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Youth Athlete Development Conference 2019

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Panel discussion with Matthew Wylde (NYSI, Head of Performance Pathways), Prof. Dr. Arne Güllich and Dr Taisuke Kinugasa (left to right).

Level Up, Tuesday, 5th Nov 2019 – The National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) held its annual Youth Athlete Development Conference (YADC) 2019 to help improve our training and performance ecosystem for our youth athletes.

The theme of YADC 2019 was “Level Up”. Experts from Germany, Japan, Norway and Singapore share their expertise and research on how we could level up our sport ecosystem and environment.

Professor Dr Arne Güllich evaluated the German talent development system and found that many of the successful youth athletes were not successful as senior athletes and vice versa. He said that early talent identification and development (TID) is unreliable and unnecessary. 

Taking into account the sample size of the research that has been carried out, “the probability of hitting a talent at an early age is minimal, below 1 per million,'' said Professor Güllich.

“(TID) is not needed if we have an effective competition system in place because talents will emerge through development if a good system is in place.”

Sharing how the Japanese sport environment is levelling up, Dr Taisuke Kinugasa shared that Japan uses the FTEM (Foundation, Talent, Elite, Mastery) framework. Originating from Australia, FTEM allows for culture variations and the Japan Sport Council has adapted it to fit the Japanese culture. 

“Having this framework helps coaches of different levels and the people involved in athlete development to communicate with each other. I think that that's the most powerful thing about the framework,” said Dr Kinugasa.

The success of the framework showed the importance of taking into consideration how culture can influence the success of programmes.

Professor Elsa Kristiansen also shared how the Norwegian system encourages young children to play sport. Their leagues do not keep score and there are no national championships for children under 13. The aim is to allow children under 13 to enjoy sport and try multiple sports.

But unlike in Singapore, Norway’s support system does not provide sponsorships, hence parents and private stakeholders play a crucial role in supporting the athletes. 

“Parents are a major stakeholder in a way because they usually pay for the school and clubs, not like here in Singapore where you get sponsored if you’re good enough at your sport to train for free. You really have to pay for it in Norway.”

Assistant Professor Li Chunxiao from the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, spoke of how the talent development environment can be crafted to build mental toughness to attain high performance.

“Because we should always challenge athletes - that’s how they can improve themselves. Without challenges embedded in the training programme, I think most athletes will just stay in their comfort zones. So that won’t help much in terms of their improvement in sport,” said Dr Li.

The NYSI sport science team also demonstrated technology that is used to level up our youth athletes, such as eye-tracking, velocity-based training, heart-rate variability and mindfulness.

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Participants gathered at Level Up on the morning of 5th November 2019 for the annual Youth Athlete Development Conference.


Professor Dr. Arne Güllich speaking about talent identification and development in Germany.


Dr. Taisuke Kinugasa sharing about the Japanese FTEM (Foundation, Talent, Elite, Mastery) framework.


Professor Dr. Elsa Kristiansen discussing the role of Norwegian talent development systems in shaping youth athletes.


Assistant Professor Dr Li Chun Xiao highlighting the importance of strengthening mental toughness.


Panel discussion with Professor Dr Elsa Kristiansen and Asst. Professor Dr Li Chun Xiao, moderated by Dr Neha Malhotra (Sports Psychologist at NYSI).

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Participant trying on the eye-tracking glasses with the aid of Adilah, member of the NYSI Performance Analysis team for the live demonstration of Levelling Up with Eye-tracking.