Damnyan's Corner: Recognizing Talent

In this weeks article we will talk about recognizing talent for sport in kids. This is very interesting topic for me because of my own experience as a player and a coach. Also developing these talents into performance can be a demanding task.

What is talent? 
From my standpoint, talent is ability of an individual to perform high level tasks in any field of work. Of course, those tasks have to be done with ease. Same goes for sports! In sports measurement for talent is ability to do certain elements of sport in most effective way. But what is our etalon in which we will measure that talent?  

We all know that human body, especially in early ages, develops in unevenly manner. Some kids develop faster than the others. Very often coaches, especially ones working with junior/youth level players, confuse talent and level of (physical) development. That is common trap for young and inexperienced coaches. For example, You coach a youth team (14, 15 years old), and You have a kid who is lot faster, stronger and coordinated than the rest, because of those abilities he is dominating on the field. What would you say about that kid? Is he talented for football? Maybe he is maybe he is not! He is just far more physically developed than the rest! But that does not mean anything at that age. And what happened!? In few years - rest of your team developed physical and technique skills and slowly managed to catch up with that kid and before you know it they have passed him off. 

How they could pass him, you ask? Well, they developed themselves and he stagnated. We all know stagnation in sports is equal to regression! I was a witness of countless examples like this one. Many times I talked to my friends who were coaches or players and they all asked themselves: “What happened to that kid he was so talented?” Answer is pretty simple, their talent consisted not on their God given thing for sports, but consisted of their quicker developed physical ability. 

As we said earlier, when majority of your players develops their bodies, physical ability and coordination only then, talk about talent can have its true meaning. So do not be fooled with someones physical ability when talking about his talent for sports. You have to look at small things, details. How he moves? How he sees the game? Does he anticipate things? You then have whole different picture. Players that are on the approximately same physical level tend to show off their talents much easier!

Our junior/youth programs and leagues have to be focused on development of or young players. In order to do so, we as coaches, must give equal opportunity to every kid. In time, those kids that cannot keep up with the rest of the team will fall off, believe me! Do not judge someones talent just because he or she cannot run fast as you want or jump as high as you think. With time, practice and patience all those attributes will come in place and you will be proud!

Do not judge your players too early, coach them, guide them, and teach them how to maximize their potential. If you do that soon you will see development of something great in front of your own eyes!

Coach Zoran Damnjanovic