The Two Most Significant Mistakes made in Talent Identification

Talent Identification tends to be a very important area for any program to focus upon when trying to develop players. For those programs focused around development then the element of talent identification takes on a much higher level of importance versus those programs geared towards buying in players ready-made and of competition standard. The difference between these two types of strategies can be seen across every level of basketball and competitions from around the world. Therefore, with talent identification being such an important aspect to many teams Functional Basketball Coaching has decided to highlight two of the most significant mistakes we see related to this area.


The number one reason why talent identification often goes astray is that the players being bought into the program are not compatible to the organisational culture. Every organisation, institution, and school has a culture. This is determined by its people, heritage, and vision for the future. All too often, this is overlooked in preference to bringing into a program the best possible player. Instead of the most suitable player to not only meet the technical demands and tactical system, but this player should also fit with the requirements of the culture. Can this player live up the standards demand of people within this environment? Do they understand what the culture of the organisation actually is? Do they want to be part of the this culture? These questions are just as important as those centred around the players ability to play at the level of competition.


Dwight Howard spoke about the Lakers culture as being part of his reason to move away (Photo Source: scott mecum)
Dwight Howard spoke about the Lakers culture as being part of his reason to move away (Photo Source: scott mecum)

Do not think culture is important? Think of all free agents in the NBA this year and those who associated the culture of the organisation with their move away from their past team…


Going hand in hand with the need for a player to fit within the culture of the organisation is also the people already within the organisation understanding the organisation’s context well enough to be able to define it. Therefore, also articulate the culture well enough to be able to describe what it means and the demands placed upon its players. Without defining the culture then it is impossible to evaluate players who have been uncovered through the talent identification process.


To discover an organisations culture is not an easy process and does require more than just a staff meeting. Discussing culture is one piece of the puzzle, but seeing this culture in practice is also important as many individuals and institutions alike talk the talk, but cannot walk the walk.


Another very commonly occurring issue within many programs talent identification process is the ineffective and poorly used tools to evaluate players. The best of the best are easily identified and consensus is all too easy about their potential to develop into something more than the average. However, for programs that truly rely on talent identification because they need to develop players the real target audience is often within the ranks of those players not in the top level, but the second tier. It is in evaluating these players successfully that the best returns on investment can be made and have the most significant benefit for the organisation now and into the future is to be obtained.


There are a number of tools available that help evaluate a player’s physiological, psychological, technical and tactical skills. The best of these will be backed up with significant research and usage by high performance institutions. These tools need to be investigated in the first instance to see if they are right for the needs of the organisation. In some cases, this will involve attending exhibitions, undertaking courses, and then experienced being built up through familiarity with the usage of the tool.


It should be noted that sometimes the best tools are not the simplest to use and do required some specialised knowledge and skills for them to be effectively and efficiently utilised. A good example of this is in the wide practice of using similar tools in human resources tools within the commercial business sector. It is well documented the issues associated with inexperienced generalist human resource officers using tools incorrectly and interpreting the information poorly with the end result being the wrong candidate being selected for the role and then the problems really start.


Talent identification is a big business even amongst small players in the sporting community. Understanding the culture or an organisation and how its talent is identified is very important in avoiding two very costly mistakes that occur right at the beginning of the recruitment process.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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