Talent Spotting/Talent Identification: Is there a difference…?

What is ‘Talent Spotting’…?


  • natural aptitude or skill.
  • people possessing natural aptitude or skill.



  • see, notice, or recognize (someone or something) that is difficult to detect or that one is searching for.
  • recognize that (someone) has a particular talent, especially for sport or show business.


What is ‘Talent Identification’…?

The screening of children and adolescents using selected tests of physical, physiological and skill attributes in order to identify those with potential for success in a designated sport. Previous involvement in the sport is not a pre-requisite for identification.


Rasmus Ankersen: VIDEO How to find undervalued talent…?



“Is it what you see in front of your eyes…OR…is it the story behind the person that counts…?” (Rasmus Ankersen)

Who would you ‘spot’ at the National Schoolboy Athletics Championships: The ‘Raw’ 10.6 who came last…OR…the ‘Trained’ 10.2 who came 1st…?

Raw 10.6 OR Talent 10.2

Two 17 year old boys…one who runs the 100m in 10.2s coming from a very professional training environment…the other runs the 100m in 10.6s coming from an environment where he trains on his own in a very unstructured way…

Usain Bolt



Who would you ‘identify’ on the soccer pitch: The ‘shouting’ talent…OR…the ‘whispering talent’…?

Two 16 year old footballers…one who scores all the goals for the team…OR…the other who sets up all the goals for the team…

Lionel Messi


Cesc Fabregas

Who would you ‘spot’ and ‘identify’ on the rugby pitch: The ‘BIG’ fish in the ‘little’ pond…OR…the ‘little’ fish in the ‘BIG’ pond…?

Two 15 year old players…one who is 6’1″ and 16 stone and runs through everyone scoring all the tries…OR…one who is 5’9″ and 13 stone who hardly ever touches the ball…

Johan Lomu v. England RWC 1995


Shane Williams

Is it about short-term success…OR…long-term development…?

This will depend on the Philosophy and Ethos of the organisation/club…the Director of Rugby/Football …the 1st Team Head Coach…the Academy Manager…the Chief Scout…

Does the club want a player ready now…or…does the club want to grow and improve a player for the future…?

If you are in the business of talent spotting you’ll be looking for a short-term success…

If you are in the business of talent identification you’ll be looking for the long-term development…

  • How would you go about the process…?
  • What would you look for in a player/athlete…?
  • Who has the right ‘mindset’ to be the best they can be…?
  • Who would you put your money on to be the next professional athlete/player…?
  • Who would you invest time and support in…?
  • How do you know you’ve found the right sort/type of player…?
  • How would you treat players that have their hopes and dreams in your hands…?
  • How would you manage their expectations…?
  • How would you deal with the decisions you have to make at some point…?

“Mastering the art of ‘Talent Identification’ is an extremely tough discipline…” (Rasmus Ankersen)

  • The ‘raw’ or ‘trained athlete…?
  • The ‘whispering’ or ‘shouting’ talent…?
  • The ‘big’ or ‘little’ player…?

Talent selection is the culling of players with the current ability to participate and be successful in events taking place in the near future. Talent identification, on the other hand, is the prediction of future performance based upon an evaluation of current physical, technical, tactical and psychological qualities. Talent selection is pretty simple; talent identification is an art. One yields great results today; the other builds elite athletes and winning teams for the future.” (Sport IQ Blog Article by John O’Sullivan, author of ‘Changing the Game’)

Would you ‘spot’ someone…OR…would you ‘identify’ someone…?

Consider this…

Why are the New Zealand All Blacks the most successful rugby team in the history of the game, with just over 4 million (4,471,000) people living in the country and only 137,835 registered players, of which 27,374 are senior males, compared to England with a population of just over 53 million (53,010,000) people and 2,549,196 registered players, of which 166,762 are senior males…?

Rugby Player Numbers

That’s over 18 and a half times more active players playing the game…6 times more senior males…that England have to choose from…

So why aren’t England consistently the No.1 one team in the world…? They have the most money…they have the most players…

This is no coincidence in that England ‘spot’ players and New Zealand ‘identify’ players…because of the philosophies each country have in their search for tomorrow’s player…the player pathway systems each each has in place…and the politics involved in the game in each country.

  • “Remember, people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”;
  • “It is not just WHAT or HOW you do things that matters; what matters more is that WHAT and HOW you do things is consistent with your WHY. Only then will your practices indeed be best.”;
  • “It is not WHAT you do…it is WHY you do it that counts…”;
  • These quotes are from ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek.

What about the USA with a population just over 316 million people and the growth and development of rugby in the country over the last few years…and the investment that is being put in to the future of the game…?

Just take a look at the 100m Olympic sprinter convert Carlin Isles to see the potential the USA has…his 100m time of 10.13s would have qualified him for the 100m semi-finals in the London Olympics.

Take a look at Carlin in action on the rugby field here:-


  • Was Carlin Isles ‘spotted’…OR…‘identified’…?
  • How many more guys like Carlin Isles is USA Rugby going to identify…?
  • At which point in time will the ‘Tipping Point’ (Malcolm Gladwell) occur…?
  • With even more players signing up wanting to be a part of something special…increasing the ‘talent’ pool for USA Rugby to uncover even more players… thus increasing the standard of play…
  • USA Rugby are also looking to create a professional league in the future…

How long before the USA rugby team are No.1 in the world…? You could argue that this could be sooner rather than later…You just need to look at how they do their professional sports leagues…the NFL, the NHL, the MLB and the NBA. When will the USA win a World Cup…?

Impossible is Nothing

Dean Holden of ‘Sport IQ Training’ posted a good Blog article by John O’Sullivan on the subject which can be viewed here:-


The following 4 books are also excellent reads to help challenge your thinking, think about the BIGGER picture and take you in to the worlds of the most consistent ‘Talent Hotbeds’ around the world in many different sports:-

  • ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed;
  • ‘The Goldmine Effect’ by Rasmus Ankersen;
  • ‘Talent Overrated’ by Geoff Colvin;
  • ‘Talent Code’ by Daniel Coyle.

‘The Sports Gene’ by David Epstein will wider your thinking too and challenge your thinking to bring the ‘Nature v. Nurture’ debate into the equation…

David Epstein’s TED Talk: ‘Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?’ can be see here:-


Colin Jackson’s BBC documentary…‘The Making of Me’…will add discussion points to the ‘Nature v. Nurture’ debate as well…

Colin broke the 110m Hurdle World Record on 20th August 1993…which was held until Liu Xiang broke his record on 27th August 2004…at the Athens Olympics…an 11 year period.

If you can work out all the core factors in ‘Talent Identification’ then you are the right path to creating and building something very special…

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