe their fitness levels and status of development. Recently, the Quebec ice hockey federation opted for a holistic approach by evaluating players based on three criteria: (1) fitness, (2) skating abilities and (3) personality traits and psychological assets. This study aimed to analyze the discriminant validity of a multi-dimensional talent identification testing protocol in competitive ice hockey. Method: Data were collected from 160 adolescent hockey players who took part in Team Quebec summer evaluation camps. Off-ice fitness, skating abilities and psychological variables were measured on two consecutive days. Descriptive statistics, group comparisons (gender, positions) and discriminant analyses (selected versus non-selected) were performed. Results: No differences were observed among males in which selected players were similar to non-selected. Results from discriminant analyses also showed no discriminant function for male players. For females, selected players displayed higher fitness, on-ice agility and psychological characteristics. Nine performance markers were significantly discriminant. Conclusions: A holistic evaluation protocol allows for the discrimination of selected and non-selected players in elite ice hockey. Developing more discriminant tests is a promising avenue of research in male ice hockey. Knowing the factors that are associated with team selection in competitive ice hockey allow to focus on the specific attributes to work with young promising players. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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9 pages, 1077 KiB  
Article
Is There a Sex Difference in Technical Skills among Youth Soccer Players in Norway?
by Arne Sørensen, Emma C. Haugen and Roland van den Tillaar
Sports 2022, 10(4), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10040050 - 29 Mar 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 22641
Abstract
Female soccer has recently experienced an impressive increase in the number of players, and an impressive improvement in the quality of elite matches. Still, studies show sex differences in match statistics on passing accuracy and the ability to control the ball in international [...] Read more.
Female soccer has recently experienced an impressive increase in the number of players, and an impressive improvement in the quality of elite matches. Still, studies show sex differences in match statistics on passing accuracy and the ability to control the ball in international matches, which is explained by a lower skill of level in female soccer players as compared to male players. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate if female youth soccer players had bridged the gap in technical skills to reach the level that boys have traditionally attained. Sixteen male and 17 female youth soccer players of the same age and experience level took part in technical skill tests of reception of the ball on the ground and long passes. The results show a significant difference between the sexes in reception performance in favour of the male players (p < 0.05, ES = 1.09), but no significant difference in the long pass test (p = 0.11, ES = 0.43). This leads to the conclusion that the lower score on ball reception is probably the result of experience in small-sided self-organised soccer games during childhood among the male players, which influences reception skills but not the ability to make accurate long passes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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19 pages, 730 KiB  
Article
Roots to Grow and Wings to Fly: An Ethnography of Psychosocial Development in Adolescent Performance Sport
by Sergio Lara-Bercial and Jim McKenna
Sports 2022, 10(4), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10040048 - 22 Mar 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3002
Abstract
This study aimed to explore the potential for sport to support psychosocial development in young people in a youth performance setting using a novel realistic evaluation approach. Part 1 of this two-paper series published in this Special Issue identified the programme theories—how the [...] Read more.
This study aimed to explore the potential for sport to support psychosocial development in young people in a youth performance setting using a novel realistic evaluation approach. Part 1 of this two-paper series published in this Special Issue identified the programme theories—how the programme is supposed to work. A wide and deep network of context, generative mechanisms and outcomes responsible for psychosocial development in this youth performance basketball club emerged. The first paper also concluded that the outcomes and the experience are highly contextual and individualised. In this second part, the stakeholder’s programme theories were tested during a full-season ethnography of the same club. Immersion in the day-to-day environment generated a fine-grain analysis of the processes involved, including: (i) sustained attentional focus; (ii) structured and unstructured skill-building activities; (iii) deliberate and incidental support; and (iv) feelings indicating personal growth. Personal development in and through sport is thus shown to be conditional, multi-faceted, time-sensitive and idiosyncratic. The findings of this two-part study are considered to propose a model of psychosocial development in and through sport. This heuristic tool is presented to support sport psychologists, coaches, club administrators and parents to deliberately create and optimise developmental environments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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16 pages, 427 KiB  
Article
Looking Back and Looking Around: How Athletes, Parents and Coaches See Psychosocial Development in Adolescent Performance Sport
by Sergio Lara-Bercial and Jim McKenna
Sports 2022, 10(4), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10040047 - 22 Mar 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2929
Abstract
Sport has the potential to support psychosocial development in young people. However, extant studies have tended to evaluate purpose-built interventions, leaving regular organised sport relatively overlooked. Moreover, previous work has tended to concentrated on a narrow range of outcomes. To address these gaps, [...] Read more.
Sport has the potential to support psychosocial development in young people. However, extant studies have tended to evaluate purpose-built interventions, leaving regular organised sport relatively overlooked. Moreover, previous work has tended to concentrated on a narrow range of outcomes. To address these gaps, we conducted a season-long ethnography of a youth performance sport club based on a novel Realist Evaluation approach. We construed the club as a social intervention within a complex system of agents and structures. The results are published in this special issue as a two-part series. In this first paper, we detail the perceptions of former and current club parents, players and coaches, using them to build a set of programme theories. The resulting network of outcomes (i.e., self, emotional, social, moral and cognitive) and generative mechanisms (i.e., the attention factory, the greenhouse for growth, the personal boost and the real-life simulator), spanning across multiple contextual layers, provides a nuanced understanding of stakeholders’ views and experiences. This textured perspective of the multi-faceted process of development provides new insights for administrators, coaches and parents to maximise the developmental properties of youth sport, and signposts new avenues for research in this area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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17 pages, 1421 KiB  
Article
Relative Age Effects in Male Cricket: A Personal Assets Approach to Explain Immediate, Short-Term, and Long-Term Developmental Outcomes
by Adam L. Kelly, Thomas Brown, Rob Reed, Jean Côté and Jennifer Turnnidge
Sports 2022, 10(3), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10030039 - 5 Mar 2022
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 5882
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to adopt the Personal Assets Framework (PAF) to examine the immediate, short-term, and long-term developmental outcomes associated with relative age effects (RAEs) in male cricket. As such, this study was comprised of three aims: (a) examine the [...] Read more.
The purpose of this study was to adopt the Personal Assets Framework (PAF) to examine the immediate, short-term, and long-term developmental outcomes associated with relative age effects (RAEs) in male cricket. As such, this study was comprised of three aims: (a) examine the birth quarter (BQ) distribution of players throughout the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) national talent pathway (i.e., Regional U15, Regional U17, England U19, England Lions, England T20, England ODI, and England Test; n = 1800; immediate timescale), (b) explore the youth-to-senior transitions based on BQ and skill-set (i.e., batters and bowlers; short-term timescale), and (c) analyse the average number of games played at senior levels based on BQ and skill-set (i.e., long-term timescale). A chi-square goodness of fit test, Cramer’s V, odds ratios, and 95% confidence intervals were used to compare the BQ distributions of each cohort against the expected BQ distributions. In the immediate timescale, results showed that relatively older players were overrepresented throughout all the youth levels (p < 0.05, V = 0.16–0.30), whereas there were no differences at senior levels (p > 0.05, V = 0.05–0.15). In the short-term timescale, when the senior cohorts were compared to the expected BQ distributions based on the Regional U15 cohort, relatively younger players were more likely to transition from youth to senior levels (p < 0.05, V = 0.22–0.37). In the long-term timescale, relatively older batters were selected for more games (p < 0.05, V = 0.18–0.51), whereas relatively younger bowlers were selected for more games (p < 0.05, V = 0.17–0.39). Moving forward, it is important for researchers and practitioners to better understand how (bi)annual-age grouping shapes developmental outcomes in across different timescales (i.e., immediate, short-term, and long-term), as well as consider alternative grouping strategies and RAE solutions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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20 pages, 306 KiB  
Article
Psychosocial and Physiological Factors Affecting Selection to Regional Age-Grade Rugby Union Squads: A Machine Learning Approach
by Julian Owen, Robin Owen, Jessica Hughes, Josh Leach, Dior Anderson and Eleri Jones
Sports 2022, 10(3), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10030035 - 28 Feb 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4209
Abstract
Talent selection programmes choose athletes for talent development pathways. Currently, the set of psychosocial variables that determine talent selection in youth Rugby Union are unknown, with the literature almost exclusively focusing on physiological variables. The purpose of this study was to use a [...] Read more.
Talent selection programmes choose athletes for talent development pathways. Currently, the set of psychosocial variables that determine talent selection in youth Rugby Union are unknown, with the literature almost exclusively focusing on physiological variables. The purpose of this study was to use a novel machine learning approach to identify the physiological and psychosocial models that predict selection to a regional age-grade rugby union team. Age-grade club rugby players (n = 104; age, 15.47 ± 0.80; U16, n = 62; U18, n = 42) were assessed for physiological and psychosocial factors during regional talent selection days. Predictive models (selected vs. non-selected) were created for forwards, backs, and across all players using Bayesian machine learning. The generated physiological models correctly classified 67.55% of all players, 70.09% of forwards, and 62.50% of backs. Greater hand-grip strength, faster 10 m and 40 m sprint, and power were common features for selection. The generated psychosocial models correctly classified 62.26% of all players, 73.66% of forwards, and 60.42% of backs. Reduced burnout, reduced emotional exhaustion, and lower reduced sense of accomplishment, were common features for selection. Selection appears to be predominantly based on greater strength, speed, and power, as well as lower athlete burnout. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
15 pages, 2534 KiB  
Article
Proportions of Early Specializers Varies According to Methods and Skill Level
by Alexandra Mosher, Jessica Fraser-Thomas, Melissa J. Wilson and Joseph Baker
Sports 2022, 10(3), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10030034 - 28 Feb 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3142
Abstract
Sport researchers have warned about the lack of a clear and consistent definition of early specialization, while others have raised concerns around the validity of methods used to classify athletes as ‘specializers’. The current investigation includes two studies examining the implications of varying [...] Read more.
Sport researchers have warned about the lack of a clear and consistent definition of early specialization, while others have raised concerns around the validity of methods used to classify athletes as ‘specializers’. The current investigation includes two studies examining the implications of varying classification methods for exploring both specialization and early specialization in sport. Study 1 examined whether different approaches to defining and measuring specialization affected the classification of athletes throughout development and provided a ‘profile’ of the sample in terms of developmental milestones related to specialization. Results indicated the proportion of athletes classified as specializers varied depending on the method used and athletes generally met specialization milestones after the age of 12. Study 2 examined the proportions of athletes who achieved ‘elite’, ‘pre-elite’, and ‘non-elite’ status in adulthood who were early specializers as determined by different methods. Results showed the method used changed the proportion of athletes classified as specializers at each level and there was no clear advantage or disadvantage to being a specializer. Combined, these studies provide intriguing data regarding the implications of different measures for assessing specialization in young athletes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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14 pages, 514 KiB  
Article
In Pursuit of a Comprehensive Understanding of Expertise Development: A Comparison between Paths to World-Class Performance in Complex Technical vs. Endurance Demanding Sports
by Martine Aalberg, Truls Valland Roaas, Morten Andreas Aune, Øyvind Bjerke and Tore Kristian Aune
Sports 2022, 10(2), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10020016 - 28 Jan 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2994
Abstract
A comprehensive understanding of skill acquisition is important for different performance domains, and has practical implications for both sport sciences and public health. The study compared important constraints for expertise development in a physically demanding sport (cross-country skiing) versus a technically demanding sport [...] Read more.
A comprehensive understanding of skill acquisition is important for different performance domains, and has practical implications for both sport sciences and public health. The study compared important constraints for expertise development in a physically demanding sport (cross-country skiing) versus a technically demanding sport (freeskiing). Eighteen world-class athletes reported the importance of different constraints for their developmental history subdivided into two age spans: (1) 7–15 years and (2) 16 years until present. The total amount of training did not differ between the groups, but from the age of 16, the cross-country skiers spend approximately 98% of their training specific to their main sport, compared to 75% for freeskiers. No differences were found between the distribution of organized versus non-organized training in main sport, but freeskiers reported a higher amount of unorganized training in other sports after the age of 16. No differences were found in perceived importance of facilities, enjoyment of performing their sport, or the need for early specialization of training. After the age of 16, the cross-country skiers reported a higher need for coach involvement compared to freeskiers. The two sports mainly share common paths to expertise but differ in the need for specific training and coach involvement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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10 pages, 254 KiB  
Article
Coaches’ Criteria for Talent Identification of Youth Male Soccer Players
by Jan Fuhre, Arild Øygard and Stig Arve Sæther
Sports 2022, 10(2), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10020014 - 18 Jan 2022
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 5800
Abstract
Introduction: The main aim of this study was to examine which criteria coaches considered in the talent identification of youth male soccer players aged 13–16. The second aim was to describe how the coaches considered these criteria when identifying players for their club [...] Read more.
Introduction: The main aim of this study was to examine which criteria coaches considered in the talent identification of youth male soccer players aged 13–16. The second aim was to describe how the coaches considered these criteria when identifying players for their club or regional teams and how these criteria take the impact of the relative age effect into consideration. Methods: We conducted qualitative, semi-structured interviews with six male coaches from a professional club academy or a regional team within the Norwegian Football Federation. Results: In line with earlier research, the results showed that the coaches considered the technical, tactical, and mental factors as the most important in talent identification. Further in line with earlier research, they considered that the physiological and sociological factors were of secondary importance, while anthropometric measures were considered the least important. Regarding the relative age effect, the coaches were aware of the effect and its consequences, while few of them had ways to reduce the effect and its impact on their talent identification process. Even so, the coaches highlighted the importance of considering a holistic approach to talent identification. Conclusion: The results show similarities with earlier research, but there is still a need for more longitudinal studies that investigate criteria for talent identification in youth football. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
17 pages, 316 KiB  
Article
A Multidisciplinary Investigation into the Talent Development Processes in an English Premiership Rugby Union Academy: A Preliminary Study through an Ecological Lens
by Francesco Dimundo, Matthew Cole, Richard C. Blagrove, Kevin Till and Adam L. Kelly
Sports 2022, 10(2), 13; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10020013 - 18 Jan 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3826
Abstract
(1) Background: The progression of youth rugby union (RU) players towards senior professional levels can be the result of various different constraints. The aim of this study was to examine characteristics that differentiated playing positions and player rankings in an English Premiership RU [...] Read more.
(1) Background: The progression of youth rugby union (RU) players towards senior professional levels can be the result of various different constraints. The aim of this study was to examine characteristics that differentiated playing positions and player rankings in an English Premiership RU academy. (2) Methods: Thirty players (mean age = 18.5 ± 2.8 years) were divided by playing positions (forwards = 18, backs = 12) and ranked (one to thirty) by coaches based on their potential to achieve senior professional status. Players were analysed across 32 characteristics from eight overreaching factors based on task, environmental, and performer constraints. MANOVA and ANOVA were used to calculate differences among variables in players’ positions (i.e., forwards vs. backs) and ranks (i.e., top 10 vs. bottom 10), with a Welch’s t-test applied to identify individual differences amongst groups and effect sizes calculated. (3) Results: Large effect sizes were found between groups for socioeconomic, sport activity, anthropometric, physical, and psychological factors. Moreover, environmental and performer constraints differentiated playing positions, whereas task and environmental constraints discriminated player ranks. (4) Conclusion: Present findings showed that playing positions and player ranks can be distinguished according to specific constraints. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
13 pages, 548 KiB  
Article
Maturity Has a Greater Association than Relative Age with Physical Performance in English Male Academy Soccer Players
by John M. Radnor, Jacob Staines, James Bevan, Sean P. Cumming, Adam L. Kelly, Rhodri S. Lloyd and Jon L. Oliver
Sports 2021, 9(12), 171; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9120171 - 20 Dec 2021
Cited by 27 | Viewed by 5262
Abstract
This study aimed to: (1) examine differences in physical performance across birth-quartiles and maturity-status, and (2) determine the relationships among relative age, maturation and physical performance in young male soccer players. The sample included 199 males aged between 8.1 and 18.9 years, from [...] Read more.
This study aimed to: (1) examine differences in physical performance across birth-quartiles and maturity-status, and (2) determine the relationships among relative age, maturation and physical performance in young male soccer players. The sample included 199 males aged between 8.1 and 18.9 years, from two professional soccer academies in the English Football League. Data were collected for height, weight, self-reported biological parent heights, 30 m sprint time and countermovement jump (CMJ) height. Relative age was conveyed as a decimal, while maturity status was determined as the percentage of predicted adult height (PAH). There were no significant differences in any measure between birth quartiles, however early maturers outperformed on-time and later maturers in most performance measures. Pearson-product-moment correlations revealed that maturation was inversely associated with 30 m sprint time in U12 to U16 (r = −0.370–0.738; p < 0.05), but only positively associated with CMJ performance in U12 (r = 0.497; p < 0.05). In contrast, relative age was unrelated to sprint performance and only significantly associated with superior CMJ performance in U16. This study indicates that maturity has a greater association with sprint performance than relative age in English male academy soccer players. Practitioners should monitor and assess biological maturation in young soccer players to attempt to control for the influence on physical performance, and avoid biasing selection on absolute performance rather than identifying the most talented player. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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8 pages, 234 KiB  
Article
Differences in Squat Jump, Linear Sprint, and Change-of-Direction Performance among Youth Soccer Players According to Competitive Level
by Michael Keiner, Andreas Kapsecker, Tobias Stefer, Björn Kadlubowski and Klaus Wirth
Sports 2021, 9(11), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9110149 - 27 Oct 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 4255
Abstract
The aim of this investigation was to analyze significant differences in performance depending on the level of play (elite vs. amateur) in youth soccer players (under 17 years. old (U17) and U19). A cross-sectional study was conducted, and 45 elite and amateur male [...] Read more.
The aim of this investigation was to analyze significant differences in performance depending on the level of play (elite vs. amateur) in youth soccer players (under 17 years. old (U17) and U19). A cross-sectional study was conducted, and 45 elite and amateur male youth soccer players (16.56 ± 0.9 years old) were evaluated in their performances in squat jump (SJ), 10 m linear sprint (LS), 20 m LS, 505 agility test (505) and Illinois agility test (IAT). Differences in performances were analyzed with a 2 × 2 MANOVA, post-hoc ANOVAs, and Hedges’ g (g) for pairwise comparisons of subgroups (level of play and age group). This investigation showed that the elite player performance was significantly (p < 0.05) better in all performance tests than amateur players in both age groups. Interestingly, this investigation showed that the more complex the target exercise, the larger the effect sizes for group differences (SJ: g = 0.64–1.18, LS: g = 0.05–2.23, change-of-direction (COD): g = 3.01–6.84). The SJ, LS, 505, and IAT may prove useful in talent selection test batteries to separate between competitive levels in youth soccer players. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
12 pages, 230 KiB  
Article
Elite Youth Soccer Players’ Sources and Types of Soccer Confidence
by Iain Greenlees, Aimee Parr, Sarah Murray and Esther Burkitt
Sports 2021, 9(11), 146; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9110146 - 22 Oct 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3587
Abstract
Sport confidence is a psychological characteristic considered vital for youth soccer players to possess. However, only limited research has explored the types and sources of sport confidence important to elite youth performers in professional soccer academies. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 academy [...] Read more.
Sport confidence is a psychological characteristic considered vital for youth soccer players to possess. However, only limited research has explored the types and sources of sport confidence important to elite youth performers in professional soccer academies. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 academy footballers (aged 10 or 11). Abductive hierarchical content analysis identified types of confidence to include achievement, skill execution, psychological factors, superiority to opposition and tactical awareness. Key sources of confidence identified by players were performance accomplishments, coaching, social support, and preparation. Even though the dimensions reported were similar to previous research, a number of unique sub-themes of confidence sources emerged, including pre-training/competition emotions, coach and team-mate feedback. The results demonstrate the importance of considering maturation levels and context when seeking to understand and develop confidence in youth performers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
13 pages, 249 KiB  
Article
Comparison of High and Low Responders to a Cross-Country Skiing Talent Transfer Program: A Coach’s Perspective
by Stig Arve Sæther, Mats Iversen, Rune Kjøsen Talsnes and Øyvind Sandbakk
Sports 2021, 9(10), 138; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9100138 - 2 Oct 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3310
Abstract
Purpose: To examine how coaches differentiate athletes with successful and non-successful development during a cross-country (XC) skiing talent transfer (TT) program. Methods: We conducted qualitative, semi-structured interviews with seven Norwegian coaches working with a group of 23 Chinese summer endurance athletes transferring from [...] Read more.
Purpose: To examine how coaches differentiate athletes with successful and non-successful development during a cross-country (XC) skiing talent transfer (TT) program. Methods: We conducted qualitative, semi-structured interviews with seven Norwegian coaches working with a group of 23 Chinese summer endurance athletes transferring from running, rowing, and kayaking to the winter endurance sport XC skiing over a six-month training period. The athletes were grouped as either high (n = 9), moderate (n = 3), or low responders (n = 11) based on objective performance development, quantified using laboratory testing. The interview guide contained six sections: physiological development, technical development, psychological characteristics, training and recovery routines, athlete background, and considerations about the effectiveness of TT initiatives in general. Results: The assessments of the coaches revealed that greater development of both physiological and technical capacities among the high-responding TT athletes were associated with higher motivation, as well as superior ability to deal with adversity in the development process. Conclusion: The coaches considered the TT program to be effective; however, successful transfer of athletes to a world class level in a complex sport such as XC skiing requires a multidisciplinary selection process and a longer time frame than the six-month period used in the current project. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
7 pages, 590 KiB  
Article
Physical and Anthropometric Characteristics Do Not Differ According to Birth Year Quartile in High-Level Junior Australian Football Players
by Paul Larkin, Carl T. Woods, Jade Haycraft and David B. Pyne
Sports 2021, 9(8), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9080111 - 12 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3112
Abstract
The aim of this study was to explore differences in the physical fitness and anthropometric profiles between birth year quartiles of players attending the Australian Football League (AFL) National Draft Combine. Date of birth, anthropometric, 20 m sprint, vertical and running vertical jump, [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to explore differences in the physical fitness and anthropometric profiles between birth year quartiles of players attending the Australian Football League (AFL) National Draft Combine. Date of birth, anthropometric, 20 m sprint, vertical and running vertical jump, AFL planned agility, and 20 m Multi-Stage Fitness Test (MSFT) data were obtained for players selected to attend the Combine between 1999 and 2019 (n = 1549; Mage = 18.1; SDage = 0.3). The underlying density distributions of the data were visually explored using violin plots overlaid with box and whisker plots. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was then used to model the main effect of birth quartile (four levels) on the physical and anthropometric scores. Results showed that physical and anthropometric test scores did not significantly differ according to birth quartile (V = 0.008, F = 0.880, p = 0.631). We conclude that the physical and anthropometric profiles of high-level junior Australian Football players were similar according to birth year quartile across the modeled period. Therefore, how players utilize their physical and anthropometric attributes during game-play via contextualized, representative assessments, such as small-sided games, should be considered when examining potential causes of a RAE. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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11 pages, 651 KiB  
Article
Relative Age Effects in Basketball: Exploring the Selection into and Successful Transition Out of a National Talent Pathway
by Adam L. Kelly, Sergio Lorenzo Jiménez Sáiz, Alberto Lorenzo Calvo, Alfonso de la Rubia, Daniel T. Jackson, Mark A. Jeffreys, Charlie Ford, Dave Owen and Sara Diana Leal dos Santos
Sports 2021, 9(7), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9070101 - 12 Jul 2021
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 5478
Abstract
Relative age effects (RAEs) appear consistently prevalent throughout the youth basketball literature. However, the selection into and successful transition out of a national talent pathway in basketball is yet to be explored. Thus, the primary aim of this study was to explore the [...] Read more.
Relative age effects (RAEs) appear consistently prevalent throughout the youth basketball literature. However, the selection into and successful transition out of a national talent pathway in basketball is yet to be explored. Thus, the primary aim of this study was to explore the influence of relative age, gender, and playing time based on the selection into the Regional Talent Hubs and Basketball England youth teams (U16, U18, and U20) and the successful transition into the England National Senior Teams. Participants who were selected into the male (n = 450) and female (n = 314) Basketball England Talent Pathway were allocated into one of three cohorts: (a) Regional Talent Hubs (U12 to U15; n = 183), (b) England National Youth Teams (U16, U18, and U20; n = 537), and (c) England National Senior Teams (n = 44). A chi-square test was used to compare the birth quarter (BQ) distributions of each cohort against the expected distributions, with a Cramer’s V (Vc) used to interpret effect sizes. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals were also calculated to compare the likelihood of each BQ being represented. Males revealed significant RAEs across both the Regional Talent Hubs (p < 0.001, Vc > 0.29, OR = 10) and England National Youth Teams (p < 0.001, Vc > 0.17, OR = 3.1). In comparison, females only had significant RAEs in the Regional Talent Hubs (p < 0.001, Vc > 0.29, OR = 2.3). Despite RAEs being prevalent throughout youth levels, there were no significant differences in the BQ distribution based on playing time and those who made the successful transition to the England National Senior Teams. These findings demonstrate the potential mechanisms of RAEs in basketball, as well as the impetus to explore more equitable competition structures within the England Basketball Talent Pathway. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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8 pages, 238 KiB  
Article
How Relative Age Effects Associate with Football Players’ Market Values: Indicators of Losing Talent and Wasting Money
by Michael Romann, Marie Javet, Stephen Cobley and Dennis-Peter Born
Sports 2021, 9(7), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9070099 - 9 Jul 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 5465
Abstract
Background: In football, annual age-group categorization leads to relative age effects (RAEs) in talent development. Given such trends, relative age may also associate with market values. This study analyzed the relationship between RAEs and market values of youth players. Methods: Age category, birthdate, [...] Read more.
Background: In football, annual age-group categorization leads to relative age effects (RAEs) in talent development. Given such trends, relative age may also associate with market values. This study analyzed the relationship between RAEs and market values of youth players. Methods: Age category, birthdate, and market values of 11,738 youth male football players were obtained from the “transfermarkt.de” database, which delivers a good proxy for real market values. RAEs were calculated using odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (95%CI). Results: Significant RAEs were found across all age-groups (p < 0.05). The largest RAEs occurred in U18 players (Q1 [relatively older] v Q4 [relatively younger] OR = 3.1) ORs decreased with age category, i.e., U19 (2.7), U20 (2.6), U21 (2.4), U22 (2.2), and U23 (1.8). At U19s, Q1 players were associated with significantly higher market values than Q4 players. However, by U21, U22, and U23 RAEs were inversed, with correspondingly higher market values for Q4 players apparent. While large typical RAEs for all playing positions was observed in younger age categories (U18–U20), inversed RAEs were only evident for defenders (small-medium) and for strikers (medium-large) in U21–U23 (not goalkeepers and midfielders). Conclusions: Assuming an equal distribution of football talent exists across annual cohorts, results indicate the selection and market value of young professional players is dynamic. Findings suggest a potential biased selection, and undervaluing of Q4 players in younger age groups, as their representation and market value increased over time. By contrast, the changing representations and market values of Q1 players suggest initial overvaluing in performance and monetary terms. Therefore, this inefficient talent selection and the accompanying waste of money should be improved. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
13 pages, 297 KiB  
Article
Early Drop-Out from Sports and Strategic Learning Skills: A Cross-Country Study in Italian and Spanish Students
by Carla Consoni, Caterina Pesce and Domenico Cherubini
Sports 2021, 9(7), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9070096 - 30 Jun 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4402
Abstract
The search for overarching factors involved in both sport and broader lifestyle and achievement domains may help to understand the early drop-out phenomenon. This study aimed to analyze the association between early sport drop-out and strategic learning skills, checking for the individual and [...] Read more.
The search for overarching factors involved in both sport and broader lifestyle and achievement domains may help to understand the early drop-out phenomenon. This study aimed to analyze the association between early sport drop-out and strategic learning skills, checking for the individual and joint role of nationality, school type, gender, age and sport habits. Six hundred and fourteen Italian and Spanish students aged 14–18 years completed two self-assessment questionnaires concerning physical activity, sports habits and learning strategies. Outcomes were analyzed with frequency analysis. Higher affective–motivational strategic learning skills were associated with lower drop-out rates in Italian but not Spanish students. In high schools with an enhanced sports curriculum, drop-out rates were negligible compared to other Italian and Spanish curricula. A lack of persistence in the same sport type was significantly associated with a higher drop-out rate in males but not in female students, who had overall higher drop-out rates. This study suggests that overarching personal skills, cultural characteristics and sports habits may independently and jointly contribute to sport drop-out. Specifically, affective–motivational learning skills may play a key role in sport persistence and in strategies tailored to drop-out prevention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)

Review

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16 pages, 552 KiB  
Review
Methodological Approaches to Talent Identification in Team Sports: A Narrative Review
by Sam Barraclough, Kevin Till, Adam Kerr and Stacey Emmonds
Sports 2022, 10(6), 81; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10060081 - 24 May 2022
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 6535
Abstract
Talent identification (TID) and talent development (TD) continue to receive significant investment from team sports organisations, highlighting their importance in attempting to identify potential elite athletes. Accompanying this continual pursuit to unearth future talent is an ever-increasing body of research aiming to provide [...] Read more.
Talent identification (TID) and talent development (TD) continue to receive significant investment from team sports organisations, highlighting their importance in attempting to identify potential elite athletes. Accompanying this continual pursuit to unearth future talent is an ever-increasing body of research aiming to provide solutions and strategies to optimise TID and TD processes. Therefore, the aim of this review is to provide a summary and critical synthesis of the methodological approaches applied to TID in team sports and present considerations for future TID research. Specifically, this review highlights three key areas for consideration: (1) the timespan of the research design; (2) the use of monodisciplinary or multidisciplinary variables; and (3) the fidelity of the methodological approaches to the assessment of talent. The review highlights the benefits of longitudinal, multidisciplinary, and ecologically valid research designs for TID within team sports. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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20 pages, 912 KiB  
Review
Training Management of the Elite Adolescent Soccer Player throughout Maturation
by Alistair J. McBurnie, Thomas Dos’Santos, David Johnson and Edward Leng
Sports 2021, 9(12), 170; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9120170 - 17 Dec 2021
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 7063 | Correction
Abstract
Professional soccer clubs invest significantly into the development of their academy prospects with the hopes of producing elite players. Talented youngsters in elite development systems are exposed to high amounts of sports-specific practise with the aims of developing the foundational skills underpinning the [...] Read more.
Professional soccer clubs invest significantly into the development of their academy prospects with the hopes of producing elite players. Talented youngsters in elite development systems are exposed to high amounts of sports-specific practise with the aims of developing the foundational skills underpinning the capabilities needed to excel in the game. Yet large disparities in maturation status, growth-related issues, and highly-specialised sport practise predisposes these elite youth soccer players to an increased injury risk. However, practitioners may scaffold a performance monitoring and injury surveillance framework over an academy to facilitate data-informed training decisions that may not only mitigate this inherent injury risk, but also enhance athletic performance. Constant communication between members of the multi-disciplinary team enables context to build around an individual’s training status and risk profile, and ensures that a progressive, varied, and bespoke training programme is provided at all stages of development to maximise athletic potential. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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16 pages, 1058 KiB  
Review
Motor Performance in Male Youth Soccer Players: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies
by Maryam Abarghoueinejad, Adam D. G. Baxter-Jones, Thayse Natacha Gomes, Daniel Barreira and José Maia
Sports 2021, 9(4), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9040053 - 19 Apr 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 5791
Abstract
The aim of this systematic review was to identify and synthesize the available information regarding longitudinal data addressing young soccer players’ motor performance changes. Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) statement, literature searches were performed in three databases: PubMed, [...] Read more.
The aim of this systematic review was to identify and synthesize the available information regarding longitudinal data addressing young soccer players’ motor performance changes. Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) statement, literature searches were performed in three databases: PubMed, ISI Web of Science and SCOPUS. The following descriptors were used: football, soccer, youth, young, player, athlete, physical performance, motor performance, longitudinal. The inclusion criteria were original articles in English with longitudinal data of young males (aged 10–18 years), with the aim to investigate motor performance serial changes. The initial search returned 211 records, and the final sample comprised 32 papers. These papers covered the European continent, and used mixed and pure longitudinal design with variation in sample size and age range. The reviewed studies tended to use different tests to assess the motor performance and aimed to identify changes in motor performance in several ways. In general, they indicated motor performance improvements with age, with a marked influence of biological maturity, body composition, and training stimuli. This review highlights the need for coaches and stakeholders to consider players’ motor performance over time whilst considering biological maturation, biological characteristics, and training stimuli. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Talent Identification and Development in Youth Sports)
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