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Talent identification & development in sports – a coach’s angle

Talent is an abstract thing. But a necessary thing. Especially if it is to be considered in the arena of competitive sports. It’s not something that can be found in everyone. Having said that, we must acknowledge that at the highest levels of international and competitive sports almost everyone has at least a basic parity in talent. But, even among these elite athletes there exist those who become the stuff of legends. Far surpassing others of their kind in talent, they tower over their peers to be the centres of attraction for the audience both on and off the field.

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Then there are those professionals who dedicate their careers to identifying and nurturing these talented individuals and bringing them to the peak of their potential. These are the coaches. People who may not be professional athletes like their proteges but are responsible in the building of a top calibre sportsperson. It’s not just about the physical prowess, persons expected to deliver top quality performances at the highest levels need to be fortified on a mental level as well. Though no single formula exists when it comes to the identification and development of talent, top experts do agree on a few overarching philosophies and stages associated with them. Here are some basic facts related to cricket coaching.

Identifying Talent

This begins with the assessment of talent and that begins with determining the parameters required for assessment. A good coach needs to know what are the various factors that need to be checked for if greatness is to be achieved. Over time of course there will develop some factors that would not have been present as noticeably in the early stages, but the traces of them will still catch the eye of a good selector.

Let’s take the case of Ali, not all the reasons why he is a household name today would have been evident to his coaches, but the traits and potential would have always been there. In cases of selection for national teams, the talent parameters are sometimes judged against a national database. A steady check on progress needs to be carried out over time to verify consistency and mark for any improvements.

Testing & Selection

At this stage, the testing and selection of potential candidates continue but become more sports specific. Specificity is a concept that says that if a person is chosen for a certain specific sport there are certain exercise and conditioning regimes they should be made to undertake. This is because not all sports require physical bodies and mental abilities to be trained to the same degree.

For example, a person who is being developed into a marathon runner will need to run a certain distance periodically which may not be the case for someone in another sport discipline. This testing phase helps to hone the already existing talent in a sportsperson.

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Developing the talent

This mainly deals with building on and bringing out the talent in a person. Great stories like Rahul Dravid‘s, one of the icons of Indian cricket, do not get created by being idle at the talent development stage. It’s done through years of personal hard work and the expert guidance of dedicated coaches.

The thrill to see a great sportsperson in action is a delight we all have experienced. But, we must always take a step back to see the toil behind the glam and learn the ways in which we can use their stories to better ourselves.

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