Talenat is the word that is probably most mentioned and used by all sports related words. Every child that begins to engage in sports is characterized as talented or non-talented by trainers, experts, parents and laymen. Every person has his own way of understanding what is actually talent. Is it something innate (inborn), something that is “created” for years or is it perhaps an illusion? Does every child that starts dealing with a particular sport can succeed unrelated to its genetics? And even more than that, can it become the best in the world? Is the talent possible to be recognized before the child begins to engage in sports, or does it require a certain training period for the child to show better adaptation and better response to training?
In order to answer the previous questions, it is necessary to examine in more detail the data related to different examples of athletes from different sports over a certain period of time, and data related to their genetics, their beginnings in sports, work and discipline, as well as the results achieved . Then it is necessary to objectively draw the conclusion whether the predisposed athletes are born, and to what extent their predestination affects the achievement of top sporting results.
What is talent?
Since I was a kid, I was intrigued by the notion of talent, because I could not fully answer the questions “What is the exact talent?” And “Am I talented?”. For that reason, I have long since formed the answers to these questions, first of all unintentionally since my beginnings in sports in 1995 until today because I competed at that time with my peers at school and with world champions in several disciplines. Then and deliberately for a number of years, reading at the beginning of the opinions, articles and discussions of competent people, and then books and research dealing with talent topics in general as well as closely related topics. Therefore, through the text, I will try to transfer the information that has been thoroughly explored and which I have read about and associate them with experience in practice through a swimming and triathlon career.
A rigorous definition of talent varies, and there is a large number of descriptions, from “Inborn talent is the primary circuit for outstanding sporting results, where talent is used as a synonym for a highly skilled athlete.” Through a description that best describes talent in me “Talenat is a set of characteristics that improve the individual’s ability to reach expertise in a particular segment in an accelerated manner. This ability enables the individual to progress with faster rhythms than others in that field who are at the same level of expertise / sports skills / skills. “To” Have talent means to possess the ability to cope with a certain physiological or psychological field, mainly in a much easier way than the majority of the population. Talents usually come from superior genetic heritage, but can only be utilized through hard work and dedication. Those who are able to exploit talent usually become highly recognized in their fields of expertise. “
There are currently two polar opposing opinions, one that talenat is the primary set for achieving top results, and secondly that discipline and work (Ericsson theory “10,000 hours”) are the most important elements for achieving top results, and that the talent plays a minimal, practically nonexistent role.
The difference in age has a major impact on performance in younger ages
At my first swimming competition at age 6, after only a few months of training, I won 25 meters in crawl (freestyle) and 25 meters in back, and I think that I was almost half a pool in front of my peers. Given that it was a very short time interval of training before the competition, does my superiority in these two races against other children mean that I was more talented than them? The answer requires certain facts and external factors. First, is the term “training” counting only those few months of swimming, the second is whether the difference in age has an impact. From the time I got to my feet I was a very active child, I practiced various sports and games on a daily basis, and since I lived in the village, I certainly had better conditions (probably more desire and motive) to be more active than most city children with whom I went swimming. So surely in comparison to me and a child who was not active before the start of swimming training must take into account the initial physical preparedness. Although it was about other types of activity, I probably had more aerobic ability and muscular muscularity, because I was very active for most of the day.
Another very important factor is the age that is crucial for children from 4 to 14 years of age. I was born in January, so if the competition was on my 6th birthday, someone born in November was then 5 years and 2 months old. The difference between that child and me was 10 months, that is, the entire 14%. If an athlete is 20, 14% of the difference will be 2 years and 9 months. Plus, during this period of 6 years of age, 10 months represents a huge difference due to the physiological changes that are noticeable in children at almost a monthly level.
In younger categories in sports there is a surprisingly large difference in performance between children born in different quarters of the year. With graphics it is noticeable that the percentage of children born in the first 3 months is higher than in all other 9 months, and 7 times higher than the last three months of the year.
This is one of the important facts that many make a big mistake in the selection of talents in younger categories, not taking into account the “small” difference in years. And the fact is that sports competitions in younger categories are maintained by age, which is viewed in the usual period from January to December. A representative example is Barcelona football school where the number of children born in January 46, in July 9, and in December 1. The likelihood that a child in a football school team will be born in December is less than 0.5%.
The greatest reason for the success of children born in the first months of the year in younger categories is attributed to simply a progressive development that happens at a high speed. Children born in January are higher than children born in December, and they are faster, especially in the period up to the age of 13. The following two graphic illustrate the noticeable differences in the height of children aged 13 to 15 years and their speed at 60 meters of running.
At 13, the average height of children born in the first three months is about 173 cm, and the average of children born at the end of the year 164 cm. A difference of 9 cm. With 15 years the difference is reduced and it is from 2 to 3 centimeters. The difference in the sprint time of 60 meters of 13-year-olds is also clearly visible between those born in the first part of the year and those born in the second part of the year. By the age of 15, the difference becomes drastically smaller, and therefore, the age of 15 years can be taken as the correct reference for measuring various psychophysical abilities where there is no error due to age difference.
Relevance of results in younger categories for senior success
The facts above must be taken into account when a successful child in a particular sport and a less successful child are differentiated. Because if a child is slower, less powerful or less resistant than another child when they are both 11 years old, this is not a valid sign that it will be when they are 18 years old or 23 years old. Because apart from the potential difference in age, there are many genetic factors that affect the rate of aging, that is, the period when the child enters the period of puberty and the period of adolescence. Some children tend to reach a very high percentage of maximum ability when it comes to power and speed, while they develop at a slower rate of development. Although this topic is related to LTAD (long-term athlete development), it must not be forgotten that the performance of the category of pioneers, cadets and juniors is usually “marked” as talented or non-talented, and that usually a bad selection excludes those who are late, when a large number of potentially gifted do not fulfill their potential because they do not stay in the sport.
The graphic shows the data that show that children who have been trained from early days till the age of 15 in the age of 15 continue to train less, that is, they stop seriously to practice sports (on average, certainly not working about the “rule”). And that professional athletes did an average of less than 15 years of training. Many factors influence this fact, so the conclusion is that early specialization and a large volume of training are exceptions, not norms. And the high volume of high volume in younger categories is the risk of injuries.
Lets look at my swim case. Due to the success at the national level in younger categories when I won at the National Championships and a maximum of 6 gold medals, I was certainly characterized as a swimmer with a great potential for success in the future. But this was not the case, although for someone looking from the stands it was very logical. What was hard to see by looking at the National Youth Championships for 12 years was that I probably trained more and more intensively than other swimmers of my age, that I was stronger and more durable, and that too much emphasis was placed on achieving results in those early epochs, and that LTAD, or my development in the long run, has started. I had 6-7 different trainers through my swimming career by the age of 15 when I started with the triathlon, and most (honoring the exception of a few trainers) in my current rating worked in a pretty bad way when it comes to focusing on the senior score. We trained in “Russian school”, a lot of kilometers, a lot of intensity, and very little focus on the good technique that is necessary for the results in senior categories, and without the focus on the elongation and elasticity of the upper extremities that are crucial for the economy of swimming. My swimming was reduced to exploiting the strength that I had at that time. Certainly after 12 years my progression has decreased and I stopped progressing because I reached peak in strength, and the technique was then very difficult to repair. I was extremely unbreakable, and therefore ineffective in water. Of all swimmers and swimmers from my group and club, no one is in competitive swim today, although most have dominated and had many national records, including myself, in various categories, or most of us were “talented.” The best results from all of us are very early scaled, and all we have left are hundreds of medals from various competitions in younger categories that are completely irrelevant to professional sports. Most of them stay social and social factors influenced someone to stop earlier, but whoever tried to break into senior categories did not succeed. Therefore, in comparing or determining talent, many other factors must be taken, and for a top score, a long-term plan is needed.
At the school district championship in the 50th breaststroke, 2003 or 2004, the first place came to me, and the second swimmer who was my age and whom I met on that day. He was taller, slim, and weaker muscularly, although he was training a water polo. We were separated by hundreds of seconds (we finished race in 35 seconds). Only 2 or 3 years later, at the I World Junior Swimming Championships in Rio de Janeiro, this swimmer competed precisely at the 50m breaststroke. He won the silver medal with a score of 29.05 seconds. Sounds incredible? Not because his swimming training was practically a game until he devoted himself fully to swimming. Of course, it’s about Szilágyi Csaba.
When the school championship at 50m breaststroke is taken as a reference, Csaba is at the starting point, while I was at the endpoints of the training period and the used potential (the breaststroke was not my discipline, but it does not change the essence). The point is that he is constantly progressing from that point and there is plenty of room for improvement when he looks at the physical aspect, the technical aspect, and probably also psychologically because he was motivated after being saved from a serious sport by then. Ivan Lenđer, who is next to Csaba practically the only one who remained active, ie. who succeeded in the senior of our generation at the international level, is the only one who has been very successful since the very beginning, and he came to the senior. But it must be include that Ivan’s technique for butterfly has always been very effective and that it has helped him to shift his boundaries year after year. We should remember graphics in which 53% of children in sports teams were born in the first quarter, and then look at graphic data showing the percentage of births per quarter in the senior category; drastically different results.
Gimbel (1976) supports perspectives and genetics and work and concludes that the talent should be analyzed from three perspectives:
- Physiological and morphological variables
- Adaptation to training
Talenat is divided into internal factors – genetics, and external factors – the environment. According to Gimbel, genetic factors are essential in the development of top results, but perfromance is reduced if the environmental conditions are not ideal. When it comes to talent identification, he described “false positives” – individuals who were identified as talents, but never reached the predicted potential. The three explanations for this phenomenon are:
- Tests for performance prediction are not valid enough, reliable, and objective
- It is impossible to predict precisely the performance of these tests due to biological compatibility among children
- The contribution of physiological variables is neglected in predictive models (those that predict performance)
The graph shows the importance of the environment, the relation to the size of the place of living, the proper and undisturbed sport activities. Smaller cities and larger cities, from 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants, are ideal for the development of athletes and their talent. In conclusion of the study (Cote J, Macdonald D, Baker J, Abernethy B, 2006), it is stated: “The quantity of practicing sports in smaller cities can be a factor because smaller towns are safer, better access to open spaces, and less resources for children’s leisure . Smaller towns represent greater opportunities for achieving better results due to less competence, which in youth can increase motivation for work … The study showed that the place factor is much more important than the relative age factor. ” Similar parallels can be made on our premises, and observing the places of birth and training of top Serbian athletes, the impression is that most of the smaller cities.