Converting in the high performance pathway: An initial study of three year conversions


One of the issues in talent development concerns the reliability of "talent identification" at young ages in terms of future success (conversion) as a national team athlete. In Canadian sport, the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model (Balyi & Hamilton, 2004) has provided guidance concerning transition stages for youth athletes. Over the past ten years, the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific has been compiling lists of athletes who have been "targeted" (i.e., identified as future National team potential). Data from PSOs (Provincial Sport Organizations) were collected across three athlete levels (Provincial Development Levels 1 and 2 and Canadian Development) from 2008-2013. Data was analyzed over a three-year window to determine successful conversion to the next level within this time band. Over 7000 athletes had been targeted across 46 sports (M years targeted = 2.43 yr). Conversion rates ranged between 20-27%, with more successful conversions at younger ages (vs 18 yrs). Although these data only provide information relating to rate (and indirectly, probability) of conversion, they provide a starting point to look at factors which led to successful conversion (such as the environments, competition success, other markers of athlete ability, age of identification) and to determine whether targeted pathways are most conducive to success. They also warrant discussion about the length of time that athletes can develop under high quality practice conditions and whether athletes are afforded a sufficient amount of quality practice in order to achieve expertise in their given sport.