Talent Identification/Talent Selection

Noveson

Hall of Fame
Don't think it's news to anyone that the performance of a 14 year old, possibly pre pubescent boy, is not indicative of how well he will do in the future.
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
Seriously, though... how does this apply to the fact that you rarely, if ever in today's sport, find a Top professional tennis player who wasn't having national or international success by 14 years old? I can't think of any.
 

Noveson

Hall of Fame
Seriously, though... how does this apply to the fact that you rarely, if ever in today's sport, find a Top professional tennis player who wasn't having national or international success by 14 years old? I can't think of any.
Tennis is less like that than most sports because you can play at just about any size. Most sports lean way more heavily on what you're body ends up being like post-puberty.
 

Aretium

Hall of Fame
Few sports compare to tennis in this regard. You absolutely must be a fantastic player and athlete by the age of 15.
 

10isMaestro

Semi-Pro
Do not use youth performance to predict future performance...
Forecasts, even very technically sound ones, are notoriously surrounded at once both by imprecision and uncertainty. However unfortunate this happens to be, all we have to predict the future is but the present and the past. I'd be extremely surprised if past values of a variable were systematically left out of a forecast model because others perform better as predictors. I am thus afraid that we have no other choice, but to very often expect history to repeat itself.

Even in finance that is true. In lots of cases, the efficient market hypothesis seem to hold and your best forecast is just the expected value -- and the best estimator of that theoretical construction is the historical average.

Now, if you want some odd instances, consider Dominik Hasek (retired hockey goalkeeper). He was drafted 199th in the early 80s. In this position, people do not even expect to see you play professional hockey at all -- or maybe a few matches. Played for about 20 years (which is a long career) and is now in the Hall of Fame. One of the best of all times and nobody saw it comming. In retrospect, that was a definite top five pick. For those of you who do not know him, just watch him on youtube and compare with a current goalkeeper. The man kept the puck out of the net by doing all sorts of odd, weird and surprising movements -- jumping, lounging, kicking... I've never seen such an unstructured person perform so well in front of a net. It's kind of like watching McEnroe. You don't advise anyone to do like him, but man did he make it work!
 
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Postpre

Rookie
You'd see later bloomers thriving more in tennis if the overall system/structure accommodated such cases. Other than demonstrating some visible talent, there's no presumed level that a kid must be at by 12 or 14, or else they have no shot at making college/pro's. Sadly, it's the earlier bloomers with money that end up getting all the best opportunities. Who knows how many talented young kids have been overlooked (because they weren't quite there yet), and have gone on to pursue other sports.
 
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WildVolley

Legend
In 2008 swimmer Adam Peaty was ranked 88th in the Midlands region u14's (for those outside of the UK, the Midlands region comprises around 7 counties). 8 years on he smashes the world record twice and wins an Olympic Gold. Do not use youth performance to predict future performance...
A single data point isn't enough to establish your claim.

Those shelling out money to develop young athletes are still going to use youth performance to predict future performance if they can find a statistical relationship. In other words, is Adam Peaty an outlier?

I will agree with you that getting a lot of children participating and then seeing who wins in the end is going to be the best method of developing champions. I've known some excellent athletes who really suffered in terms of coordination and strength when they were growing rapidly during their mid-teens.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
I have to agree with BMC, its rare that a top player was not also showing great talent and having great success by age 14. If a junior has been playing tennis since age 8, and is not successful by age 14, I also can not think of any examples of such a kid emerging as a top pro.

The issue is many others also have great success at 14 and never make it big. So the better answer is that the great players will come from a pool of successful players at age 14, we just don't now which ones will emerge from that pool.
I agree, and this is true for all sports. Not enough information at 14. Kids are still growing, still maturing mentally, and some are not yet aware of what they are capable of.
 

snvplayer

Hall of Fame
In 2008 swimmer Adam Peaty was ranked 88th in the Midlands region u14's (for those outside of the UK, the Midlands region comprises around 7 counties). 8 years on he smashes the world record twice and wins an Olympic Gold. Do not use youth performance to predict future performance...
How did his career develop since 2008? Not sure what his aspiration was as a swimmer back then, but he certainly made huge improvement. Kudos to him
 

Slash007

Rookie
Seriously, though... how does this apply to the fact that you rarely, if ever in today's sport, find a Top professional tennis player who wasn't having national or international success by 14 years old? I can't think of any.
I believe he is referring to the fact that only the top 5 juniors are cared where the top 100 actually have a very good shot at being the number one.

One silly comparison is hockey in Canada, where the top pro players usually are born in the first months of the calendar year and their early success are due to the fact that they are bigger on the first years and the other players just give up.

As tennis goes, I believe serve and aggressiveness are way more important in the late teens, so at 12 you can't tell who will be the best adult, but of course any one would bet on the tops. (Why Dimitrov... You were supposed to be the best)

I was listening to an interview with Jeff Salzenstein, he was the top player under 12 and then two years later, he became no one at the 14 bracket and almost gave up basically. Reasons: because he was small for his age and had a weak serve. (Source tennis files podcast)
 
No, I think BMC said it better, the OP specifically mentioned U14, not 12s. In tennis, U14 goes up to the month before the 15th birthday. By that time the kids that eventually make it have played since age 5-8. They have started ITFs. Like BMC said, all the top pros were already top juniors by 14-15. No examples exist of a top pro being mediocre at 14 compared to others their age.

Salzenstein actually proves several points that BMC and I are saying, U12 may not be an indicator, U14 is however. He faltered in U14, was passed by all the guys who became top 10 players. Ranking 91 12 years ago is light years away from a top 10 player today. The fact that Jeff would never become a top 10 player was evident by the U14s. Tennis and swimming are 2 different things so the OPs example does not apply to tennis.

We don't know which great U14s will make it to the top, but we do know the top players will come from the pool of great U14s.
Does the nature of the funding and support needed at that stage of development (ITFs,travel etc) become a barrier to player development outside of the very top junior players?
 

kaninfaan

Rookie
Seriously, though... how does this apply to the fact that you rarely, if ever in today's sport, find a Top professional tennis player who wasn't having national or international success by 14 years old? I can't think of any.
The first batch of kids have hit puberty by then and are being funneled into "elite programs" and better trainers while the smaller kids get disillusioned and stop playing. The stat youre quoting/claiming is an effect of the biased selection.
We don't know which great U14s will make it to the top, but we do know the top players will come from the pool of great U14s
Because all the kids that were "late" into puberty have already been eliminated from contention by then.

This is a large part of the selection process/problem in all sports.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
^^^ Well said @kaninfaan - when most sports/coaches talk about Talent Identification, what they are actually doing is Talent Selection - that is selecting those that have already had more exposure to the task/are better performing at it. The issue with this is not those that are selected, but what you do with those who are not selected.
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
^^^ Well said @kaninfaan - when most sports/coaches talk about Talent Identification, what they are actually doing is Talent Selection - that is selecting those that have already had more exposure to the task/are better performing at it. The issue with this is not those that are selected, but what you do with those who are not selected.
OK, but you've thrown another variable into the mix - exposure. That changes things. Of course a kid who is in earlier and having success will be selected over one with less exposure. How does one come in at a later point and get identified over those who have been in longer? On athleticism, size, desire, etc alone? However, if you have kids that start early together, by 14-15, you can identify those who have something special.

I think "late bloomers" can happen more in some sports and less in others. Your swimming example is a good one - I've seen the same happen in track. It happens in football and basketball, but both of those are highly dependent on physical attributes. You see it rarely in baseball and golf. Again, I can't think of one example in tennis. It varies from sport to sport.
 
In 2008 swimmer Adam Peaty was ranked 88th in the Midlands region u14's (for those outside of the UK, the Midlands region comprises around 7 counties). 8 years on he smashes the world record twice and wins an Olympic Gold. Do not use youth performance to predict future performance...
One could also say do not use outliers to discard meaningful relationships. :)
 

kaninfaan

Rookie
... there are differences in skill talent and ability between kids. And you could usually see it early in their development. There may not be absolutes but to pretend they don't exist is silly.
Those "differences in skill talent and ability" is a function of the physical development of the kids where hitting puberty early is the major factor. Everyone who says, after the fact, that they could see that there was something special with ex. federer when he was a kid is making that up and fooling themselves.

Anyone interested in thinking about these things should, imho, read Duncan Watts "The Myth of Common Sense Why Everything that Seems Obvious Isnt" (or any of his papers on complexity)

By "funneled" do you mean scholarships to academies?
The mechanism is different in different places and countries (and sports) and can be anything from sponsorship interest, a little extra time with the good coaches to better resources and scholarships.

It's not an easy problem since sports is based on competition and if someone wins because he/she has entered puberty a year earlier or because he/she has got a better forehand doesnt matter as long as he/she wins.
If he/she wins, he/she is better.
You just cant tell from competition results whether that makes him/her more talented although it's accepted praxis to do so...
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
Those "differences in skill talent and ability" is a function of the physical development of the kids where hitting puberty early is the major factor. Everyone who says, after the fact, that they could see that there was something special with ex. federer when he was a kid is making that up and fooling themselves.
Not buying it. Just because a kid goes through puberty does not magically make them more talented. If you take a kid with mediocre skills and they go through puberty, sure, they may be bigger and stronger, and sometimes more coordinated (not always), but take a kid with quickness, agility, great hand-eye coordination, great court awareness, anticipation, mentally strong, desire, perseverance, etc - all of which can be identified pre-puberty, then add the growth and physical development and you have the better player. The evidence is that every top pro had success early based on talent, not physical prowess. Has nothing to do with "early puberty".
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
Exactly, that is the silliest post in this entire discussion. AT that age, early or late puberty is irrelevant. The talented kids still win at 14, even when they are a little smaller. In fact, in junior tennis, the smaller kids do BETTER in the 12s and 14s. The smaller kids are more coordinated and faster.
I agree. The one common area where the kids that win early and fall in the 14s an up when kids get bigger are the moonballers. They can have a lot of early success but don't develop the game needed for the higher levels and get left behind. But again, nothing to do with puberty and everything to do with not developing their game.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Not buying it. Just because a kid goes through puberty does not magically make them more talented. If you take a kid with mediocre skills and they go through puberty, sure, they may be bigger and stronger, and sometimes more coordinated (not always), but take a kid with quickness, agility, great hand-eye coordination, great court awareness, anticipation, mentally strong, desire, perseverance, etc - all of which can be identified pre-puberty, then add the growth and physical development and you have the better player. The evidence is that every top pro had success early based on talent, not physical prowess. Has nothing to do with "early puberty".
Okay, so what would you do with a kid who had quickness, agility, great hand-eye coordination, anticipation, mentally strong, desire, perseverance etc, but who wasn't winning?

Sadly what happens in too many sports is that those kids are not selected, or are selected less than than those who are winning currently, but may lack the characteristics above. @BMC9670 made the example of the 'moonballer' kid in tennis being successful early and then being found out as they go u the age groups - frequently those kids are selected for programmes based on their current success and not because of their potential attributes for success in the sport. This is where talent profiling comes into play and where sports need an understanding of the profile of an elite athlete in their sport - something admittedly very difficult in tennis due to the range of factors that can lead to success.

Basically what I'm saying is don't cut kids early because they aren't winning, especially if they display the "what it takes to win" characteristics for your sport. The NZ Rugby pathway is excellent at this - they recruit predominantly on character at all representative age groups.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
^^^ Certainly it happens in tennis, the LTA talent programmes select and cut kids for funding and support as early as mini tennis ages. I'm sure the USTA player development programme does similar.
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
Okay, so what would you do with a kid who had quickness, agility, great hand-eye coordination, anticipation, mentally strong, desire, perseverance etc, but who wasn't winning?

Sadly what happens in too many sports is that those kids are not selected, or are selected less than than those who are winning currently, but may lack the characteristics above. @BMC9670 made the example of the 'moonballer' kid in tennis being successful early and then being found out as they go u the age groups - frequently those kids are selected for programmes based on their current success and not because of their potential attributes for success in the sport. This is where talent profiling comes into play and where sports need an understanding of the profile of an elite athlete in their sport - something admittedly very difficult in tennis due to the range of factors that can lead to success.

Basically what I'm saying is don't cut kids early because they aren't winning, especially if they display the "what it takes to win" characteristics for your sport. The NZ Rugby pathway is excellent at this - they recruit predominantly on character at all representative age groups.
That's a bit different scenario and I couldn't agree more, but it still doesn't convince me that would-be top pros are being passed over in this scenario. All evidence is that they show something "special" early on, which leads to winning.
 

shindemac

Hall of Fame
^^^ Certainly it happens in tennis, the LTA talent programmes select and cut kids for funding and support as early as mini tennis ages. I'm sure the USTA player development programme does similar.
Yes, this is reasonable and i would expect the same. It's a pretty harsh system that doesn't allow late bloomers a chance.
 

shindemac

Hall of Fame
Sadly what happens in too many sports is that those kids are not selected, or are selected less than than those who are winning currently, but may lack the characteristics above. @BMC9670 made the example of the 'moonballer' kid in tennis being successful early and then being found out as they go u the age groups - frequently those kids are selected for programmes based on their current success and not because of their potential attributes for success in the sport. This is where talent profiling comes into play and where sports need an understanding of the profile of an elite athlete in their sport - something admittedly very difficult in tennis due to the range of factors that can lead to success.
This happens all the time in the NBA. I watch the best and talented rookies come into the Bulls, and some just flounder. While a second rounder from no where like Jimmy Butler works his tail off (check archives), and he becomes a NBA star. Some become rotation players, very few become elite, and some don't even crack the line-up.
 

kaninfaan

Rookie
This thread reminds me of an old irish proverb: "Dont try to teach a pig to sing. It will frustrate you and annoy the pig."

Anyone who thinks kids competition-results can predict whether they have or dont have "what it takes" need to read up on causality in complex systems.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
^^^
psychology
sʌɪˈkɒlədʒi/
noun
  1. 1.
    the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context.
 

BMC9670

Hall of Fame
This is taking a
In tennis yes. By age 15 every single top 10 player was already winning in juniors.
Let me fix that for you:

"In tennis yes. By age 15 every single top 200 player was already winning in juniors."

;)
 
This is taking a


Let me fix that for you:

"In tennis yes. By age 15 every single top 200 player was already winning in juniors."

;)
So why do you think this happens in tennis? I would've expected one non conforming journey in 200 players.

Damn it I promised myself that I wouldn't reply to this thread.
 
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