If there is one word that really gets my my hackles up then it is ‘talent’. When I hear the word, my hands start to sweat and I can feel the resentment rising. I think of the many players who were classed as ‘talented’ yet never made the grade in the game. Some of the these prestigious talents gave up on the game at a very early age. The word really does make me squirm.
I would like to quote James Altucher “Talent helps but it can also hurt” So why does it hurt? In simple terms, players who are regarded as talents just can’t handle losing. One defeat and their own self-confidence is ruined. One missed chance and their world collapses. I have known, coached and been team-mates with players who have been labelled ‘real talent’ These players have demonstrated the following behaviours in their attempt to protect their self-image:
- Developing last minute injuries before key games.
- Physically sick before games
- Blaming any of their own mistakes on their team-mates
- Not participating in training games in case they make mistakes in front of their peers
- Asking to come off in games and blaming injuries for poor performances
Of course many of these happen with ordinary players but I have seen it much more in so called talented players. There has been much written on the subject but the fear of failure is a key driver. The sad thing is that many of these young talents will simply stop playing because they can’t handle losing and bringing shame on themselves (as they see it).
Talent is a tiny kindling. It won’t make a fire unless you carefully attend to it with adding fuel. Too much and you drown it, too little and you starve it. You, the coach, control the fuel you feed it.
I have heard numerous coaches recommending ‘talented’ players. It always turns me off. I would love players to have the tiniest of talents or have won the physical/genetic lottery which will give them a start. However, it is the players who takes that grain of talent and apply a work rate like no other who has the best chance. In my own team there are some players better than others purely based on their physical, technical and mental skills which have been developed. Subsequently, I will only judge them on the progress they have made to develop these skills. As many parents and observers will not see the daily/weekly progress then they will regard some players as ‘talented’ however that is only because they have worked on specifics which have made them better players ergo ‘more ‘talented’ in their eyes.
The real talent is wanting to grow and get better every single day. Can they improve 1% every session? Instead of comparing players to others, can you compare them to how they were last week, last month, last year? What have they done over this period to improve the technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects of their own performance?
Talent last for seconds, skill requires a price you have to pay.
To quote Serena Williams “There’s always something you have to give up for success. Everything comes at a cost. Just what are you willing to pay for it?” Whatever you are willing to pay is your choice (no-one else can make it for you). You determine the price but remember there are no free lunches.