Principles to guide talent development practices in sport: the exemplar case of British Rugby League Football

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Rothwell, Martyn, Davids, Keith ORCID: 0000-0003-1398-6123, Woods, Carl ORCID: 0000-0002-7129-8938, Otte, Fabian W, Rudd, James ORCID: 0000-0003-1546-576X and Stone, Joseph (2022) Principles to guide talent development practices in sport: the exemplar case of British Rugby League Football. Journal of Expertise, 5 (1). pp. 28-37. ISSN 2573-2773


The value of talent development programmes, aimed at nurturing children and adolescents into high performance sport, has been widely questioned. However, there seems to be some agreement that the general concept of talent development is not the issue, rather, the problems exist in the design, implementation, and management of these systems. These challenges were exemplified in 2021 across British Rugby League Football, where the academy system came under scrutiny from the National Governing Body and many commentators from within the sport. In this paper, we argue that without a theoretical framework to guide learning in development, further operational guidance will continue to foster many of the practices that lead to criticism within the academic literature and from key stakeholders. Situated within the theoretical framework of ecological dynamics, we propose six principles to guide talent development practices of youth athletes; 1) athlete development is non-linear; 2) academies should be development focused, not performance driven; 3) the importance of generality and specificity of practice in athlete development; 4) the implementation of contemporary pedagogical models; 5) skilled intentionality, and; 6) an ethos of amateurism in a professional academy. We encourage practitioners to consider implementing these principles to realign talent development programmes, thereby supporting fun, collaboration, inclusion, and a long-term enjoyment of movement and sports participation.

Item type Article
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4207 Sports science and exercise
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords British Rugby League Football, talent development, high performance sport, talent identification and development symptoms, TIDS
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