Talent ID (Soccer) – Rasmus Ankersen’s Gold Mine Affect
This article will give you a practical view of how Rasmus Ankersen’s Gold Mine Affect can be used in talent identification. In his book titled “Gold Mine Effect: Crack the Secrets of High Performance” (2013), Rasmus Ankersen sets out a rather controversial view of performance and its consequences. The most attractive aspect of the work is its ability to speak to athletes, parents, guardians, coaches, clubs and anyone else that has an interest in sports. The premise of the book is that there are many great athletes out there in some of the poorest parts of the world but they are not picked up because the talent scouts in Western developed societies tend to favor the finished products of athletes who have been given every advantage and are therefore able to perform well on cue. In many ways the book explains why backwater countries like Jamaica, Ethiopia and Kenya are beginning to dominate Olympic and other athletic events. Although the phenomenon has not yet spread to soccer, there are signs that a lot is being missed. If one was to look at the English Premier League or its French counterpart, it is quite clear that many players from these parts of the world are being recruited to bolster national teams.
Basically the book talks of six gold mines which are countries that currently produce or will most likely produce some of the best athletes in the world. Interestingly the gold mines are directly linked to a specific sport rather than being generalized. This allows for specialization and could greatly help soccer scouts when looking for populations that are most likely to produce stars. The examples that Rasmus Ankersen gives include:
Brazil for Soccer
Ethiopia and Kenya for Long Distance Running
Jamaica for Sprinting
Russia for Tennis
South Korea for Golf
In all those countries mentioned, the USA probably has the best resources for those specific sports and has a budget that far exceeds all the nations put together. However the countries still manage to beat the USA handily. If the USA is to develop its general sporting prowess and excel in soccer then it needs to really understand how the gold mine effect works.
Factors that Create Sporting Prowess
There are certain specific factors that Rasmus Ankersen identifies as being critical to developing the unique capabilities of these nations.
1) Concentrated Parenting: It is very important that parents and guardians as well as the general family is involved in the talent scouting process. These are the people that are eventually going to work with the coach through final decision-making. If they are not on board then the scheme is bound to fail. Often the attitudes of parents and guardians will tell the decision-maker whether they will be committed to the requirements of the player development program. Of course we must remember that some parents are messed up but produce children who are stars. Therefore the club or institution must not drive away children simply because they have less than ideal parents. Nevertheless they must be aware of the fact that the situation at home is likely to be reflected in the performance during the training program.
2) Hardening by Experience: The people that end up performing well in the countries that Rasmus Ankersen mentions are the ones that have gone through tough times. For example Serena and Venus Williams are what they are because they were able to continue hitting tennis balls as gunshots rang out in the roughest parts of Compton, California. The athletes in less wealthy countries are so used to dealing with hardship that it presents very limited obstacles to them when they encounter it on the field. Someone that has been running with bear feet all their lives is unlikely to give up training because of a blister. The people who are doing the talent identification need to understand the value of these harsh experiences in forming the future athlete. Therefore they should try to understand the background of the player even as they are presented with all their credentials.
3) Hard Work and Repetition: The adage is well known in sports that there are no short cuts to success. The people that are going to dominate soccer are the ones that are going to be doing drills again and again. No matter how talented a young athlete is, if they are not willing to put in the effort then they are going nowhere. There is no point in wasting training resources on someone that only wants to do the things that are simple for them. The professional soccer career calls for unique qualities that dazzle and impress the opposition so that you can win games again and again. It will be through an incredible amount of hard work that you will get to this point. Any cognitive or physical laziness is not going to make the cut. The decision-maker should therefore be brutal when avoiding those applicants that expect an easy ride. To let them in is cruel to them and irresponsible because it brings the sport into disrepute.
4) Hunger and Desire: One of the best indicators of future performance is the extent to which the person wants it. We have seen great sports people in the midst of a dire match where all the skills and competencies no longer matter. A case in point is Mohammed Ali and Frazer where both men were too exhausted to really do technically pleasing boxing. What remained is desire. This is something that can be seen right from the beginning because it is an innate quality. Either the athlete wants to succeed or they do not. You cannot train them to have this extra desire and hope that they will instantly turn into professional athletes. Amateurs might be coaxed into enjoying the sport but the true professionals are the ones that want it very bad and are willing to do anything to get it.
5) Focus and Prioritization: The importance of soccer in one’s life is of the utmost importance. It is what distinguishes it from hobbies and other pastimes that are not given a high priority in the person’s life. Through interaction, interviewing and observation; the decision-maker should try to glean the kind of role that soccer players in the life of the potential applicant. If it is just a peripheral activity or an accessory to glory then they should politely reject them. The kind of investment that will inevitably be required calls for a concentration of resources which only those that are truly interested can muster. The soccer profession is not one that can be done on a part time and leisurely basis if you want to excel. The athlete must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to take it to the next level.
‘Soccer Talent Identification’ by Darren Laver – Coming Soon