Talent Identification and Development: An Investigation into the Policies and Practices of One New Zealand Rugby Provincial Union
Increasingly countries are coming under pressure to succeed on the world sporting stage. As a result, athlete talent identification and development have become central concerns and challenges to sporting organisations globally. In the competitive New Zealand rugby union environment, Super Rugby Franchises and Provincial Unions are working hard to find solutions to identify, recruit and retain rugby talent; investing significant human and financial resources into the rugby pathway and talent development programmes. However, few studies have specifically investigated talent identification and development in a New Zealand rugby union context. This study used a single case to investigate the talent identification and development policies and practices of one New Zealand Provincial Union. Interviews were the main method of data collection with participants being purposely selected based on them being knowledgeable and information rich about the area of investigation (Byra & Goc Karp, 2000; Finn & McKenna, 2010). Additionally, documents were collected that contained relevant information on the talent identification and development policies and practices. The data was analysed using a theoretical standpoint informed by a multidimensional and dynamic concept of talent (Abbott, Button, Pepping, & Collins, 2005) and an ecological approach to development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Investigating the Provincial Union’s talent identification policies and practices, it was found the Union has developed a Talent Profile to be implemented in the identification of rugby talent. Players are assessed and evaluated against specific talent criteria to shape decisions on which players are selected into Provincial Union talent development programmes. The findings highlight selector judgements are subjective and interpretive in nature and identified a number of tensions with the implementation of the Talent Profile and between talent identification policy and practice. It was also found the Provincial Union has an unofficial policy of selecting “no dickheads”, with a focus on a player’s character and behaviour embedded in the Union’s talent identification policies and practices. External influences deemed influential in why policies are, or are not, implemented in practice were also identified. Investigating the Provincial Union’s talent development policies and practices it was established the Union wants to achieve winning teams and national representation for their players from implementing player development programmes; in addition to developing players for the future. The Provincial Union implements talent development opportunities through the operation of a High Performance Academy, representative teams, and age-group development camps. The study highlights limitations and tensions associated with the monitoring and assessment of players through development programmes and found a focus on the short-term, players “in a rush” to make it to elite levels of performance, and the impact of family and peers as significant to the implementation of the Provincial Union’s talent development policies and practices. It is concluded the findings demonstrate the practical challenges and complexities of player talent identification and development and provide support for a multidimensional and dynamic concept of talent and an ecological approach to talent development and talent identification. Further research conducted in the New Zealand (NZ) context would continue to advance our understanding of the dynamic nature talent identification and development processes.
Advisor: Cassidy, Tania
Degree Name: Master of Physical Education
Degree Discipline: School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: selection; athlete profile; player development; pathway; Ecological
Research Type: Thesis