BikeRaceInfo: Current and historical race results, plus interviews, bikes, travel, and cycling historyBikeRaceInfo: Current and historical race results, plus interviews, bikes, travel, and cycling history
Search our site:
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Athletic Talent Development by Design

By Kristen Dieffenbach
Master Level Peaks Coaching Group Coach

Peaks Coaching Group

Back to Training and Fitness index page

Olympics 50 Craziest Stories

Les Woodland's book Cycling Heroes: The Golden Years is available as an audiobook here. For the print and Kindle eBook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

Kristen Dieffenbach writes:

In cycling, as in most sports, talent is typically thought as “a special natural ability or aptitude”.  While this is technically an accurate use of the word ‘talent’, this definition alone is over emphasized and extremely limiting when pursuing peak potential.  Unfortunately, the concept of ‘talent’ comes with many inaccurate assumptions such as you either have it or you don’t or that talent shows itself early. These types of viewpoints hold athletes back and provide little direction or understanding for parents and coaches seeking to help someone discover, develop and enjoy their talents.

Over the past 15 to 20 years researcher and educators have sought to better define and understand talent and more specifically the process of talent development across many domains of human achievement from math and science, to music and sport.  Below is a list of the key concepts influencing current thinking and best practices for talent development.  A starter list of valuable resources for anyone interested in helping develop talent is also provided.

Key Talent and Talent Development Concepts

  • The foundational point in the understanding of how talent develops and how to best facilitate its development requires a key shift in how the concept of ‘talent’ is viewed. Best practices for developing individual talent view it as the individual “capacity for achievement or success.”  
  • Talent is a growth concept not an all or nothing concept.  An individual’s true capacity cannot be fully understood in the early stages, particularly if the athlete has not yet fully developed.  It might be said that talent can only really be assessed in hindsight.
  • True development of talent occurs only over time and with intentional planning.  Development of long term talent potential should always take precedence over short term gains.
  • There is a genetic component to physical talent potential so as the saying goes, “choose your parents well.”  However, studies indicate that good genes alone do not make a champion.  In fact, most elite performers will quickly point out that they are not the most talented, but that their achievements took time, dedication and effort.
  • Deliberate practice has become a central concept in talent development.  Current theories of deliberate practice highlight the importance of a ‘10,000 hours/ 10 year’ timeline of intentional, well planned and individualized development. 
  • Sustainable talent development best occurs when it addresses multiple valuable areas of growth including physical, skill, psychological, cognitive and emotional. 
  • Training for talent development must be tailored to be training level (time spent training) and be individually age appropriate, keeping in mind that these thing are often not synonymous with chronological age. 
  • While elite performance may be the ultimate goal, talent development is most effective when it focuses on providing the individual with an opportunity focus on and develop the skills necessary for personal growth and success rather than on winning.
  • Talent development isn’t only for the young.  Everyone has the potential for improvement regardless of age or beginning ability level and the concepts of talent development can be applied regardless of where an individual is beginning.

find us on Facebook Find us on Twitter See our youtube channel

Melanoma: It started with a freckle Schwab Cycles South Salem Cycleworks frames Neugent Cycling Wheels Peaks Coaching: work with a coach! Shade Vise sunglass holder Advertise with us!

Content continues below the ads

Melanoma: It started with a freckle Schwab Cycles South Salem Cycleworks frames

Top Resources for Talent Development
Long Term Athlete Development Model and Resources from Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L)

            The LTAD model was developed by researchers and educators drawing on research across a broad spectrum of physical, psychological and social development sciences. Currently, the LTAD model provides one of the most comprehensive and user friendly models of talent development designed to build foundational healthy movement skills, positive lifetime activity habits and to maximize the potential for true talent development. 

  • From the LTAD website visit the ‘Learn CS4L – LTAD’ page for a wealth of resources for coaches, parents, educators, and others about applied talent development. 
  • Numerous free downloads in PDF format that can be found in the different sections under the ‘View Resources’ dropdown menu.  The ‘LTAD Resource’s section provides many key resources such as:
    • The Canadian Sport for Life Resource Paper,
    • The Role of Monitoring Growth in LTAD, and
    • Competition is a Good Servant but a Poor Master
  • For individuals working with athletes with disabilities, be sure to check out the resources No Accidental Champions and Training Athletes with a Physical Disabilities both based on the LTAD model.
  • The ‘LTAD Sport Models’ section of the ‘View Resources’, provides specific adaptations of the LTAD model by sport organization. See

Content continues below the ads

Neugent Cycling Wheels Peaks Coaching: work with a coach!

Books on Talent Development Worth Reading:

  • Developing Talent in Young People by Benjamin Bloom

Dr. Bloom’s book has had a major influence on the current thinking and theories of talent development.  This work is based on the talent development journeys of 120 talented individuals across many domains and provides key summary best practices for the process.

  • Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown. Here’s how. by Daniel Coyle

Published in 2009, Coyle uses engaging stories of elite achievers to explore how talent is developed.  Key themes center on master coaching, motivation and practice.

  • Talent is Overrated: What really separates world class performers from everybody else  by Geoff Colvin

In this top 2010 book, reporter Colvin examines talent development using the latest theories on the value of ‘deliberate practice’ and the role it plays in achieving top performance. 

  • Talented Teenagers: The roots of success and failure by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Kevin Rathunde & Samuel Whalen

This book profiles a long term study that examined the day to day experiences of teenagers identified as having aptitude across domains.  It provides insight into the things that helped and hindered their efforts, motivation and opportunities to develop their talents.

Back to Training and Fitness index page

Content continues below the ads

Shade Vise sunglass holder Advertise with us!