Talent Search: Finding, Nurturing and Developing High-Performance Athletes

Talent Search has been a method used by the South Australian Sports Institute (SASI) for many years, to identify and develop potential elite athletes who can achieve success at national and international levels.

Talent Search Testing

Recently, SASI has teamed up with sports talent ID profiling organisation SportMatch, to provide a talent identification tool to schools around South Australia.

Director of SportMatch, Professor Kevin Norton, is spearheading a pilot project where schools receive access to the SportMatch program, helping the school to match students with sports they are best suited to.

“We go to schools on behalf of SASI and conduct the Talent Search testing,” Norton said.

“We then provide a database and support for SASI to help them find the talent they are looking for.”

Talent Search’s purpose is to identify 14 to 15-year-old students who may have exceptional physical, anthropological and physiological characteristics.

Professor Norton said students may be very fast or powerful for their age, so Talent Search helps identify those students and steers them into the right sport types.

“Sometimes students are suited to sports they’ve never tried, so Talent Search provides exposure to the sport and its coaches.

“Students then have the opportunity to see if they are interested in the sport and potentially want to follow a career in it.”

Tests conducted through the Talent Search process range from generic fitness testing to sport specific tests across cycling, kayak/canoe sprint, rowing and volleyball.

Professor Norton and his team recently visited Prince Alfred College (PAC) to conduct the Talent Search program.

Across the board, students expressed the tests were both fun and enjoyable and it was interesting to test their skills and see what sports they’d potentially excel in.

And one thing that almost all students could agree on was the vertical jump was their favourite test on the day.

If a student tests positively for a specific sport, they may be invited to come to SASI for a sport specific testing opportunity.

From there, they can be selected into a Talent Identification program, specific to that sport.

SASI Strength and Conditioning Coach, Steven Van Diepen said the success of Talent Search comes down to the ability to reach large numbers.

“We know out of every 1,000 students we check; a small amount will end up at the elite level,” Van Diepen said.

“The more students that can be tested, the higher success there will be when it comes to identifying future Olympians.”

Athletes who have gone onto represent Australia after being identified through SASI Talent Search include rowers Olympia Aldersey, Nathan Bowden and cyclists Annette Edmondson, Maeve Plouffe and Alex Porter.

Each year, up to 30 schools participate in the Talent Search program, most within the city area, but both SASI and SportMatch would like to reach more regional schools.

“There is talent in those areas, but since the students are only young and the next phase of the program is testing at SASI, it is sometimes difficult for families to provide that support,” Professor Norton said.

To address this dilemma, Professor Norton and his team will give regional schools access to the SportMatch software which allows schools to conduct the testing themselves.

“We are going to provide the opportunity for schools and coaches to offer the testing in all areas of the state for free.

“This new phase of Talent Search will help us find more pockets of talent we haven’t been able to reach previously and offer students opportunities they have not had in the past.”

Talent Search is another way SASI is continuing to find, nurture and develop future athletes.

Teachers can register their school’s interest in the SASI Talent Search program by emailing SASI.TalentSearch@sa.gov.au

To find out more about the SportMatch program, visit https://sportmatch.com.au/