Once I was trying to explain to someone why I wanted to keep some athletes on scholarship. I said that I simply couldn't rule them out, that I thought it was conceivable that any of those athletes could make it to the highest level. The question was posed, if I couldn't reduce numbers then why not support another sport that could be more targeted?
We always want to fast-track young talented athletes. We want to narrow the focus. Why? Because if we put the same resources into fewer athletes then surely they will end up being better. Right? Think of how good they can be! Their 'ceiling' is higher than anyone in the team right now!! Make them good, fast! HURRY UP!
What we often forget is that the team we have is full of athletes just like those younger ones we are excited about now, who didn't develop as much as we had hoped. We also forget that we used to have some of those talented youngsters but they quit long ago. We forget that the talent we were excited about was actually just Sport Specific Physical Aptitude.
Maybe rather than fast-tracking talented athletes we need to slow-track some? We need to be clear about the various things they will need as they progress along the high performance pathway - and ensure they are taught these things as they go along. We know that the ability to overcome adversity is a benefit to elite performers, so why do we try to remove any obstacles from the 'talented ones'? When we do this are we removing opportunities for these athletes to develop these skills?
I'm not saying don't fast-track, but make sure that in the rush to develop an athlete, you aren't missing any key components.