Youth sport talent detection & identification. Why you should have a look at Ghent University’s products & services.

Around the age of 8, many children, their parents, teachers, grandparents and friends ask themselves the question: which sports to continue? Which one match best with my natural talents and which one would be the most fun? On the other hand, trainers and other professionals in various sports want to identify the most talented children at the youngest age possible. The question then arises: how to do so with minimal false negatives and positives?

At Ghent University, various tools have been developed which could provide an answer to these type of questions. The intelligence of the products is based on over a decade of research from the group of Prof. Matthieu Lenoir. Let’s have a closer look at what it contains exactly.

SportKompas, a research-based sports orientation tool

The Department of Movement and Sports Sciences of Ghent University developed the scientific insights forming the basis for what is called the ‘SportKompas’. The Motor Control research team, led by Prof. Dr. Matthieu Lenoir, focuses on motor competence in children and adolescents, ranging from clinical populations to talented athletes. Based on over 10 PhD’s, the group developed various modules called: I LIKE, I AM and I DO. 

I LIKE is an interactive web application where children can find out which sports they like. The target audience for this application are children from 8 to 10 years old but it’s accessible for all ages through the free online version. More info and different links (per languange) here. 

The second module is called I AM, an online questionnaire which provides insight into a child’s personal context and motivation. Do they play sports? In a club? Why do they exercise? Why not? Do they like it? These are a few questions from the survey that was set up in collaboration with the research team of Sports Pedagogy, led by Prof. Leen Haerens. The results of this questionnaire are most valuable for cities and municipalities offering various kind of sports services. It reflects the needs of the inhabitants regarding sports preferences, location, infrastructure, etc. This module is (only) available on the platform (see below).

I DO is the “physical” and main module of SportKompas. It’s a way to discover which sports suit the children best, given their individual movement and motor skills. This module includes 14 simple tests in 6 different categories: anthropometrics, flexibility, strength, coordination, speed and endurance. The scores of these tests are automatically saved in the digital platform through a user-friendly app. All tests are described on this Wiki

SportKompas, a tool for schools

In addition to finding the most suitable sport based on the individual preferences and skills, attention must of course also be paid to the child’s physical development. In a digital platform, all the data of the 3 parts of SportKompas are collected. Physical education teachers can see the results of the I DO tests of their classes and compare them with each other or with the benchmarks coming from the research. 

Consequently, classes can be divided in different levels of physical skill and may be offered exercises tailored to their individual movement levels. As such, boredom (caused by too easy exercises) and demotivation (caused by too difficult exercises) can be avoided. When the children do the tests more than once, the progression of every child is also visualized in the platform. This is an excellent way to monitor the children’s evolution over the years, keeping lessons challenging and fun, at their specific level.

SportTalent, a tool for sports federations and sports clubs

Another ‘result’ of the scientific investigations of Prof. Lenoir’s team, is SportTalent. This is a sports-specific talent identification tool for children and adolescents in a sports club and/or federation. The aim is to discover the ‘high potentials’ within that particular sport in an early stage, i.e. those who have the most talent to excel in their sport in the long run. 

Over the past 20 years, the team of Prof. Lenoir has developed several talent test batteries for different sport disciplines (football, volleyball, cycling, gymnastics, fencing, badminton, etc.). A high volume of validated benchmark data is gathered and used to compare test results with different reference groups (athletes, generic population, age, gender,…). With SportTalent, sport coaches get better insights in the specific performance parameters of an athlete. They can use these valuable results to develop more personalized training schemes.

SportaMundi, implementation partner for SportKompas

The SportKompas tool is offered by SportaMundi (website online soon), a non-profit association closely linked to the respective research group, and led by social entrepreneur Bruno D’Hulster. SportaMundi’s goal is to put sports science research into practice within the non-profit sector. SportKompas is their first and biggest project. The SportKompas tools were developed in 2018 and are fully operational in schools and cities since March 2019. Together with the Flemish government ‘Sport Vlaanderen’, SportKompas wants to reach all children between 8 and 10 years old at Flemish schools. So far, 10 000 children have been tested by SportKompas and this is growing towards 70.000 children to be tested each year.

The SportKompas products I LIKE, I DO and I AM are developed as scalable “packages” which can easily be translated in other languages. SportKompas is a unique method which gets high attention from other countries all over the world. Today, SportaMundi supports HAN University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, National Youth Sports Institute in Singapore, UNP Indonesia (University of Padang) and will start in 2021 to make SportKompas available in the various European countries.

More info about SportKompas can be found at its dedicated website.

Hylyght, implementation partner for SportTalent

SportTalent reaches out for sports clubs, federations or any other parties involved in talent identification all over the world. SportTalent helps them to not only look at the athletes who are good today, but focuses on finding the true high potentials as soon as possible. As a result, these organizations can invest the most in those athletes who are most likely to become successful in the future. As you can see, this is a totally different application as compared to SportKompas.

Hylyght is a newly established company who continues the SportTalent services from the former Ghent University spin-off SpartaNova. HyLyght brings sports science into practice in the area of talent identification, injury prevention and rehabilitation. Through a digital platform, sports professionals can register, follow-up and report talent, performance and injury data of every individual athlete or team. The team’s first digital product however is focused on SportTalent. More info about the Hylyght services can be found on their website.

Now what?

While various research projects on both the movement learning as talent identification aspect are continuing in- and outside the Sport Science Laboratory – Jacques Rogge, the digital tools containing the knowhow around these topics will also be further implemented within different settings, regions, etc. Of course, we also want to roll out these tools further with complementary partners. Let us know in case you’d be interested!

This being said, we’re very excited to start future projects given our complementary fundamental and applied research experience, the digital product creation set-ups which have been realized with partners as Studio Dott and SumoCoders, and the societal and economic implementation activities happening along the way. 

In case you’d be interested to learn more about one or more of these activities, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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