Examining the psychobehavioural features of effective talent development

Hill, Andrew (2016) Examining the psychobehavioural features of effective talent development. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Given sport’s increasing political, economic, and social importance, there is an obvious need to develop sporting talent in an efficacious and efficient manner. However, despite their widespread adoption, many talent development systems suffer from poor predicative validity, with a lack of supporting empirical evidence. This thesis sought to identify the key issues associated with effective talent development through both the examination of extant literature and empirical study. First, a series of semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with sporting academy directors, coaches, and clinical psychologists to identify the issues impacting upon development. Wide support was found for the appropriate deployment of Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence (PCDEs) throughout, along with several other adaptive constructs. A range of factors deemed maladaptive to talent development were also identified, including issues around mental health. Furthermore, some characteristics were seen to be either adaptive or maladaptive, dependent upon context (termed ‘dual-effect’). Based on these results, and furthering the existing work of MacNamara and Collins (2011), a new psychometric assessment tool was developed to help facilitate effective talent development.
Following a process of item generation, cognitive interviews, pilot studies, and exploratory factor analysis, the 7 factor, 88 item Psychological Characteristics of Developing Excellence Questionnaire version 2 (PCDEQ2) was developed. The PCDEQ2 accounted for 40% of response variance, and was subsequently able to accurately predict 72.9% of group membership (i.e., differentiate between those likely to progress to elite sport and those less likely). Accordingly, the PCDEQ2 is able to offer coaches and practitioners an empirically derived, valid and practical way to formatively assess the key psychological constructs that underpin effective talent development, thus informing effective intervention.

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