FIFA
#Ecosystem analysis

Identify the talent

FIFA, 04 Feb 2022

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To develop talent it first needs to be identified. Having a thorough system and strategy in place increases the amount of gifted young players discovered. What exactly these systems and strategies entail is revealed below.

Talent identification

Opportunities for male and female footballers to be scouted, identified and developed should be based on their motivation and talent, not on their birthplace, age or socio-economic background. At present, the data reveals that this is not always the case. Due to these inequalities and inefficiencies in talent identification (TID), the global football community needs to dedicate significant amounts of time, effort and resources to constructing fairer and more effective systems and strategies for these areas. By closing gaps in identification and development, football ecosystems can treasure unique talents by helping them to reach their full potential – because every talent deserves a chance.

What is TID and what is the purpose of a TID strategy?

TID refers to the processes employed by member associations (MAs), clubs and academies to assess the relative talent of players in the talent pool. This process is often referred to as “scouting” or “recruitment”.

A TID strategy helps to provide a uniform approach towards TID within a football ecosystem. It addresses the nuances within TID. Defining what constitutes a talent, distinguishing between player talent and performance, and setting a road map for a TID system that is relevant to the organisation (MA or club) are some of the intricacies a TID strategy needs to address.

The characteristics of an optimal TID strategy

The development of a TID strategy enables MAs and/or clubs to guide scouts, recruiters and other stakeholders with a framework to identify certain key characteristics and future potential in players. Ideally, the TID strategy will be closely linked to the organisation’s playing philosophy and will seek to identify players who have the potential to meet the performance criteria outlined in the playing philosophy. Such a strategy will enable an organisation (MA or club) to create a detailed succession plan or depth chart of talent for each position throughout the age groups in their respective sporting organisation to safeguard their long-term future and sustainability. The TID strategy typically also sets out the approach to managing data analytics, match analysis and the creation of databases and talent depth charts to ensure that talent is tracked and monitored objectively.

Global findings:

  • A significant number of MAs do not have a TID strategy. In addition, they do not have defined criteria for player selection or databases/systems to track potential talent. Implementing each of these systems would yield immediate performance gains.

  • The most successful MAs have comprehensive scouting systems in place with appropriate resources and technical expertise, ready to identify players around the country regardless of their location or the level of competition.

  • Bolstering TID events and programmes which offer as many players as possible the opportunity to be seen is essential to maximising the potential of the national talent pool.

  • MAs should invest in technical staff with a high level of expertise who can be attached to regional associations and who are responsible for TID and coach development (course delivery, club visits, mentoring opportunities, etc.).

The TID System

The more effective the process and system, the more players with strong natural ability will be identified.

A high percentage of MAs in the top 20 have a TID system in place

More than 80% of the top 20 MAs adopt a systematic approach to TID. This number decreases significantly in the lower-ranked MAs, especially on the women’s pathway, where only approximately 37% of MAs ranked 21-100 have a TID system in place for female players. Across the top 100 MAs, TID appears to start between the ages of ten and 12.

Global findings:

  • Many MAs experience significant geographical challenges to developing a national TID network, with different obstacles faced depending on whether areas are urban or rural. MAs should create a national network of TID specialists that spans every region in their country. This would enable MAs to have oversight of the whole talent pool – not just the players from more accessible areas, but also those from hard-to-reach rural regions.

  • MAs should focus on developing a TID strategy that provides clear direction, sets specific targets for player development and seeks to maximise the potential of the talent pool. Ideally, the strategy will be closely linked to the national playing philosophy and games programme.

  • The most successful MAs have developed analytical tools to help measure and track the talent pool. Using databases and building depth charts to monitor talent are core functions of a properly developed TID system and should ideally be in place across all MAs.

  • Given that almost all MAs have acknowledged the key role that academies play in TID, it is essential that there is close cooperation and alignment between MA TID systems and those being developed at the leading clubs and academies.

  • MAs should seek to develop specialists, working at MA and club level, who understand the particular challenges of identifying talent in youth players at different stages of the player pathway.

Takeaways

  • Geographical challenges are one of the biggest obstacles to achieving effective TID systems in football communities. For example, differences in population density can make some areas seem more attractive for investment than others. However, by favouring some areas over others, there is a risk that valuable talent will go unnoticed. A football community should strive to create a TID network that spans the whole region. 

  • Transparency within a TID network is key. Many parties are involved in these networks, with clubs and MAs playing leading roles. Those involved should envision themselves as part of this wider whole, and actively seek to align their systems and information with others in the network. Improving the levels of transparency and collaboration within TID processes helps to increase the likelihood that a football community will give every deserving talent a chance.

  • The player’s interests must be at the heart of the TID process. TID systems should seek to challenge, support and protect talented individuals so that they can fulfil their true potential. Developing a player is a long-term process that requires patience, hard work and a love of the game. The initial identification process should also embody these qualities.

  • Embrace the facts. By building and using databases, coaches and clubs can take a step closer to ensuring that their identification processes are based on objective practices.

  • Definitions matter. How talented players are defined is decided by the organisation to meet the needs of their ecosystem. MAs and clubs should therefore create a TID strategy that is both specifically tailored to the needs of its football community and that identifies players for a multitude of developmental reasons. 

Talking Talent Pathways - access to football and talent identification

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