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Harmful Effects of Separating Youth Based on Current Talent

Harmful Effects of Separating Youth Based on Current Talent

     The common practice in youth sports of separating players based on ability has been the source of some debate. Players who are selected to play on the advanced team, the A team, are the ones that will get better coaching and more opportunities to advance their skills than the players who are on the B & C teams. Each subsequent year, those players will continue to develop at a faster rate. This disparity gets magnified the earlier a program separates the players. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell points out that most of these “advanced” players are merely the kids who were born between Jan-April and thus are a few months older than the kids being sent to the B or C teams. Those few months of extra development and growth allow the early birthday players to be that much more dominant than the others. Thus they get picked to be on the A team and will have a much faster track to elite status. Those few months have a greater impact on a 6 year old than a 12 year old. So a 6 year old with an August birthday is predisposed to having a lesser chance of ever making elite status because they are not as physically developed when selection time comes. They are more likely to get inferior coaching, less program support and thus every year be weaker than the early birthday players.


     If we look at the selection process that takes place, we see that these youth coaches are focused on choosing players that have the Current Talent; talent that will help these coaches in the short term win a championship. But are these coaches selecting the players who will have the best talent in 5-6 years? According to an article by John O’Sullivan coaches should be selecting players based on Talent Identification instead of Talent Selection. Coaches should look at the factors of motivation, coachability and toughness instead of current skill level. O’Sullivan suggests coaches should train larger numbers of players and develop a deeper pool. By taking this long term approach, those players who may lack initial talent will be given the opportunity to develop and contribute in later years. For additional research and other examples of why Talent Selection is a poor way to separate teams, read the full article here.


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