Examining equity, diversity, and inclusion in talent identification and talent development in youth soccer in Canada: coaches’ perspectives

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Howell, Stephen
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Talent identification and talent development often depend on interconnected variables, such as the athlete’s environment, maturation, the roles of stakeholders, and relationships created and maintained throughout both processes. Talent identification and development require significant resources and finances dedicated to searching for and developing athletes. This qualitative study examines the factors influencing talent identification and talent development processes for youth-aged soccer players in Canada. Insights about talent identification and development were gathered from 16 youth soccer coaches with experiences across different stages of the talent development pathway. Each coach participating in the study took part in a semi-structured interview addressing their awareness of talent identification and talent development processes in Canadian youth soccer, their experiences within its talent development environment, and the challenges/solutions they see to improve the number of talented youth soccer players A thematic analysis process was used to gain insights and identify themes from the interviews. Participants identified different perspectives on talent, talent identification, and talent development. The results of this study demonstrate an inequitable talent identification and development system, which is limited by athletes’ place of birth, socio-economic status, and access to necessary resources. To address the identified constraints, coaches participating in this study recommend: 1) improving access to youth soccer, 2) not driving talent identification and talent development processes on pay-for-play or profit models, 3) prioritizing the social-emotional well-being of children and youth athletes, 4) having a clear definition of talent, talent identification, and talent development, and 5) investing to build system capacity and eliminate inequities.
Talent, Talent Identification, Talent Development, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Youth Sports, Youth Adolescent Athletes, Soccer, Sports, Coaches