Holistic approach to athletic talent development environments: A successful sailing milieu


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Abstract

Objectives:Research into the discovery and development of athletic talent has tended to focus on the individual athlete. This study assumes a holistic ecological approach; it focuses on the overall athletic talent development environment (ATDE), presents an analysis of one particular ATDE (the Danish national 49er sailing team) and examines key factors behind its success in creating top athletes. To guide the project, two working models were developed. The ATDE working model serves to describe the environment's components and structure. The environmental success factors (ESF) working model serves to structure factors contributing to the environment's success.Method:The research takes the form of a case study. Data were collected from multiple perspectives (in-depth interviews with administrators, coaches and athletes), from multiple situations (observation of training, competitions and meetings) and from the analysis of documents.Results:Empirical versions of the ATDE and ESF models were developed of the investigated environment, which was characterized by a high degree of cohesion, with the relationship between current and prospective elite athletes at its core. A lack of resources was compensated for by a strong organizational culture, characterized by values of open co-operation, individual responsibility and a focus on performance process.Conclusions:The research concluded that the holistic ecological approach constitutes an important supplement to the contemporary literature on athletic talent and career development, that further studies of specific environments are needed to establish the common features of successful ATDEs and that practitioners should look beyond the individual in their attempts to nurture sporting excellence.

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