Identifying factors perceived to influence the development of elite youth football academy players
Dean Holden at August 19th, 2013
by Andrew Mills, Joanne Butt, Ian Maynard & Chris Harwood, Journal of Sports Sciences Volume 30, Issue 15, 2012
Based on the developmental theory presented by Gagné (2009), we examined the factors perceived to influence the development of elite youth football players at a critical stage in their progression to the professional level. Transcribed interviews with ten expert development coaches were inductively and deductively content analysed. Conceptualisation of the data revealed six interrelated higher-order categories that represented the factors perceived to either positively or negatively influence player development. These were: awareness (e.g. self-awareness, awareness of others); resilience (e.g. coping with setbacks, optimistic attitude); goal-directed attributes (e.g. passion, professional attitude); intelligence (e.g. sport intelligence, emotional competence); sport-specific attributes (e.g. coachability, competitiveness); and environmental factors (e.g. significant others, culture of game). In this investigation, awareness emerged as a fundamental and mediating element for understanding how young players are able to transition to the professional level. Collectively, the findings underline the multidimensional nature of talent development and suggest that an intricate combination of stage-specific factors must manifest for gifted young players to translate their potential into excellence. Mechanisms by which academies could be helped to shape the characteristics and conditions associated with effective development are discussed.
To excel in any given field, Gagné (2009
) contends that individuals must initially possess well above average natural abilities (i.e. gifts). However, for Gagné these exceptional natural abilities can remain simply as gifts if not effectively nurtured through the developmental process. The expert coaches’ views in the present investigation appear to support this notion. Put simply, though young players must have exceptional natural ability, it appears that elite footballers are largely ‘built’ not ‘born’. From a broader talent development perspective, it would seem important for the continued advancement of the field that future investigations look to identify the drivers that interact to facilitate progression at key stages in the developmental pathway; especially within sport-specific populations. Given the applicability of Gagné’s model to athletic domains, we contend that this well-developed framework could help to conceptually drive such a research agenda.
Read the entire article here.