What is Talent…..?

How do you find it…..?

What do you do with it when you have it…..?


Talent Identification is big in rowing, many programmes are highly funded and coaches careers depend on results. The ‘easiest’ way to get results is to find better athletes. That is true for sure, but when looking for Talent you need to know what it is you are looking for.

“Don’t confuse current performance with Talent”

When looking for somebody to recruit into your programme you need to look carefully and decide what you feel the critical performance factors are in an athlete who delivers a performance.






Training History


What goes into a performance? Which part(s) can you and your programme give to the athlete? Which part(s) do you think they need to bring with them?

People spend a lot of time and money scouring the world looking for talent to bring to their School, they are looking to find an athlete that somebody else has developed and they feel will add to their programme. Personally I am surprised that people do that, there is too much left to chance.

Looking at a 2k ergo score, or maybe a 1 minute test will give you some insight, but you do not know how close they are to being the best version of themselves. How much will they really improve from the moment they arrive at your programme? Will they quit when they get to your school?

Young athletes realise what the prize is, potentially a cheaper or free education. But really the prize these athletes should be looking for is to be in a programme that will help them improve.

My first step would be to look closer to home. If you back yourself to teach them to row and train then it will be cheaper to look on campus. Plus you will be able to get hold of many athletes and find out what they may offer to your programme. I am not saying that Talent ID this way is easier, because it is not. It takes a huge amount of time and effort, and there will be plenty of disappointments, but how many superstars do you need.

Rules of Talent ID:

  1. Go looking for them
  2. Do non rowing specific tests
  3. Only offer them an opportunity
  4. Make them give up as soon as possible
  5. Teach them to train
  6. Be patient
  7. Change the way they behave
  8. Sit back and watch


Go looking for them

Do not be passive!! Putting posters up and waiting for them to come to your gym or office will never work. Remember people do not know what is required to be successful in rowing. Plus usually they will be too nervous or never see your poster.

You need to create opportunities to get in front of as many athletes as you can. You need to approach them, without being creepy. Find a way to spark their interest, engage them.

Do non rowing specific tests

If you do an ergo test, you will pick the ones who have been on the ergo before. Performance is not the same as Talent, you need to do some tests which relate to rowing but are not to rowing. Good Rowers generally have some common characteristics, some visible and others not.

Anthropometry is the obvious first place to look (unless you are looking for lightweights). Tall, long levers….

Endurance is the next one, not visible but measurable. A running test seems obvious….but how many good rowers do you know who can’t run…? Bike test…..you will select people who do loads of cycling, plus you are not testing body endurance.

Power is another important component again not easy to measure without some component of skill masking true power and strength.

Metal Toughness this is vital. Mental toughness is not only about hurting yourself, it is also about performing under pressure, it is the ability to deal with monotony, and also the ability to make choices that go against the grain. Here I feel you will have to spend time with this athlete to find out if they have any, all or none of these.

Only offer them an opportunity

Do not tell them they are going to be really good, or that if they want to they can go to the Olympics. Tell them that you have tested them and you feel they have some characteristics that are good for rowing. Tell them that you would love to offer them an opportunity to find out if they like or maybe even love the sport. If they like it, then you have a chance of them making some good decisions.

Make them give up as soon as possible

Once they are in your programme, let them figure out if they enjoy it. If they don’t then the sooner they quit the better for you and for them. Don’t let them invest too much of their time into it, they will only feel like a failure once they give up something they hated because they are supposed to be good at it.

Now if they like it or even love it, but are terrible…. You need to find a way to make them give up. If you are willing or have the capacity to offer recreational rowing great. But if you are running a performance programme, you need to be effective with your time and resources.

“Good athletes are low maintenance and they learn quickly, don’t spend your time managing behaviours you don’t like”


Teach them to train

First step in talent development is not looking for performance, it is teaching them to train. In this period before you want them to perform, it is your opportunity to teach them good habits, focus on their weakness, teach them the basic skills. Whilst you are doing that make sure you and they find out if they have those areas of mental toughness mentioned earlier. Write a training programme that exposes them, develops them and above all gives them many many positive outcomes. If they fail a lot early on, it will be very difficult to recover from that

Be patient

This is not going to be a smooth road to success. Even when training has been going well and they are in a good place. They will suddenly be rubbish. For no reason that you can fathom….. It will happen, it is all part of the process, if they are the right athlete stick with them, keep building their confidence and skills. When the time is right they will come good.

Change the way they behave

The athlete that joins your programme will arrive with attitudes, values and behaviours that are a product of their upbringing, their social interactions and extraordinary experiences. Mostly they do not arrive with the behaviours that you are looking for. It is now time for you to get to work. Use the training programme, the environment, the failures as opportunities to identify the behaviours that need improving. Once you have identified them, you now need to make the athlete aware of what is expected and what is currently happening. It is then up to them to change, if they don’t…..then likely they will not fulfill the potential.

Sit back and watch

If you get it all right, then you have a gifted, self motivated, honest, hard working confident athlete that will do anything to succeed. At this point you have created a monster, and your job is to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t over do it. It is crucial that you are both clear as to what each other’s objectives are, where they align you work together. In the areas where you do not agree you either need to ‘help’ them figure out you were right all along, or you need to realise that they know more than you and they are right. It does happen sometimes… the sooner you accept that the longer they will respect you.

“Let the athlete know you don’t know the answer and that you will find out for them”