The Role of Talent.

Talent- ‘A special natural ability or aptitude’. (as defined in the Dictionary).

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As most of you will already know, my view on this particular subject doesn’t exactly fall hand in hand with conventional beliefs. Not because I want to be different or disagree for the sake of it, but because as somebody who would be considered ‘talented’, I live inside and experience the reality of trying to improve every time I practice. And I see an altogether different picture.

I’ll start by saying that I don’t deny talent exists. That will hopefully get a few of you to at least read on. Many of you reading this will have seen a littering of sportsmen before my time who were exceptional and displayed unparalleled levels of performance. I’m not going to sit here and tell you talent doesn’t exist. I’m not that arrogant!

I just want to point out however that is does both irritate and concern me that so many people believe that only the talented or gifted succeed, Not only in sport but in life. Especially when there is so much scientific evidence out the to suggest otherwise.

But forget the science and let’s focus on the regular happenings in sport, and also identify the potential impact our own beliefs have on our children.

Here’s an example scenario: There is a 13 year old golfer who plays off a 2 handicap. He’s just competed in the National Championships where another 13 year old playing off plus 2 won by 7 shots over the rest of the field.

Here’s my view on that scenario, and also my view on the vital role that parents play….

Let’s start by recognising who play’s the most important role in the losing 13 years olds life, the parents. In any instance of a young golfer (or sportsman/person), whose confidence may have taken a dent, his (or her) parents will play an important role in determining how the 13 year old reacts. Purely because at that age your parents are who you look up to the most. What they say at difficult times always has a striking effect. But also, a more interesting and complex situation arises. At this stage in a 13 year olds life he will have already began interacting with and observing the opinions of his peers. (who are more than likely inept at dealing with insecurities and failures). The predicament the 13 year old now finds himself in is confusing at best, and so the possibility of rebellion towards his parents becomes a likely threat. Especially if the parents views are provocative. This is when parents need to recognise that now is the time to display the right characteristics and find a smart way of reinstalling the 13 year olds belief by virtue of words.

Without getting too far off topic here, I just want parents to realise the important role their beliefs play (if they don’t already). If at this juncture you as a parent believe that success if for the preordained or ‘talented/gifted’, you’ll have a hard time portraying to your son the sheer unimportance of the outcome within the scenario. And what reasons can you give your son as to why he lost by nine-shots! “sorry son he’s just more talented”, or “after witnessing that I’m not convinced your cut out for this”. I know to some that may sound ridiculous but I remember back to how involved some parents got when i was that age, and I imagine them example sentences weren’t half as disparaging!                                                                                                                    IF however you distinguish that, a) success at 13 is irrelevant, b) success at 13 is almost always over-hyped, and c) some 13 year olds can’t even spell their name, then you’re in a better position to pass on empirical knowledge. And you’ll be constructing sentences in the car on the way home along the lines of, “son, he was good, but so are you, and the difference is just practice, dedication and sacrifice, and in time, you can be that good. it’ll just come down to you”.

I notice how I’ve deviated into the world of parenting and i’ll stop as it’s a matter of time before I display contradictions and argue false notions as I’m not a parent! So, I will finish with my take on talent and performance at a young age. It’s not an equation as I don’t believe success can be achieved by following an algorithm. And even if it could, I don’t believe it should be achieved by following set of rules. (We’re humans not robots) Plus in addition all the equations I’ve ever seen aren’t nearly specific enough and certainly do not do justice to the complexity of success. They may as well not be written.

If talent exists, it only makes a difference at the most meaningless times in our lives. (roughly between the ages of 6 and 14). My advice would be, don’t think ‘winning’ is everything because it actually tell us very little. The victor at 13 is more than likely just further down the physical developmental line. At these ages It’s just important to be putting yourself ‘in the competitive arena’. Win or Lose, it won’t matter. But getting nervous, feeling uncomfortable and dealing with the pressures of competing at an early age will prove equally beneficial in the long run. I’m not pooh-poohing winning. But it’s not a habit, so don’t believe you have to always be a ‘winner’. Winning is a way of thinking, a mindset, that improves performance which results in winning. This isn’t inherent, It is learnt purely through knowledge gained from experience.

Nothing proves that point more than this guy…

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So the next time you’re Dad tells you how Jack Nicklaus had an innate ability for great clutch putting, ask him about the Golden Bears bunker play. Or the next time he say’s Maradona was born a genius, say to him “is that what you call hand-ball”?

That Wise old Owl.

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