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'Talent is everywhere...but opportunity is not" - a conversation with Sion Kitson and Brett Holland

I recently had a conversation with two people who I consider to be changemakers in the talent development space. Brett Holland and Sion Kitson, are at the frontline of bringing about a transformation in how we nurture young talent. They are overseeing a shift from the rigid, linear and highly centralised methods of old to a more flexible, decentralised system that recognises the unique journey each athlete embarks upon.

As a parent with a son deeply embedded in the England hockey system - I’ve witnessed first-hand the evolution of the approach to developing talent. This shift towards a non-linear progression model has opened up multiple pathways for young athletes, ensuring that they do not cast a one-size-fits-all net over their growth.

The conversation with Brett and Sion were enlightening, to say the least. We all agreed that it’s imperative to focus on individual player improvement within talent academies rather than merely on team outcomes. It’s about fostering a balanced and organic method that can accommodate the varied growth rates of young athletes and overcome the challenges posed by age profiling.


But what does this look like in practice? It means tailored coaching and deliberate interventions that are finely tuned to the needs of each athlete. It means recognising that the entry points into the talent system must be flexible, especially for those in the post-maturation age groups. We must have talent centres that empower clubs to elevate standards and provide the necessary support.

As we discussed these principles, we touched upon the critical need for inclusive opportunities. This inclusivity extends to enhancing coaching quality and nurturing environments where young athletes can truly flourish.

Our conversations also drilled down into the broader aspects of development, such as the role of competition in sports and the integration of matches into training to gauge progress. Communication and clarity are paramount here, as is the understanding that competition is not just about winning, but about learning, improving, and preparing for the next challenge.

One theme that remained constant in our dialogues was the central placement of young people in various environments—school clubs, junior academies, and hockey talent academies. Each of these settings has its own objectives, and collaboration, along with a clear understanding of these objectives, is crucial.

We referenced the England Hockey 'Talent System Framework' as a guiding tool for all hockey-related activities. This framework is not just a document; it’s a testament to the multifaceted and complex nature of nurturing talent in the sport of hockey. It is a reminder that while the path to excellence is never straightforward, it is a journey well worth embarking upon.

As I reflect on these rich exchanges and the collective wisdom shared, I am hopeful and excited about the future of England Hockey. With such a progressive and thoughtful approach to talent development, the sky is the limit for the next generation of hockey stars. I hope you enjoy the conversation:






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