Why early ‘talent’ selection is pointless exercise?

Most of us had experienced the interview process. Are you familiar with the question: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years time? What your answer would be? Well, my answer is always the same: I simply don’t know! My focus is at present as I can’t predict my future. I don’t know what will be tomorrow let alone in 10 years time. This is so relevant to early talent selection which is pointless exercise and here is why?

Scouting process in football as well as other sports start as early as kids turn 5 years of age! In some extreme cases even younger! Since the kid’s barley learn how to walk, most geniuses already predicated their future. Wow, this or that kid has amazing talent to play football. Then the entire process moves very quickly. Firstly, selling the idea to parents. They usually buy in very easy without asking to many, unnecessary questions. They see this as an opportunity as well as great carrier and lifestyle for their child already, despite the fact, this child is still very, very young. Nobody can really predict what is he/she going to be in future. If they say they can, simply they lying! Can this madness be stopped, and if so how? Is no an easy answer. We leaving in the “talent arms race” world where nobody really understand what talent looks like in early years, but most if not everybody telling us: “I found next Messi”-he is just turn seven! Question is how on earth do you know that? Well I guess you must be a genius, aren’t you? The clubs willing to employ these geniuses, who wouldn’t, they can predict the future!? The show must go on! The scout found next soccer star, then club quickly sign him on, parents are over the moon, everybody happy, apart that this future star is only let’s say 9! That is where early selection does not make any sense. Is simply false and here are simply arguments why?

1. “The statistics are really sobering.
Out of all the boys who enter an academy at the age of 9, less than half of 1% make it. Or a make a living from the game either.

The most damning statistic of all is only 180 of the 1.5 million players who are playing organised youth football in England at any one time will make it as a Premier League pro.

That’s a success rate of 0.012%.
Pretty much the sort of chances of you being hit by a meteorite on your way home.” (Source: No Hunger in Paradise by Michael Calvin)

2. Talent is false and unhealthy label for very young kids
Most children have to carry on unrealistic expectations creates by adults (mostly parents but also coaches). Parents already seen their child as future success story, that will change not only their son’s life’s but also theirs. The ‘talent ‘avalanche starts to slide. Parents, family, peers, coaches start seeing the poor 9 years old child as a performer or footballer already as opposed to be seen as person or better a child. By doing this child lost completely the sense of self-worth. Lose his identity as a child. The only identity he does have is talented footballer. What is the danger? Well, think what happen if that child is released from academy and the only identity he does have or know is talented footballer? The problem just begins? Worth to think about it!

3. Child learn to be a learner
Children must experience proper childhood. They need to experimenting and experience different sports as opposed to specialised too early in one namely football. Here is come to another myth of 10.000 hours, that most parents buy into it. Well my daughter learns how to swim in far less than that! Is that means she is less or more talented? The child will have far better chance to be successful if he/she has rich learning experience in different environments, when adaptation, commitment, resilience, be out your comfort zone learning is the key factors. Where creativity is value as opposed to be restricted in very structure adult lead environments.

4. Selected small numbers means we all losing!
First of all, sport in general is not about that. By doing so, we claim to be geniuses (as mentioned before) as we basically saying these kids are selected as they have more talent that others or worst some saying they will make it to be a pro!? Really? What is the solution you may asked then? Well , please click at this link and see how Erik Braut Halland was allowed to be a child without any so called “youth elite early environments” here: https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11945/11824511/erling-braut-haaland-the-making-of-a-teenage-goal-machine
There were 40 kids training together for 10 years period time as opposed to early talent specialization and selection process in most professional clubs. They’ve simply not rejected anybody, not released early. Why? You can’t predict what these kids can be in future so is best to retain them!

5. We create selfish egos, as opposed to human beings understanding society around them!
We create high adult structure systems that affect children and have massive influence on their personalities and future lives. Therefore, we do need to be very careful not to focus only on performance and winning but also bring humanistic perspective. Although competition is good for development, in very young age is create a culture of selfishness, to often obsessed with competitiveness and winning rather than learning. In moment we let kids to believe they are special, is to late and damage in their psychological habits will be very difficult to turn around!

6. He is a good player and he is 10 years old!
Is funny really, because what is that mean- a good player at age of 10? What is that looks like? Most geniuses think, that despite his 10 now he also will be very good at age of 20? Well, I guess we missing a big point here, aren’t we? Ten years between now and then, anything can happen. Again, we simply don’t know! What we can do instead then? Well rather that early specialization and selection, let them experience diverse range od sport and other things as children should do. Rather than treat them as performers at very early age, why not show humanistic approach. Seek to understand them as humans, kids, their emotions and how they learn. We then develop good human being and citizens that our world and future generations need it. We also have far better chance to keep them in the game, fall in love in the game and yes became footballers, referees, coaches, volunteers that game will always need and required.

7. Human development is non-linear, let alone child!
Everyone develops at different rates and learn differently. Human being is unique, have enormous capacity to adapt and create, in particular children. Therefore, promoting an early talent selection, we may place unique, very young human beings into linear environment. That means very little understanding of human development its complexity and entire learning process. In other words, young kids become recipients in learning process rather than fully participating in it.

Let me conclude with this quote: “the biggest enemy of progress is an environment that allows any kid (or their parent) to define themselves as a “high performer”-that just status anxiety masquerading as development”-Al Smith