Embracing the challenges: Talent development of elite New Zealand athletes

Scott Pierce, Michigan State University, USA

Theme: Elite performance

Program ID: LEC-03B

Presentation: October 2, 2013 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Room: Oak Alley


Athletes can benefit from, or even need, challenging experiences to help them progress through the elite level of athletic development (Collins & MacNamara, 2012). The purpose of this study was to understand the performance factors necessary for talent development in New Zealand athletes and the role of challenges along the developmental pathway. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with twenty current or former elite athletes, six coaches of the athletes, and nine parents of the athletes. Hierarchical content analysis identified that all of the athletes experienced challenges in attempting to reach the elite level of their sport, such as selection/non-selection, financial obstacles, life events, and changing support systems. Additionally, challenges were identified while trying to maintain their elite level of performance, such as dealing with pressure, and confidence and motivation issues. The way the athlete responded to the challenge was seen as being of significance with a range of psychological coping skills being employed to deal with challenge. Additionally, the importance of experiential learning of psychological skills from the developmental challenges was identified as being particularly vital for continued athletic success. Specific examples of how some athletes were able to cope with specific challenges will be provided, as well as examples of athletes who struggled to deal with such challenges. The need to prepare and be prepared for challenges at each stage of athletic talent development will be outlined to benefit the athlete’s sporting and life-long personal well-being, along with implications for coaches and consultants working with athletes through challenges.

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