Developing Talent & Super Elite Performance

Our goal at Front Runner is to ensure that regardless of your (or your child’s) goal, we can provide a service and environment that will facilitate goal attainment. This begins with our Trackstars & Junior Development programs (read more HERE) that are designed to maximise long term participation in the sport through enjoyment and the development of skills that will allow the child to progress towards their personal, long term goals.

Our Junior Emerging pathway (read more HERE) then begins to combine the individual prescription of exercise, education from 1 on 1 coach & athlete/parent meetings and the availability of expert coaches at all group sessions to ensure our athletes are completing deliberate, sport-specific practice at every opportunity. The key however, is this only occurs once they are committed to self-improvement within the sport.

As athlete’s progress within the sport and seek to improve their performance towards a national and international stage, the following question needs to be asked: what leads to ‘Super Elite’ sporting performance (i.e. winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games or World Championships)? The Great British Medallists Project was a 2016 paper that reviewed current knowledge on developing the world’s best sporting talent and provides some great insight into this question. The authors aimed to identify what is known – and what is thought to be true – in relation to understanding the development of the world’s best sporting talent.

From this extensive study, we’d like to highlight the factors that achieved moderate to high scores in the following areas; study design quality, consistency of evidence and directness of evidence. The factors are broken down into three areas – The Performer, The Environment& Practice and Training. Here’s what they found:

 The Performer

  1. Anthropometric and physiological factors are important for performance. However, caution should be urged when using anthropometric and physiological tests for talent selection purposes with adolescents because of variation in biological maturation.
  2. Psychological factors (e.g. motivation, confidence, perceived control, mental toughness, resilience, coping with adversity, resistance to ‘choking’, mental skills) appear to be important contributors to the development of super-elite performance
  3. Personality Traits: Super-elite athletes are conscientious, optimistic, hopeful and perfectionist

The Environment

  1. The Birthplace: Small-to-medium communities provide favourable environments for developing athletes. Talent hotspots may exist
  2. Support from Parents, Family, Siblings & Coaches: Super-elite athletes have benefitted from supportive families, coaches and networks during their development. The subtleties of the provision of support are not well understood
  3. Athlete Support Programmes: Early success is a poor predictor for later super-elite success, and thus for early talent identification purposes. Super-elite success is mostly preceded by relatively late entry into organised support programmes

Practice, Training and Play

  1. Volume of sport-specific practice and training: Super-elite performance develops from extensive deliberate practice, but the applicability of the 10 years/10,000 hours ’rule’ to high- performance sport is limited. Play may also be relevant, as may implicit/automatic and incidental skill learning
  2. Early specialization vs. sampling and play: The key to reaching super-elite level may be involvement in diverse sports during childhood and appreciable amounts of sport-specific practice/training in late adolescence and adulthood

From this, a few key themes emerge:

  • Be careful when predicting post-adolescence performance from pre-adolescent data. E.g. aerobic fitness in aspiring middle- & long-distance runners is something that can be built significantly post adolescence.
  • The exposure to a variety of sports – particularly team sports – for the pre-adolescent athlete can lead to significant gains in both physical (improvement in a broad range of motor skills) and psychological (improving the ability of the athlete to deal with a variety of experiences) capacity.
  • Given the amount of sport specific practice required to become super-elite, creating an environment for athletes to develop professional habits and a high work rate, whilst being exposed to the broadest possible perspective to ensure the athletes can always ‘dream big’ and not be limited, is necessary.

The study also highlighted evidence at the elite & super elite level that suggests the athletes display a strong task orientation to base their perceptions of competence on personal improvements. There was also evidence that athletes of all levels (non-elite, junior elite, elite and super-elite) display a strong ego orientation to formulate perceptions of competence by comparing their own ability with that of others. What does this tell us? That the combination of the ability to self-reflect on your own preparation and performance to ensure ongoing personal improvement, alongside the desire to improve relative to others, may be optimal when aiming to progress to elite and super-elite performance. A lack of self-reflection and internal performance tracking may limit performance improvements towards the elite and super-elite level by being too ego-driven.


For Front Runners in our elite pathway, achieving this delicate balance is one of our primary aims to ensure optimal performance. This is achieved by:

  • The tracking of individual training data and 1 on 1 feedback
  • A broad exposure to group training and competition at the highest possible level for the individual to motivate the athlete and feed their ego to be the best they can be in the broadest possible context.

For those interested in reading the full study, please see HERE.

If you have any queries on your running, please feel free to get in touch with our team –

Running Regards,

Team Front Runner