This weekend I will be attending the RFU Talent Symposium, held at the Royal Society in London. This promises to be a world-class conference, with the ability to interact with some of the leading experts in the field. I will be tweeting updates during friday, saturday & sunday so keep an eye out on twitter!
"to consolidate, solidify, and broadly disseminate strong, evidence-based recommendations for provider practice in the field of rugby union talent identification, development and selection."
"Talent" precedes several other words in the language of sport development, yet there is no common understanding of the terms so produced. This presents an opportunity for rugby union to generate its own definitions, since this lack of consensus hinders policy development and practice:"We have yet to determine an exact science in discovering or developing athletic talent. This may be caused partly by disagreements about the definition of athletic talent" (Identifying and Developing Athletic Talent - Gray & Plucker, 2010).
Rugby union is a late-maturation sport; collaboration amongst professional clubs and the player development environments
of schools, colleges, universities, clubs and age-grade representative teams is essential, to ensure players have the best chance of developing to their full potential and finding the level of senior competitive play that matches their abilities. Achieving excellence in rugby union is dependent upon body type, physiology, motor skill learning and game intelligence, plus determined, intelligent practice. To perform consistently at the highest level further requires a mental resilience, colloquially described as the ability to "cope".
The RFU's position
The Professional Game Board established an ad hoc talent identification group in 2011 which defined " talent" as follows: • "a player with the potential to maintain a professional playing career in the premiership • a player with the potential to be a starting player in the senior England team for at least a season." The RFU is sponsoring a PhD level study into the player characteristics that affect selection for the senior England XV
A consensus statement
The consensus statement to emerge from this symposium will incorporate research evidence and best practice. Areas of focus will include (but not be limited to):
• Establishing a definition of 'talent' and other key terminology, drawing on the work already underway via the PGB
• Key discriminators of talent in team sports and rugby union in particular - how they can be detected
• Skill acquisition and development of game intelligence
• Character and personality
• Maturation and physical development in rugby union with particular reference to the demands of the different positions
• The respective influences of nature and nurture and the talent attributes that can be influenced
• Knowledge gaps in the identification and development of talent that might be addressed via longitudinal studies.