Talent Identification in Sport: A Systematic Review



Talent identification (TID) programs are an integral part of the selection process for elite-level athletes. While many sport organizations utilize TID programs, there does not seem to be a clear set of variables that consistently predict future success.


This review aims to synthesize longitudinal and retrospective studies examining differences between performance variables in highly skilled and less-skilled athletes in elite-level sport.


The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were used to identify relevant studies (N = 20).


There was a clear overrepresentation of studies that (1) examined physical profiles of athletes (60%); (2) focused on male samples (65%); (3) examined athletes between the ages of 10 and 20 years (60%); and (4) were published between the years 2010 and 2015 (65%). On closer examination, there was a high degree of variability in the factors that were found to discriminate between skilled and less-skilled individuals.


Findings from this review highlight how little is known about TID in elite sport and emphasize the need for greater diversity in TID research.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Samples in the 10- to 20-year age category likely have a high degree of variability due to the inconsistency of age parameters provided in the studies.

  2. 2.

    An additional article from Barreiros and Fonseca [37] met our criteria, however due to the similarities to the Barreiros et al. [28] article, the study was not included.


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Correspondence to Kathryn Johnston.

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Conflicts of interest

Kathryn Johnston, Nick Wattie, Jörg Schorer, and Joseph Baker declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Johnston, K., Wattie, N., Schorer, J. et al. Talent Identification in Sport: A Systematic Review. Sports Med 48, 97–109 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0803-2

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