Yorkshire & Humber Coaching Talent Breakfast - Fri 3 Feb

6th Feb 2012

Yorkshire & Humber

Coaching Talent Breakfast

Fri 3 Feb at English Institute of Sport, Sheffield

The 3rd Yorkshire &Humber Coaching Talent Breakfast was delivered by Stuart Armstrong (Talent Lead scUK) on Fri 3 Feb at EIS Sheffield.

The following piece is a review of the session and views (whilst based on the presentation and discussion) are that of Pete Taylor, Coaching Development Manager, North Yorkshire Sport.

A riveting morning and well delivered by Stuart Armstrong from scUK.   So what is talent? How about the following:

Someone who has, often an unusual, natural ability in their chosen discipline, they have an ability (both physically and mentally) to learn new techniques and translate these into quality performance.      

Can talent be taught?  Yes, to some extent, however natural ability must be the key driver – or should natural ability be nurtured?  Is talent luck – yes, born with it (thank parents!), given the opportunity to nurture it (parents again & finance – schooling?).  Some would say that you can create your own success!     

Natural Ability?  What do we believe – to reach the top it is most important to:

1. Have raw talent/natural ability.

2. Nurture this and develop it.

Or is it a combination of both?

Make a choice – where do you sit?  Is it dependent on the sport (ie physical focus or skill/technique focus).  Does an Olympic downhill skier need a combination of 1 & 2   - oh yes.  How far can you go just with pure determination?  How far can a coach take an athlete who has limited natural ability?  Padraig Harrington – not the most naturally talented as a young golfer – but a major winner!  Win the England U16 boys golf champs and you will have a 2% chance of becoming a Pro Golfer.  Very thought provoking!  

Simple answer: Nature x Nurture = Human Potential        

Kids who play multiple sports (multi sport kids!) can turn their hand to many sports and have an ability to shine in many of them.  They may not get the support from Sport X (one of the many sports that they play) as they may not be as good as Joe Blogs who only plays Sport X.   If the multi sport kid has wealthy parents he may be able to receive support, if not he may be left to develop at a pace that is only in his control – will his potential ever be realised.  Sometimes! 

There may be a 4 year difference in physical development of young teenagers – does this affect talent development?  Hopefully!

We can’t do a lot about what a person is born with but we can nurture all levels of talent – some will go onto reach high levels some will not. 

The role of the talent coach is huge and the decisions they make will shape the future for the young performers.  The traditional (over used and often misunderstood) word ‘Performance’ is above the surface, factors that are under the surface can be controlled:

Quality of coaching, social interaction, parental support, quality and availability of equipment, stability of environment, amount and quality of practice. 

Above the surface, therefore determined by the performer:

Their obsession, drive, self-belief, ability to learn, dealing with pressure, honesty, reaction to failure.  

Characteristics of a talented athlete:

Strong natural ability, strong mental strength, genetic luck (body’s ability to keep improving), ability to take on new info and strive to use it, lifestyle (support – parents), single-minded.

How do we get the best out of a talented athlete?  Forget this maybe and change the question: How does the performer get the best out of themselves?

Roger Federer wasn’t born with the love and passion of being the best tennis player in the world, Bill Gates was not born with an obsession with computers.

How many truly great (talented) athletes have an obsession with their sport? It’s easy to start a list – Kelly Holmes, Jonny Wilkinson, Lance Armstrong……           

Talent is about taking someone with promise and giving them the best chance to develop an obsession with their sport.  Controversial – No.  Reality – Yes. 

A talent coach may use this model:

Sets a Goal, understands the Reality, creates Opportunities, insures a Will to do well, needs to have a Strategy (GROWS)  

So what did I take away from the Talent Coach Breakfast?

1. Talent should never be just accepted.

2. The coach’s role is to nurture talent – allow every individual to improve.

3. I will always consider how I can improve learning.          

The talent breakfast clubs will develop the coach’s ability to help performers nurture their ability to improve what is in the performer’s control. 

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