Snakes and ladders: a critical examination of blocks in the talent pathway
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date30/11/2021
Taylor, James Andrew
There has been increasing interest in the nature of challenge variables in talent development (TD). Along with the attendant recognition that individual TD trajectories are typically non linear in nature, there is also widespread acceptance that challenge plays a critical role in the development of exceptional talent. Accordingly, this thesis aimed to understand what the risk factors in TD are (the snakes) and what understand factors support the athlete to progress (the ladders). To develop the knowledge base in this area, I first sought to investigate the coach perspective in understanding what factors influenced those with high potential who fell away and the barriers provided by organisations to effective TD practice. Then, from the athlete point of view, I investigated the nature of the challenges faced and what factors helped to navigate these challenges. Given my role as a coach and coach developer, I felt it critical that the intention for investigation was to generate ‘real world’ and applicable knowledge for the practitioner. Consequently, investigations were conducted under the pragmatic paradigm which seeks to prioritise questions and methods that are practically meaningful, rather than generalisable truth or subjective construction. Results indicate the following: i) performers without a well-developed set of psychological skills are at risk of failing to realise their potential and dropping out of talent development pathways; ii) the prevailing socio-political features of organisations were identified as barriers to effective practice and increase the risk of athletes having an inappropriate dose of challenge; iii) athletes benefitted from emotionally laden feedback in navigating the challenges that they faced; iv) athletes were influenced by a large number of people offering feedback and their trajectories impacted by incoherence; v) a critical role of Talent Development Environments is shaping a Shared Mental Model of the intended athlete experience amongst various stakeholders.The findings suggest that challenges causing emotional disruption for the individual performer are not simply events to be coped with but rather should be capitalised upon. As such, the results add to the understanding of the skills-based development approach and additionally provide key guidance for the applied practitioner seeking to support performers to facilitate their development. Additionally, given the nature of the TD milieu, with the number of inputs that impact on the athlete, if TD coaches are to offer the athlete a truly ‘athlete centred’ experience, they need to consider the totality of the athlete’s experience, or their wider curriculum. Overall, the thesis provides a unique and in-depth study of the interaction between psychobehavioural factors, challenge variables and external support to the performer in the development of talent. Importantly, it offers critical implications for practitioners seeking to optimise the experience of performers moving through talent pathway and maximise learning from both the highs and lows of the journey.