An Uneven Playing Field: Talent Identification Systems and the Perpetuation of Participation Biases in High Performance Sport

  • Nick Wattie
  • Joseph Baker


Participation in sport is often held up as an ideal activity for the development of productive youth, minimization of disease risk and maximizing quality of life. Unfortunately, there is overwhelming support for the conclusion that sport and athlete development systems perpetuate systematic biases affecting who has access to sporting opportunities. In particular, several biases emerge from talent identification practices that target those at young ages and from environmental constraints that similarly influence young athletes’ development. In this chapter, we use the theory of Life Cycle Skill Formation (LCSF; Cunha and Heckman, Journal of Human Resources, 43, 738–782, 2008; Cunha et al., Handbook of the economics of education. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 2006) to review three significant biases on athlete development. Moreover, we will highlight several avenues that might improve rates of sport participation and identify several areas where future work is necessary.



Support for the writing of this chapter was provided through a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC Grant 30-2014-00885).


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nick Wattie
    • 1
  • Joseph Baker
    • 1
  1. 1.OshawaCanada

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