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Talent is Dead

Talent: a dangerous word for players and a highly infectious idea for coaches. This article by PDP Lead Researcher, James Vaughan explores the possibility that talent is a ‘meme’.


Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme to explain an infectious idea that spreads from person to person: the cultural equivalent of a gene. Incorporating theories from motor learning and psychology, this article discusses talent as a meme and highlights its potential influence as a socio-cultural constraint – inhibiting the development of skill and creativity. However, we start with the idea that talent (as we know it) may not exist at all.

“Within the framework of nonlinear pedagogy, a skill and more generally talent, is not a trait possessed by individuals alone but a property of the athlete-environment system subject to changing constraints”

(Hristovski, Davids, Passos, & Araújo, 2012, p. 27)

This is key: players do not possess talent, and people are not skilled. In some moments, within certain environments, under specific constraints and when engaged in a particular task, skill and creativity will emerge. Elizabeth Gilbert illustrates this...

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