Athlete Development Model - Introduction Q&A - English
Please explain Triathlon's talent identification tests
Identifying specific tests is difficult and that is perhaps the key point of the introduction webinar. In this webinar we didn’t get into specific tests. More information will be available in the forthcoming webinars which discuss specific aspects. When we are talking about tests we could be talking about sport specific time trials, such as a 1k Run or 400m swim, or equally we could talk about functional movement screening, body composition, or testing for mental resilience. So the first question is what attributes do we need to test, and then for each attribute, what kind of tests woud be useful.
What are the normative initial swim bike run values for an adolescent for them to be considered to have a good potential and might be possible to reach an elite level skills?
That is not a straightforward question to answer. Several NFs have a score system mentioned during the webinar based on Swim and Run performance. For example British Triathlon publish their system online (https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/talent/talent-identification) so you can see one and enter values to see how well athletes compare.
The score to get onto a regional academy is generally 340 points on this system. A coach or NF could look at this as a starting point for analysis.
However as was talked about in the webinar (and to be fair to BTF is also mentioned in their supporting documentation they also consider other aspects).
Additionally readers should consider that this is for a big well funded NF with a lot of athletes to select from, widely accessible training facilities and support, and where the goal is winning World and Olympic medals. For different NFs the best approach may be different depending upon the context in which they operate.
Which is the role of the motivation in the process? Young athletes could be often be driven also by external (group, parents, coach) but when you step up, how you discover if an athlete has “real motivation?” Can be motivation be trained, developed, switched?
Motivation is a key aspect for any athlete. Many people consider that it is internal (or intrinsic) motivation that is key. The athlete who trains and works hard for their own joy is more likely to overcome problems and issues and stick with th sport when difficult times come than those who are doing it because their parents encourage them, or they think they are expected to do it to please others. Motivation is a big topic in its own right. One opinion is that a key aspect for coaches is to inspire athletes so that they have that motivation themselves. If you having to encourage athletes to do the training this may not be a good sign, or be a sign that they are over training anyway.
From this perspective, could be a worst scenario to assume that one is a talent, and then he’s not, or the opposite? From a NF point of view?
Young athletes are inconsistent over a period of years, as we discussed in the webinar they may be at a different stage of physical maturity and at some stages performance may decrease or at least plateau. Given appropriate support they will likely improve again and reach a higher level, so deciding when an athlete is no longer good enough has to be handled with care.
Literature shows several examples of the downsides of “gifted kids” (mental health, criminality, addiction…)
Children who perform well at younger ages can actually be disadvantaged in a way. Often there can be an expectation that they will always be good,and this can create an unnecessary pressure on the individual. Another issue can be that athletes who continually do well through development, never learn to cope with disappointment or set backs. So that when eventually problems occur (which may be that they stop winning) they can have a tendency to drop out of the sport, or have other mental health issues. In this way a coach may seek to provide athletes with problems to overcome throughout their development, maybe it is just racing against older children if they are an early physical developer, so that they no longer win and have to cope with disappointment for example.
How many races is optimal for young ages through the year?
This is very individual and will vary with different athletes and also age.
The frequency of racing depends on the age of the athlete and the training/racing age of the athlete. Racing triathlon events too often can reduce an athletes ability to perform because recovery may be difficult for a younger body. The skills of racing can be learnt in the skills of track racing and cross country racing. The types of distances could be middle distance events (such as 800m, 1500m and 3000m), the shorter ones for junior athletes (800m and 1500m) possibly including 400m sprint for them as well. This provides athletes with the stresses of racing, thinking under stress, requires fast running while not tiring the athlete as much as a triathlon would.
This can be also done on the bike and swim, although I prefer a road race to a criterium for younger athletes.
A subjective opinion shared by an experienced coach in the past was that many athletes need 6-10 races to reach a race peak. So one approach is to ensure that the key race for a year is in the middle of the 6-10 range. Races take a lot from athletes and therefore should be used somewhat sparingly, however they are the fun part of the sport form many, and some athletes always need a dose of racing. Key things to consider are to ensure that the athletes are not burned out or overtrained. Another key aspect to consider is working and what is right for each individual, some will need more, others less. So over time keep records of what was done, what worked and what didn’t. But also consider that this will change somewhat as the athlete develops.
Triathlon racing for developing athletes should be kept to 6-8 at the most over a season.
What is your recomandations for a developing NF from Europe since the field is very competitive? do you have a pathway or guide?
The sport overall becomes more competitive over time and it is difficult to suggest one pathway for a NF. The WT guide produced and the webinars over the following weeks will cover a range of topics that it would be highly beneficial to review. Every context will be different and each NF would need what would work for them in their context and why. A lot will come with trial and error as with any development. The aim of this project is to summarise the key points, get NFs and coaches to address the critical questions and shortcut a path for developing NFs to follow. It will still need to be developed for an individual federation, much in the same way that a specific training program would need to be tailored and adapted for an individual athlete. So in summary this isn’t a copy and paste solution, there will still be plenty of thinking and planning required by NFs and coaches to find the best solution.