Is performance at young age a good predictor of later success? 21st Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


Most countries attempt to develop systematic structures to identify gifted talented athletes and to promote their development in certain sports. However, forecasting years in advance for the next generation of sport experts is challenging. The aim of this study is to facilitate talent identification and development program by identify a critical age at which athletes should start to perform in international competitions, and to what extent it is reliable to use junior success as a criterion to predict senior success. Methods The preliminary research consists of a European analysis of four sports: judo, tennis, gymnastics and athletics. This case study uses a top down approach to collect data in answering the question: how did senior elite athletes performed during youth tournaments? The sport specific principles were chosen in consultation with representatives of the Flemish Sport Federations. We focused first on correlations between performances on youth tournaments and professional level. Second, we shed light on how elite athletes performed in the selected youth tournaments (top down approach). Results The conducted correlations were all significant but ranged from very weak-to-weak correlations. As a result, junior athletes with better performances at the selected youth tournaments appear to have a slightly greater chance to be successful at the elite athlete level. Secondly, we conclude that there is an uncertainty about the relationship of performances on youth tournaments and success of elite athletes. The result also reveals that a third of all world-class athletes for athletics, judo as well as gymnastics did not perform or participate in the selected youth tournaments. Discussion These results indicate the general good to put into perspective the relative importance of performances at young ages. Moreover, a mixture of physical and mental skills into appropriate action is common for all sports and each sport is marked by a singularity of required sport-specific elements for successful performance (Baker & Horton, 2004). The ages at which transitions occur as well as the duration of the stages are sport-specific (Wylleman, Alfermann, & Lavallee, 2004). Therefore, it should be indicated that the youth performance sports index is only one out of many parameters evaluating the development of young athletes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean College of Sport Science
Subtitle of host publicationCrossing borders through Sport Science.
EditorsA. Baca, B. Wessner, R. Diketmüller, H. Tschan, M. Hofmann, P. Kornfeind, E. Tsolakidis
PublisherEuropean College of Sport Science
Number of pages1
ISBN (Print)978-3-00-053383-9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Event21st Annual Congress of the EUROPEAN COLLEGE OF SPORT SCIENCE: Crossing borders through Sport Science. - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 6 Jul 20169 Jul 2016


Conference21st Annual Congress of the EUROPEAN COLLEGE OF SPORT SCIENCE


  • Youth sport
  • elite success
  • junior performance


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