Predictability of physiological testing and the role of maturation in talent identification for adolescent team sports

D T Pearson, G A Naughton, M Torode
Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 2006, 9 (4): 277-87
Entrepreneurial marketing of sport increases demands on sport development officers to identify talented individuals for specialist development at the youngest possible age. Talent identification results in the streamlining of resources to produce optimal returns from a sports investment. However, the process of talent identification for team sports is complex and success prediction is imperfect. The aim of this review is to describe existing practices in physiological tests used for talent identification in team sports and discuss the impact of maturity-related differences on the long term outcomes particularly for male participants. Maturation is a major confounding variable in talent identification during adolescence. A myriad of hormonal changes during puberty results in physical and physiological characteristics important for sporting performance. Significant changes during puberty make the prediction of adult performance difficult from adolescent data. Furthermore, for talent identification programs to succeed, valid and reliable testing procedures must be accepted and implemented in a range of performance-related categories. Limited success in scientifically based talent identification is evident in a range of team sports. Genetic advances challenge the ethics of talent identification in adolescent sport. However, the environment remains a significant component of success prediction in sport. Considerations for supporting talented young male athletes are discussed.

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