Creating Optimal Environments for Talent Development

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The holistic ecological approach (HEA) to talent development in sport shifts researchers’ attention from the individual athletes to the broader environment in which they develop. The HEA provides a theoretical grounding, ecologically inferred definitions of talent development, two working models, and methodological guidelines. The HEA highlights two interconnected ways of analyzing athletic talent development environments (ATDE). First, there is a focus on the structure of the environment, particularly the roles and cooperation of key persons. Second, there is a focus on the organizational culture of the team.

A number of in-depth case studies of successful talent development environments in Scandinavia have shown that while each environment is unique, they also share a number of features. They are characterized by proximal role modeling; an integration of efforts among the different agents (family, coaches, management etc.); inclusive training groups rather than early selection; a focus on long-term developmental rather than on early success, and a “strong and coherent” organizational culture.

Moving from ecological research to ecologically informed practice, we add applied principles and provide an example of how these principles were used in developing a culture for goal directedness in a group of under-17 players in a football academy in Denmark. The case example demonstrates two main ideas: (1) a team’s organizational culture influences the athletes, or in popular terms the characteristics of culture become the character of the athletes; and (2) the coach plays a vital part in creating and maintaining a team culture.

Together, the eight common features of successful ATDEs, the case examples, and the applied HEA principles can serve as a guide for practitioners aiming to improve talent development environments in sport.

Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event14th World Conference on Sport Psychology - Sevilla, Spain
Duration: 10. Jul 201715. Jul 2017
Conference number: 14 (Final Program )


Conference14th World Conference on Sport Psychology
Internet address

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