Despite a large body of multidisciplinary research and several models, successful athlete development remains fraught with inefficiencies, and negative outcomes. The aim of this symposium is to highlight new approaches, as well as critical perspectives, on how to manage athlete development. The first two presentations discuss findings from a unique high performance student-athlete development program, the Academy for Student Athlete Development (ASAD). Knibbe et al describe the sport-school model of ASAD, and how qualitative data have been used to adapt the program over the first few years of its existence. Mosher and colleagues present quantitative data describing the impact of the ASAD on athlete-level education, social and athletic outcomes using pre and post-test data. The third and fourth presentations focus on the challenges of identifying and developing talent in sport. Using data from 46 targeted sports across three developmental levels in British Columbia, Hill et al quantify the probability of conversion across levels of sport for talented athletes, and critically discusses the utility of targeted pathways, and current notions of when athletes should be targeted for talent pathways. Schorer eschews predominant multivariate 'formula' approaches to talent identification in favour of a bounded rationality approach using simple heuristics, based on decision-making research. The symposium appropriately concludes with results of a systematic review from Lemez on end of athletic career transitions, which emphasizes the role of psychosocial and environmental factors that influence successful transitions. All presentations stress the need to challenge conventional approaches, for rigorous and critical research, to optimize athlete development.