Mr Kwame Amponfi Jnr:Talent identification vital in sports development

BY: Kwame Larweh
Mr Kwame Amponfi Jnr: Deputy Director General in charge of technical

SPORT is recognised as an important instrument of nation building; therefore, its organisation, development and promotion has been given a pride of place in Ghana.

Article 37, clause (5) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana provides that, “the state shall ensure that adequate facilities for sports are provided throughout Ghana and that sports are promoted as a means of fostering national integration, health and self-discipline, as well as international friendship and understanding”.

In the recent past and from a global point of view, sports has changed very much in contrast to previous decades. Sports in recent times is seen as business and a veritable tool for development and promotion of peace. It is a significant economic force which provides employment, reduces poverty, improves health and fitness, and bridges cultural and ethnic barriers. “Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, and unite people in a way that little else does” (Nelson Mandela).


The role of sports in achieving most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be over - emphasised as per the specific SDGs below:

i.    Goal 3: Good health and well-being (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages); The ultimate outcomes of competitive and Mass sports is the maximisation of health and fitness, socio-cultural, racial, and religious integration.
ii.    Goal 4: Quality Education (Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning); Sports engagements in formal and non-formal school and community settings, promotes good mental health, and lifelong values such as respect for rules and leadership, discipline, tolerance, teamwork, and fair play. This ensures holistic education for all.
iii.    Goal 5: Gender Equality (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls); The marginalisation of women and girls is to a large extent curtailed through sports. Females active participation in sports eradicates stereotyping and projects their unique sports skills, abilities, talents, and related socio-economic benefits. This condition promotes self-esteem and self-confidence among women and girls.
iv.    Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities (Make Cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable); through multi and individual sports competitions, organisers ensure cleanliness and safety of both play environment and the host communities, districts, regions, and nations. Sense of inclusion is felt and well promoted among the outlined hosts. Economic activities around such sports event bring about resilience and sustainability.
v.    Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and strong institutions (Promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies); Conflicts, cultural and political differences are relegated to the background through engagement in individual and multi sports events. These events most often involve both genders and persons with disabilities, leading to more inclusive societies and integration.
vi.    Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals (Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development); through multi sports competitions, bilateral and multi-lateral agreements are signed among member nations, national and international sports federations as well as international bodies like, ECOWAS, AU, UN, and their agencies to drive socio economic investments, education, health, and the promotion of inclusion. All these are critical components of the sustainable development goals (

Wuest and Bucher (1999) postulate that as sports has grown, so have opportunities for individuals who want to work in the sports industry – related areas. Athletic trainers, sports managers, sports promoters, equipment developers, sports sales personnel, strength and conditioning specialists, sports psychologist, sports nutritionist, coaches, and officiating officials are just some of the many professionals involved in the sports enterprise.
According to Adedoja (1991), sports benefits the handicapped individual by developing competitive spirit, self-discipline, self-respect and commandership, attitudes that are essential for the handicapped person’s successful reintegration into the community.
Lumpkin (1998) again outlines the following as the relevance of sports,
i.    Reduces risk of coronary heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and colon cancer.
ii.    Improves muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance.
iii.    Regulates weight, tones bodies, and improves body composition.
iv.    Promotes overall health and fitness.

i.    Improves academic performance
ii.    Increases interest in learning
iii.    Improves judgement
iv.    Promotes self-discipline
v.    Encourages goal setting and achieving these goals
Psychological and Social
i.    Improves self-confidence
ii.    Provides an outlet for stress
iii.    Strengthens peer relationships
iv.    Reduces the risk of depression
v.    Promotes healthier lifestyles
Ghana’s sports development objectives as enshrined in the Sports Act, 2016 (Act 934), Article 37, clause (5) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and expanded in the National Sports Authority’s mission statement is:
“To develop, organise, promote, and manage competitive and social sports with the view to promoting health and fitness, recreation, national cohesion and professionalism that ensures sustainable wealth creation, vigorous infrastructure development and proactive management which leads to sports excellence and international recognition”.
The pivot for the realisation of the above outlined statutory sports mandate, is the product called sports talent, mostly found at the grassroots. So then, these questions arise;
i.    What is sports? And for that matter grassroots sports?  
ii.    What is sports talent? And how do we identify these talents?
iii.    Who manages these talents and how?
This presentation attempts to provide some answers to the above questions.

Sports Defined
According to Lumpkin (1998), sports is operationally defined as physical activities governed by formal or informal rules that involves competition against an opponent or oneself and are engaged in for fun, recreation, or reward.
The state of Queensland (Department of Communities) 2009 defines sports as “a human activity capable of achieving a result requiring physical exertion and/or physical skill, which by its nature and organisation is competitive and is generically recognised as a sport”.
According to the European sports charter as Adopted by the Association for Applied Sports Psychology, Sports is defined as “all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organized participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships, or obtaining results in competitions at all levels”. (, 2019).

Grassroots Sports
Grassroots sports can be defined as any community-driven sports activity that is mainly recreation rather than directed towards achieving high level performance or for commercial success and it serves as the basis for detecting and grooming sport talents towards high performance sports and competitive sports.
The role of grassroots sports is to give sports coaches and trainers the avenue to a pool of gifted people who engage in various forms of sports disciplines (Richardson, 2021). Gifted sports people detected through various grassroot sports avenues are identified and developed by professional coaches into talented athletes through professional coaching and coaching management techniques and methods. These developed talents are then selected to compete in higher performance competitions, leading to elite sports participation.

Sports Talent
Sports Talent can be defined as a polished sports gift that is inherent (genetically found) in an individual for professional use (Asamoah, B., 2021). Sports Talent is the adequate Sports aptitude or ability in one direction, above the average. It is a superior mastery of systematically developed Sports abilities which places an athlete in the top 10% of their age group. Someone with Sports Talent is now able to do a sports activity without trying hard (Van Der Stichelen, 2020).

According to Regnier et al. as cited in Williams and Reilly, 2000, grassroots sport talent identification is the process of recognising current participants with the potential to become elite players.
It entails predicting performance over time by measuring physical, physiological, psychological, and social attributes as well as technical abilities, either in isolation or in combination (Williams & Reilly, 2000).
Talent identification is the process of recognising current players that have the potential to excel within a specific sport (Vaeyens et al., 2008).
Sports talent identification is the search for young athletes with the potential to become elite athletes.
Talent identification gives preference to looking out for potential in young athlete rather than their current performance because the physical mismatch that develops during adolescence can cloud the judgement of coaches, camouflaging the emergence of other talents which will come up later (Richardson, 2021). It is the process of recognising current players that have the potential to excel within a particular sport (Vaeyens et al., 2008).
Before embarking on a Talent Identification process, the following factors must be considered:
Purpose for Talent Identification
The ‘Purpose of Talent Identification’, which is the first factor to consider, answers the WHY of a talent identification process, giving a definitive goal for the process. The WHY for Sports Talent Identification are as follows:

1.    Discovering of potential (in young athletes), this includes looking out for
i.    Technical Skills - this refers to the ability of the individual to understand the processes and procedures applied during the playing of a particular sport.
ii.    Tactical Abilities - The skills required in any sports that allows the athlete to effectively use cognitive abilities. This involves the ability to apply Strategy, Perceptual skills and Decision-making process and abilities, talent, and skill to the best possible advantage.
iii.    Psychological Stability – this has to do with the emotional stability and control of the athlete taking into consideration the athlete’s readiness to learn, the drive and motivation to carry on improving and how curious or creative they are.
iv.    Physical Stature - this refers to the athlete’s physical features including, body stature, arm reach, height, and weight at various levels of the process.
2.    Recognising and unveiling talents the young athlete has potential in but are currently hidden from the understanding and reach of the young. For example, a 100-meter runner who has hidden potential to run 200 meters.
3.    Setting up young athletes in the right sports discipline that will lead them easier into a successful and fulfilled professional sports career. This is a critical consideration as it will determine the overall success of an athlete.

Monitoring and Measuring Progress of Talents
Studies have had varying findings on the method to be used accurately to monitor and measure the WHY of Talent Identification.
There are basically two methods that can be used to monitor and measure the indicators that a particular sports identification process seeks (Howe, Davidson & Sloboda 1998). These methods are; Natural and Scientific.
i.    Some studies support the use of natural methods which is limited to the use of the interactions between the coach and the player where the coach monitors the athlete overtime taking into consideration the WHY factors (purpose of the talent identification). These interactions can be measured through competitions, Test events, and constant training sessions.  
ii.    Notwithstanding the use of natural methods during Talent Identification, others recommend the application of scientific methods (Ziemainz and Culbin 2002, Lyle 1997).

According to Belyi and Hamilton (as cited in Nigam, 2010), application of scientific methods in talent identification involves application of a series of tests that are thought to measure key factors for success in a specific sport. These factors include muscle strength and lungs functionality. Such functions can be assessed using machines and scientifically proven processes (Borm 1997).

I.    Talent Detection - This first stage refers to the spotting of certain qualities of the individual to play a certain sport. It is discovering those with potential from outside the sports in question. It is at this point that we determine if a player has the potential to benefit from a systematic programme of support and training (Williams Reilly, 2000). This stage examines the natural gifts of the individual that needs to be nurtured into usable talents in the career of the athlete.
II.    Talent Identification – This can be defined as the recognition of current participants of a sport discipline with the potential to become elite sports athletes. Talent identification is a very critical point in the talent cycle as the career of an athlete can be made or destroyed if this stage of the process is missed.
III.    Talent Development - It involves the specific attention to the position or style of play an athlete will adopt either in team or individual discipline. The Specific talent of an athlete is zoomed in at this point forward. This stage introduces a relationship between the coach and the athlete. The coaching and management relationship between the coach and the athlete from this point forward will have a great influence on performance.
IV.    Talent Selection - Talent selection is the final selection of a Talent (Athlete) to play or perform in an elite competition. This stage completes the journey of a talent.

The following factors influence Sports Talent Identification either positively or negatively. The presence or absence of these factors can determine the levels of outcomes of talent identification, taking into consideration the Physical, Psychological, Tactical and Technical abilities of an athlete.  
i.    Availability of a strong grassroots sports strategy or programme to encourage participation by children and young people at all levels, through schools, clubs, and community sports engagement.

ii.    Availability of functional structures for athlete progression, either in leagues or age category competitions.
Exposure to competition not only plays a very vital role in the development of an athlete (Sotiriadou, 2005), but also provides a focal point for training and important motivation for daily training if provided at the right level and frequency (Rodgers, 2005). On the other hand, lack of exposure to quality competition will dull the most talented group of athletes as well (Sotiriadou, 2005). Exposure to competitions also promotes grassroots talent identification through the appropriate talent cycle or stagess applied.

iii.    Access to qualified coaches with described objectives, methodologies and with the necessary skills to facilitate the progression of an athlete from one stage of the talent cycle to the next.
Technical competence in addition to identifying the sports talents, technical factors also determine talent identification.  Other studies suggest that a number of technical skills are required for aspiring athletes to be successful. Technical ability is of course based on the sport you are interested in or occupied and as such personnel with adequate knowledge in scouting or talent identification should be consulted in such regard to advice and provide the necessary recommendation for decision making.

iv.    A Professional and target or goal-oriented relationship between a coach and an athlete.

v.    General and sportive motor skills exhibited by talents during the talent identification process: jumping, running, throwing, catching, perception, and coordination.

vi.    Quality and Accessible training facilities: Quality and accessible training facilities and equipment create a positive environment that encourages proper training, but lack of facilities or access to facilities and equipment is a limiting factor to grassroots talent identification development (Rogers, 2005).

Sports Coaching can be defined as the process of motivating, guiding, and training an individual in preparation for any sporting hobby, career, or event (
A modern coach possesses needed skills in his field and can apply modern scientific knowledge to achieve the set goal.
Coaching is a process of guided improvement and development in a single sport at identifiable stages of athlete development. Sport coaches train teams or individuals in various skills on how to improve their performances. They determine the level of instruction required by observing how the individual or team performs.
Relevance of a coach
The modern coach is relevant for various reasons which are obvious from the definition of coaching and who a coach is.
i.    To monitor and ensure improvement for individual performers and the team.
ii.    Planning of practice sessions for appropriate gains.
iii.    Provide guidance and encouragement in reaching performance objectives.
iv.    Provide leadership and source of empowerment for the performers.

Immediate and Major Stakeholders of a Coach
i.    Athletes: the main client, resource and focus for the work
ii.    Athletes Family: they have a 100% interest in the athlete, and the athlete listens to them.
iii.    Coaching staff: The machinery that ensures that your instructions are carried out.
iv.    Administrators & support staff: They ensure that all vital documentation and backroom engagements are in order, to enhance the smooth running of your coaching duties.  

General Stakeholders of a Coach
i.    Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS) National Sports Authority (NSA)
MOYS is responsible for the formulation of sports policies and ensuring good governance of sports. The NSA serves as the implementing agency.

ii.    Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC): Represents the International Olympic Committee (IOC), implements, promotes, and upholds ideals of Olympism. Facilitates the country’s participation in Olympic Games.

iii.    National Paralympic Committee (NPC): The NPC creates sporting opportunities for persons with muscular impairment and enable them achieve excellence and facilitate the athletes’ participation in Paralympic Games.

iv.    Special Olympics Committee: Facilitates and oversees the development and promotion of sports for persons with intellectual disabilities.

v.    Deaf Sport Association: Facilitates and oversees the development and promotion of sports for persons with hearing impairment.

vi.    Blind Sports Association: Facilitates and oversees the development and promotion of sports for persons with visual impairment.

vii.    Sports Men/Women: Major participants (amateurs, elite & professionals) in the implementation of sports programs.
viii.    Educational Institutions: They are mandated to promote physical education and sports among the children and youth and provide formal education for sportsmen and women.

ix.    Ministry of Education / Ghana Education Service: Collaboration on youth development and talent hunt. Provide direction on holistic education of children and youth. Develop resources and promotion of sports in schools.

x.    Tertiary Institutions: Collaborate in developing and promoting social and competitive sports as well as sports excellence among the youth.
xi.    Ministry of Health / Ghana Health Service: Partners the MOYS and the NSA to promote health, fitness, and well-being through sports.

xii.    National Ambulance Service: Has the responsibility to provide professional ambulance services especially during sport events.

xiii.    Security Services: Collaborate to organize regular competitive sports towards excellence.  Providing economic independence for high performance.

xiv.    MMDAs: Holistic development / promotion of communities through sports.

xv.    National Sports Associations: Sanctioning representatives of respective sports in Ghana Responsible for developing / promoting same.

xvi.    International Bodies: Affiliation and commitment to sports support for standard training facilities and training programs and review of sports specific rules.

xvii.    Media: Essential partners, provide coverage, advertising, and promotion to inform, educate and entertain the masses for attractive economic activity.

xviii.    Clubs: They deliver the sporting priorities and offering the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of sporting activities.

xix.    Fans and Public: Loyal, dedicated, patriotic, respectful, disciplined and committed to sports development, promotion and engagement in fitness and wealth creation.

xx.    NGOS/Corporate Bodies/Sponsors: Support sports development and promotion through sponsorships and training programs etc.

xxi.    Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Support international and regional integration through sports. Facilitate sports delegations’ participation in international competitions and sports programs.

xxii.    Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning: Budgetary allocation and processing the release of funds for sports development, promotion and accountability in using the funds.  
Core Professional Duties of a Coach
i.    Sets the Vision and Strategy: The coach creates a vision and a strategy based on the needs and stage of development of the athletes and the organizational and social context of the programme.
ii.    Shapes the Environment: The coach recruits and contracts to work with a group of athletes and takes responsibility for setting out plans for specified periods. The coach seeks to manage and maximize the environment through:
•    personnel
•    facilities & resources
•    other coaches & support personnel.
iii.    Build Relationships: Positive and effective relationships with athletes and others associated with the programme, personnel, school, federation, and other levels. The coach is responsible for engaging in, contributing to, and influencing the organisational context.
iv.    Conduct Practices and Structure Competitions: The coach organises suitable and challenging practices and targets competitions for the athletes. Such ongoing experiences are required for continued development and improvement.
v.    Read and React to the ‘Field’: The coach observes and responds to events appropriately, including all on- and off-field matters. Effective decision making is essential to fulfilling this function.

Daily Professional Practices of a Coach
i.    Organizing:  As well as efficient and effective practices, the whole competition season is essential. It should be based on knowledge and planning.
ii.    Observing:  The coach should be aware of what is always happening. This provides info for what athletes need and changes that need to be made. Observation can be improved and refined.
iii.    Analysing: Continuous observation and evaluation of performances, providing correction and advising players and eliminate errors for improvement.
iv.    Communicating: Improving performance is largely reliant on communication, not only verbal, but listening and appropriate non-verbal communication (such as body language)

Coach-Athletes Relationships
Coaches-athletes relationship defines the effectiveness of coaching and ultimately determines the success of the coaching. Any change in performance mainly depends on the coach-athletes relationship. Both need each other to experience a sense of personal fulfilment and satisfaction in the pursuit of performance accomplishments. A good quality coach-athlete relationship comprises of four dimensions:
Closeness: It refers to the affective or emotional tone of the relationship. It captures such feelings as trust, respect, appreciation and liking. Coaches who convey their respect – showing they respect and appreciate, or show gratitude are central in developing emotional closeness or strong affective ties.

Building closeness in the coach-athlete relationship
i.    Be open with your athletes, offer information, show you have nothing to hide, don’t ‘wear a mask’; openness is reciprocated.
ii.    Display loyalty and protect your athletes, be on their side both in their presence and absence.
iii.    Be reliable, consistent, and predictable; if you let them down or fail to follow through it will create cracks in your trustworthiness.     
iv.     Honour your promises; if you make promises you cannot keep, your athletes will think you are not dependable. Do not belittle the promise. However small you think it is, your athletes may think it to be significant.
Commitment: Willingness and intention to maintain a stable and secure relationship over time.  It is a vital ingredient to the survival of the relationship, especially during difficult and challenging times.
i.    sport-related - injury, deselection, performance decline.
ii.    personal-related - school exams/work underachievement, work dismissal, family bereavement or divorce.
Building Commitment in The Coach-Athlete Relationship
i.    Develop individual developmental plans for each athlete which will engage them and motivate them to stay and to work hard.
ii.    Have a programme based on well-defined and mutually agreed goals.
iii.    Make athletes’ committed to the squad and team’s goals.
iv.    Involve them in the coaching process by asking them what they need to be more effective and what will make them more committed.

Complementarity:  It refers to the levels of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. It reflects the degree to which coaches and athletes are responsive, receptive, open, friendly, and approachable during training and competition. For example, if a coach readily responds to their athlete following the execution of a movement with constructive and genuine feedback, then the athlete may more readily receive and use this feedback (and even seek out further feedback from the coach). Complementarity eliminates from the athlete any feeling of intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation as they experience the coaches’ positive, supportive, and helpful behaviours.
Building Complementarity in The Coach-athlete Relationship
i.    Work together through well-coordinated actions.
ii.    Improve communication. “Simple communication” is best and more impactful.
iii.    Clarify roles and reinforce rules; explain consequences if rules are not met.
iv.    Create a friendly and supportive environment; show adaptability by adopting a flexible leadership style.

Co-orientation: The degree to which both the coach and athlete understand each other by developing a common ground. It is a measure of the extent to which coaches and athletes are trying to see the world through each other’s eyes. Co-orientation relates to the notion of empathy and perspective taking.

Coaching Management can be defined as the collaboration, support, and guidance (between a coach and a team or athlete) to bring out the best in then by guiding them through goals and objectives (, 2020)

The relationship between a coach and an athlete is one very key in the talent Cycle. For success, certain features and qualities must be present in all coaching management styles, these include but not limited to;
I.    Constructive feedback to enable athlete keep on track and keep focus.
II.    Create avenues for effective two-way communication patterns.
III.    The opportunity for the athlete to exercise individual thinking to create levels of individual creativity.
IV.    The environment to ensure that the athlete develops high levels of intrinsic motivation in performing.
Many coaching management styles exist however, there are three (3) coaching management styles based on leadership studies conducted in the 1930s by Kurt Lewin, a German American social psychologist and pioneer in the psychological study of group dynamics. Each style has been proven effective in their own rights.

Autocratic Coaching
Autocratic coaching can best be summed up by the phrase “My way or the highway.” Autocratic coaches make decisions with little to no input from the player or players. The coach articulates a vision for what needs to be accomplished by the players, and the players are expected to perform. Autocratic coaching is win-focused and typically features inflexible training structures.
This style of coaching works better in team sports than individual sports, and there is some evidence that gender plays into how well autocratic coaching is accepted. For instance, studies indicate that female teams respond well to autocratic coaching from a male coach, but less well to the same style from a female coach. It is also a style generally preferred by older players than younger players, as older players may have the discernment to understand why they’re being asked to perform certain tasks at certain times. And while youth players may require an autocratic approach for raw skill development, it may be damaging in the long-term for younger players to have no input in their training progress, as they may fail to develop a sense of autonomy in their training which could impact their attitudes toward sports moving forward.

Democratic Coaching
Democratic coaching is exactly what it sounds like. Coaches facilitate decision making and goal setting with input from their athletes instead of dictating to them. This style of coaching is athlete-centred, and the athletes shape their own objectives under a framework outlined by the coach. Democratic coaches give a lot of autonomy to players and teams, who are active collaborators in their own development and direction.
This style is well-suited to individual sports, like tennis or track and field events, where individual athletes must take a lot of control over their training style. Younger players up to age 14 tend to prefer a democratic coaching style, and studies indicate that this style helps early and young adolescents to develop a sense of their own control over training and prepares them for more autocratic coaching later in life.

Holistic Coaching
Also known as “laissez-faire” coaching, this style of coaching is founded on the theory that a happy team naturally becomes a successful team. Very little is offered in terms of structured training or positive feedback. Instead, the holistic coach works to create an environment where players feel comfortable exploring and pursuing skills development on their own time and in their own way. The coach does not act as a central authority, and instead allows the team to set their own agenda.
This style is best suited to mature players, who have already developed the creativity and self-awareness to be self-guided. For the coach, holistic coaching involves a lot of relationship building and the commitment to each player as a whole athlete and person. While this requires some extra work, it can pay dividends for experienced teams with the maturity to handle this “hands-off” style of coaching.

Talent identification and coaching management are very vital in the development of an athlete from the grassroots stage through to the elite stage where the athlete is ready to perform as a professional or represent a nation in a high performing competition.
A combination of relevant coaching and leadership techniques is needed to bring the best out of the journey of an elite athlete.
Coaching is an essential part of a team and an athlete’s journey; from goal-setting, skills development, and improved performance, through the application of scientific knowledge. A modern coach is bound to succeed when he/she exhibits skills that always allow for clear communication of vision and goals. Also establish a healthy relationship with the athlete/team and the analytical competence to guide the athlete through improved performance.
A good coach-athlete relationship that will lead to success is hinged on closeness, commitment, complementarity, and co-orientation.

•    Lumpkin, A. (1998): Physical education and sports: A contemporary introduction Dubuque, IA: Mc Graw-Hill Companies
•    Wuest., D. A. and Bucher, C. A. (1999). Foundation of physical education and sports (13th ed) Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill.
•    Adedoja, T. A. (1991) Fundamentals of sports and adaptive physical education for the handicapped, Lagos: Test and Measure Publication
•    The sports Act ,2016 (Act 934)
•    The 1992 const