2012 Tops Talent Program | Psychology & Cognitive Science | Test (Assessment)

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2012 tops talent
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  1  TALENT OPPORTUNITY PROGRAM   USA Gymnastics – Women TOPS TESTING MANUAL   There are manyconditionsnecessary for success in modernsport. One of these is aninherent talent or aptitude. Earlyidentification of talent is one of the mostimportant con-cerns incontemporarysport (Bompa,1990; Bompa,1985; Harre,1982). The basic premiseunderlying TalentOpportunity Pro-grams is that thedevelopment of the youthful athlete can be best served if the athlete trains in a sport of discipline for which he/she is best suited (Harre, 1982). Two corollaries to this premise are: (a) if an athlete starts at ahigher level of ability or performance thenhe/she ultimately ends up at a higher level of  performance, and (b) if you start with agreater aptitude for a particular activity, thenthe athlete will progress faster than anathlete with a lower initial aptitude.Unfortunately, these premises have not beenconclusively proven, and may succumb towide individual variability. However, onecan pragmatically assume that because of the requirement of five or more years of training to reach a level of proficiency in asport (Bompa, 1990), and a rather narrowwindow of age that the athlete can expect peak performance (Bompa, 1990; Hadjiev,1989; Sands & Henschen, 1992), it isimportant that athletic talent is discovered early, and monitored continuously to helpthe athlete reach high levels of performance(Bompa, 1990).Talent identification is not a new idea, butvery little has been done in the West toimplement programs on a consistent basis(Bompa, 1990; Bompa, 1985). The West haslargely relied on “natural selection” rather than scientific selection (Bompa, 1990;Bompa, 1985). It has been reported thatduring the late 1960s and early 1970s mostEastern European countries established specific methods for identifying gifted athletes (Bompa, 1990; Gilbert, 1980;Jerome, 1980). The competition results weredramatic (Harre, 1982). It was reported that80% of the Bulgarian medallists wereselected by a scientific identification process(Bompa, 1990). Some Characteristicsrelevant to athletic performance are heritableand could logically be selected early in thelife of the athlete (Londeree, 1990).The detection and selection of talented youths for sport participation has severalassumed advantages for both the sport and the athlete (Bompa, 1990):1. The time required to reach a high performance by selecting initially gifted individuals is reduced.2. The amount of work required to elevatean athlete to high-level performance isreduced.3. The effectiveness of the coach’s time isenhanced by training primarily theseathletes of superior ability.4. The number of athletes competing at thehigher levels of the sport is increased.  2 5. The national team will have morehomogeneous characteristics.6. There can be an increase in the athlete’sself confidence because the athleteknows that he/she is among an elitegroup of athletes.7. The application of the sports sciences totraining programs can be enhanced indirectly by involving sport scientistsin the selection process.8. The heritability of some sport qualitiesis high, and selecting those qualities, inadvance, that are less amenable totraining may ultimately enhance performance.9. The athlete can be channeled to a sportwhere he/she has the highest probabilityof success.10. Potential individual limiting factors to performance can be identified early and steps taken to reduce and/or eliminatethem.11. In sports with a stature component, suchas gymnastics, the athlete can be spared from spending years training for a sportthat he/she will ultimately outgrow or never develop the physique necessary to participate at a high level.12. By identifying talent early the athletecan begin the training process withenough time to prepare for the age atwhich he/ she will reach a physical peak with less haste during the developmental process. This usually results in a morethorough and well-designed approach totraining, ultimately resulting in a safer and sounder approach for the athlete.The identification of talent is difficult, timeconsuming, and ongoing. Because of thespecificity of the effects of training on performance, in the final analysis, the onlyway to precisely determine if the athlete issuitable for gymnastic training and  performance is actually doing it! (Harre,1982) Nearly all Talent Opportunity Programs for sport use the “pyramid” model, which isstarting with a relatively large number of  potential athletes and then nurturing(providing opportunities for) those athleteswho continue to demonstrate the requisiteabilities for the sport. This results in agradual “weeding-out” or selection process.Therefore, talent identification and opportunity programs must be looked uponas a  process and not an event. The training process will allow the athlete to further enhance and develop his/her abilities, and usually the “talent” of an athlete will become obvious. Interest in a sport isdeveloped by training and will also becomeapparent. Personality traits are also devel-oped and become visible in the athlete’sattitude toward training and competition.In short, training steers the process of athletic talent identification and development (Harre, 1982). This does notrule out the possibility of determining anathlete’s potential for a sport, even beforeactually training in the sport, but it sets thestage for the interpretation of the talentidentification and opportunity programresults as a means rather than an end. This isso overwhelmingly important that it cannot beoveremphasized. Talent identification is a process, requiring constant updating and maintenance. This is particularly importantin a sport such as women’s gymnastics dueto the very young and steadily declininginitial training age of the athletes (Hadjiev,1989). GOALS AND OBJECTIVES   The goals and objectives of the TalentOpportunity Program are broad and varied.  3 The following list is offered as the author’sideas of what a Talent Opportunity Programshould do.The list is notdesigned to be all-inclusive. Goals 1   Identify talented young gymnasts between 7 to 11years old that arenot currentlyseeking or training for eliteor international level competition.2   Identify deficiencies in fitness and skillfactors that can be determined byscientific testing and interaction withregional and national staff coaches.These deficiencies will be com-municated to both the athlete and thecoach for remedial work.3   Enhance the information flow and educational opportunities to talented athletes, their parents or guardians, and their coaches to help improve theathlete’s training. Objectives 1.   Identify and notify young athletes and  parents or guardians of the inherenttalent possessed by a young gymnast.This will help the young athlete and family make more intelligent choices onthe selection and serious pursuit of their gymnastics opportunities.2.   Identify and notify the coaches of youngathletes with inherent talent of thechildren they coach. Then assist thecoaches in the development of theseyoung athletes by enhanced access tothe best gymnastics authorities availablealong with other training and  performance opportunities.3.   To serve as a conduit or “fast-track” for young athletes from the early years of training to the international level.4.   To enhance early preparation of skillsand abilities that will be needed for international level competition four or more years in the future.5.   To provide for the identification of deficiencies in training and health thatcan be remedied by early and expertintervention. TALENT OPPORTUNITYCRITERIA   General Health First and foremost theathlete must behealthy. The athleteshould be free of  physical or organicmalfunctions. Thelevel of health of theathlete must bedetermined byqualified personnelincluding, but notlimited to, theathlete’s personal physician, a sports medicine orthopedist, asports medicine physical therapist, anathletic trainer, and/or a sports psychologist(Bompa, 1990; Bompa, 1985; Harre, 1982;Bajin, 1986; Salmela & Regnier, 1983). A preparticipation physical must be performed to determine if there are any medical problems that would be potentially limitingto training and performance. Physiological Characteristics The physiological variables are less predictable or stable than the physiquevariables. Studies have been done withadvanced athletes, but often less than eliteathletes (Feigley, 1987). The predictive  4 ability of such studies is questionable whenseeking the ultra-talented athlete. This islikely to be due to the enormous impact thattraining can have on the physiologicalvariables and relatively small effect thattraining can have on physique variables.Bajin (1986) determined that activeflexibility had the highest correlation with performance results in the long term testing program undertaken in Canada. Tests of children to predict adult performance is probably highest in those sports where thereis a single dominant performancecharacteristic such as endurance running or shot putting. There is a problem ingymnastics with talent identification using physiological variables because of the enor-mous impact of training on most of them,the large number of different physiologicalcharacteristics that a gymnast needs at highlevels, and the relative instability of thesevariables to predict young adult performance. Psychological Characteristics There is little psychological informationregarding children and sport performanceand the heritability and /or predictability of  psychological variables on future performance. It is doubtful that any coachwould deny that psychologicalcharacteristics may set the razor’s edge of competitive effectiveness in later years, butit is practically impossible to predict future performance based on childhood  psychological assessments at the currenttime. Considerable literature has beendevoted to how children can best receivesport psychology services, but little predictive work has been done (Orlick &McCaffrey, 1991; Weiss, 1991; Henschen,Sands Gordin, & Martinez, 1990; Crain,1991; Henschen & Gordin, 1983; Feigley,1987).Sport psychology in the form of mentaltraining has been advocated and used withfavorable results (Unestahl, 1983b; Ravizza,1983; Mohoney, Averner, & Avener, 1983;Rotella, 1983; Unestahl, 1983a), and investigations into profiling the current elitegymnast have been performed (Feigley,1987; Henschen, Sands, & Schultz, 1989;Henschen, Sands, Gordin, & Martinez,1990; Henschen & Gordin, 1983). Theresults of the investigations lead to somecommon-sense applications of psychologicalcharacteristics to elite performers. Theability to confidently detect and nurturetalent in the psychological area is far fromconcrete. The potential benefits fromincreasing efforts in this area should not beunderestimated. Tests of visualization as proposed by Beier (Henschen, 1991) could open many doors to increasing theeffectiveness and efficiency of gymnasticstraining. Talent identification from psychological variables is still in its infancy.In this area, the first approach is to continueto research psychological variables withregard to future performance by repeated testing and development of an extensivedatabase of psychological and other  performance information. The second approach is to rely on the experience and intuition of accomplished coaches indetecting the subtle nuances of behavior thatare indicative to them of good psychological potential in the athlete. Motor Educability and Motor/GymnasticSkill Performance Although this area could be included as asubset of psychological evaluation, it isvitally important in gymnastics and therefore, has developed its own category.This area encompasses the athlete’s abilityto balance, spatially orient, and translatevisual and verbal ideas into movement.Simply, this category deals with the abilityto learn gymnastics skills. These evaluationsare commonly called motor performancetests. This area can encompass testingcertain root gymnastics skills or categoriesof skills.
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