Talent Transfer – Link outside of your league.
By Rhiannon Fisher: Bond University – Gold Coast, Australia
So you have drafted the next crop of athletes to your team, hopefully you are content with your choices but maybe you missed out on a player you were really interested in. Hopefully you didn’t miss out on a good player because your organisation could not meet the contract demands, if this is the case and it has happened more often than you would like, it could be a good time to consider a talent transfer program. There is a lot to be said about talent transfer in elite sports.
Athletes are athletes
Sometimes it can frowned upon or seen as a form of poaching, which may or may not be a red flag to you depending on your personal philosophy and views. For the most part, when completed in an honest manner talent transfer can be highly successful and rewarding. By talent transfer I’m talking about taking an athlete from one sport who excels in certain skills and exhibits suitable physical attributes to succeed in your sport, and then training and fine tuning their skills, knowledge and mindset to play the new sport. If you need a player who can run or jump, look to other sports for which speed and power are fundamental characteristics, and so on.
History shows it can be done
There are several examples of talent transfer programs, some with more success than others, including examples in the NFL. Several players from the Australian Football League (AFL) have successfully transferred to NFL, including:
- Pat O’Dea – AFL (then known as VFL) to college football in 1896
- Colin Ridgeway VFL – NFL debut 1965
- Darren Bennett AFL – NFL debut 1995
- Ben Graham AFL – NFL debut 2005
- Nathan Chapman AFL – NFL debut 2004
- Saverio Rocca AFL – NFL debut 2007
- Chris Bryan AFL – NFL debut 2010
- Scott Harding AFL – NFL debut 2011
It is not uncommon for Australian football players to be recruited to the NFL in particular for the similar punt/kicking technique, which is the primary method of ball movement in Australian football, with most AFL players able to kick at least 50 meters (54 yards) comfortably.
Another reason to push for D-League?
If you are looking at a talent transfer program you need to be aware of the time it can take for that athlete to refine his skills and develop the game awareness to perform effectively for your team. Recruiting an established athlete in your sport is the default setting and rightly so; it makes sense to recruit athletes who have the knowledge and the physical characteristics required to play the game, however there is a lot to be said for talent transfer programs when the athlete is the right fit for your organisation. You must be prepared to spend intense training periods with the transfer athlete to get him up to the required level to perform in your sport. If you have a well-developed and thought out plan in place for the next several years you can integrate a transfer athlete into your organisation without ‘losing out’ on recruiting established players.
For example if your organisation is likely to lose players (due to retirement, free agency, contract culmination etc.) within the next 3-4 years you need to be recruiting to replace those players now. When I say recruiting I don’t necessarily mean you need to draft a replacement immediately, obviously you need to recruit players to fill immediate gaps in your organisation and resources don’t always allow you to draft players you will need in three years’ time. Instead, what I mean is you need to be aware of the prospects out there which could be the right fit for your organisation in the next 3-4 years and those prospects should not just be limited to your sport.
If you have the luxury to attempt a talent transfer the earlier you get the new athlete into your organisation and begin working with them, the better. For the most part the transfer athlete will have the skills and most likely physical attributes required to play your sport (that of course would be why you have recruited them!) but they won’t necessarily have the game awareness and tactical elements of the sport which are required to succeed. This is why you must commit to investing time into your talent transfer athlete. You will find after the recruitment of the athlete, their skills will progress quickly if you use a deliberate practice program. The benefit of a transfer athlete is they are able to absorb your team philosophy and your team structure just as well, if not better than other athletes from within the sport because the wont have preconceived ideas about your organisation or what set plays will and wont work; they essentially are a blank canvas just waiting to be a masterpiece.
A past example of success
Another example of a more thorough talent transfer program was conducted by the Australian Sports Commission in 2002, upon the reintroduction of the Skeleton to the Winter Olympics. Considering the small numbers of competitors in Skeleton (at the time around 100 female competitors) the ASC saw a unique opportunity to be competitive in an international sport within a short time frame, with a good chance of securing a medal. Sixty-seven athletes from various sports were slowly brought down to a four person female Olympic Skelton team. The four athletes in the team were recruited from sports which possess similar skills and physical characteristics required for success in Skeleton, this included beach sprinters from Surf Life Saving and track sprinters with surfing and gymnastic experience; all explosive athletes. These athletes were considered elite in their respective sports but may not have been number one, or alternatively they may have wanted a new challenge, with the thought of Olympic appearance impossible to pass up for most athletes.
This is a good strategy to use when looking for a transfer athlete; the athletes who are considered elite but have not quite been able to break into the professional leagues may be more likely to consider a change of sport than those who are already established in the professional leagues. The newly formed Australian female Skeleton team achieved four top-six finishes in their first year on the World Cup circuit. Perhaps the most astonishing part of their success in their first season on the circuit was every team member had less than 14 months experience on the ice! While the newly formed Skeleton team were unsuccessful in their bid to secure Olympic glory, several of the skeleton team members individually qualified for subsequent Winter Olympics, one of which went on to become the under 23 years World Champion.
Talent transfer can take time, but when executed correctly it can be highly rewarding for your organisation. When you are looking at the next round of prospects ready to be recruited into your team, remember you don’t have to settle if an athlete is not the right fit, instead be aware that there is an almost endless pool of athletes with similar physical characteristics and skills just waiting for a chance. Look beyond what is highlighted to you.
Follow Rhiannon Fisher on Twitter @RhiannonNFisher