Talent Identification based on Physical & Physiological Characteristics

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Talent Identification based on Physical & Physiological Characteristics

With the increasing emphasis on talent identification of junior athletes, the Olympic Development Programme (ODP) have conducted comprehensive, sport-specific investigations to define the physical characteristics, physiological fitness and sport specific skills essential to each sport.

Coaches from all sports are starting to catalogue young athletes physical abilities, such as endurance, speed, strength, flexibility and accuracy. Here is a perfect example in Rugby Union by John Mitchell, the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the National Rugby Sevens side. These measurements will drive talent identification and development of optimal conditioning and training regimes to enhance athletic performance.

Talent Identification based on Physical & Physiological CharacteristicsNumerous studies have addressed the link between physical abilities and talent development, noting that several factors, including strength, power, agility, flexibility, speed, cardiovascular and metabolic capacity, body composition and sport-specific skills contribute to successful sporting performance across a variety of sports, including soccer, rugby, tennis, weightlifting, handball and kickboxing. However, studies detailing the physical and physiological characteristics of junior track and field athletes are uncommon. Our recent research sought to accurately assess the physical and physiological characteristics in a junior cohort of track and field athletes.

32 elite junior athletes were recruited into the Newham Sports Academy prior to the 2012 London Olympic Games were separated into power (15 participants) and aerobic (17 participants) sports. Anthropometry (stature, body mass, sum of seven skinfolds and muscle girths), muscular power (horizontal jump), grip strength (hand dynamometer), speed (10-, 30- and 60-meters) and reaction time (BATAK reaction board) data was collected. The physical and physiological characteristics of the aerobic and power groups are displayed in Tables 1 and 2.

Our results highlight the difference in the physical and physiological characteristics of junior power and aerobic athletes. The results indicated that power athletes had increased muscular girths, improved reaction time, grip strength and standard long jump scores and were faster to 10, 30 and 60-metres.

Documentation of the physical and physiological information from athletes will allow coaches to identify athletes with the optimum characteristics, to assess an athlete’s current performance and also build a long-term plan for the athletes development.

Are you ‘designed’ to be an aerobic or a power athlete?

Aerobic Athletes

Power Athletes

Height (cm)



Body Mass (kg)



Bicep Girth (mm)



Calf Girth (mm)



Forearm Girth (mm)



Thigh Girth (mm)



Waist Girth (mm)



Hip Girth (mm)



Chest Girth (mm)



Stephen Cousins
Stephen Cousins is an Exercise Physiology Lecturer at La Trobe University.



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