Talent or physical precocity; examination of junior, senior and precocious para-athletes' developmental trajectories and training histories


Gagné (1985) postulated talent is result of individual's ability to optimize on personal aptitudes by developing domain-specific skills through training. Current literature suggests coaches perceive physical precocity as talent, which may increase the probability of precocious athletes advancing in their sporting career and foster more opportunities for athletes' developmental growth (Helsen, Hodges, Van Winckel, & Starkes, 2000). While research in this area has been promising, the topics of 'talent' and 'precocity' require more attention, particularly in parasport. This project examined both talent and precocity by assessing developmental trajectories and training histories of junior, senior and precocious para-athletes (i.e., para-athletes competing at the senior level but still at junior ages). Para-athletes completed a modified Developmental History of Athletes Questionnaire at the Wheelchair Basketball Canada National Academy. There were no differences between the two groups (junior and precocious para-athletes) regarding the onset of developmental milestones (e.g., age started deliberate practice, age made junior national debut). In addition, similar to senior para-athletes, precocious para-athletes devoted significantly more hours to deliberate practice than junior para-athletes, t(26) = -2.28, p < .05, d = 0.85. While there was no difference in the initial hours of deliberate practice, contrasting results from the precocious para-athletes' current training hours may reflect the opportunity to train with the senior para-athletes. While study findings contribute to limited research regarding 'talent' and 'precocity' in parasport, further examination is required to extend our knowledge of the association between the two topics.

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank Mike Frogley and the rest of the coaches and staff at The National Academy for their assistance with data collection.