Coaching Environment

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While the story of the “god given talent” or “natural ability” may prove engaging and romantic, the role of environment plays a vital part in the development of talent.  It’s important to remember that young sportsmen and women don’t live in a vacuum, they exist in a complex socio-cultural environment that influences them.

Whether it’s in training sessions within the First Selective Environment or National Age Group squads, or the broader geographical, socio-economic or national cultures we find ourselves in, the role of environment plays a big part in the sporting (and personal) development of young people.

This page shares some popular, topical and up-to date insights on the role of environment in talent development.

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Talent Equation

It’s important to highlight developing sporting talent is a complex interaction of factors influenced by our genetics, our environment and time.  ‘The Talent Equation’ helps to highlight all the interacting factors, and not just the athlete’s physical ability to jump, run or throw, that contribute to developing sporting talent.  The key parts to ‘The Talent Equation’ are abilities, internal factors, external factors and time.

Our abilities are what we are born with.  We can’t really change these and they may mean we are more suited to some sports than others, but this should not stop us trying or enjoying sports.  Internal factors are the feelings, thoughts and motivations about what we do and these are really important in our ability to develop (you’ll find more about this on our mental skills page).  Our abilities and internal factors combine to set the stage for talent development, however it is the external factors in our environment that have a big impact on the journey.

External factors such as coaches, teachers, parents and friends, the school we go to or the clubs we join, access to facilities and our experiences within the talent pathway all influence the opportunity we have to make the most of our ability and internal factors.  Access to certain sports or multiple sports, our socio-economic circumstances, where we live, and whether we grow up in the countryside, small towns or big cities all contribute significantly to our ability to develop particular sporting talent.  Certain geographical areas seem to be hotbeds for sporting success, for example, 11% of Team GB at Rio 2016 were born in the North West of the United Kingdom.  Equally certain geographical areas have a strong cultural affinity for a particular sport, for example, Northern England and Rugby League.  Therefore, the matter of luck or lucky collisions, for example, growing up in a particular place or bumping into a sport or coach by accident can have far reaching influences on the development of our sporting talent.

Finally, talent development is a journey that takes place over a long time.  As things change and people grow, sporting prowess may fluctuate and athletes find they are better suited to or more interested in a different sport.  However, if we are interested and committed over time, the chance of talent developing is much greater, and coaches must consider this important aspect of an athlete’s development.  Watch the video below for a more detailed look at the Talent Development Equation.

Watch our Coaching Bootroom below and listen to Toni Minichiello, coach of Olympic Gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill, and 2012 UK Coach of the Year talk about his development journey as a coach, his perspective on talent and talent development.  Try to spot the different influences of the talent equation in both his development and his stories of Jess’s development.

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Talent Development Environment (TDE)

Considering that talent emerges from an interaction of a number of complex factors, of which environment is one of them, as a coach, what can you do to create and sustain effective environments for developing talent?

Research undertaken by Russell Martindale, Dave Collins and Jim Daubney at the University of Edinburgh found a number of consistent and common principles of environments that effectively develop talent. They revealed that effective talent development environments or TDEs have (1) long term aims and methods, (2) coherence in messages and support, (3) a focus upon appropriate development NOT early selection, (4) individualised and ongoing development and (5) integrated, holistic and systematic development.  So what’s the message here for a coach? Watch our Talent in 5 video below to find out more about TDEs.

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A Coach's Viewpoint

Now you’ve heard some of the theory, what do the coaches say? Watch our Coaching Bootroom video below to listen to Danny Kerry, Head Coach of the 2016 Rio Olympics Gold Medal winning GB Women’s Hockey team in Rio and 2015 High Performance Coach of the Year share his experience and thoughts about the role of environment in developing talent and improving performance. 

Be sure to listen out for his discussion about how “culture [or environment] precedes performance”, the importance of a common purpose and how through the environment he facilitated, Danny managed to help players bring their team culture to life.

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