“The Early Specialised Bird Catches the Worm!” - A Specialised Sampling Model in the Development of Football Talents

Sieghartsleitner, Roland; Zuber, Claudia; Zibung, Marc; Conzelmann, Achim (2018). “The Early Specialised Bird Catches the Worm!” - A Specialised Sampling Model in the Development of Football Talents. Frontiers in psychology, 9(188) Frontiers Research Foundation 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00188

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Characteristics of learning activities in early sport participation play a key role in the development of the sporting talent. Therefore, pathways of specialisation or diversification/sampling are as well debated as the implementation of practice- or play-oriented activities. The related issues are currently perceived as a two-dimensional construct of domain specificity and performance orientation. In this context, it has been shown that early specialisation, with experiences in practice and play, has led to Swiss junior national team football players reaching higher success levels as adults. This study aimed to examine whether a similar approach improves chances of even being selected for junior national teams from a broader sample. Hence, 294 youth players answered retrospective questionnaires on their early sport participation when entering the Swiss football talent development programme. Using the person-oriented Linking of Clusters after removal of a Residue (LICUR) method, volumes of in-club practice, free play and activities besides football until 12 years of age were analysed along with age at initial club participation. According to the results, clusters of Football enthusiasts (p = 0.01) with the most free play and above average in-club practice and Club players (p = 0.02) with the most in-club practice and average free play had a greater chance of reaching junior national team level. Thus, high levels of domain-specific activities seem to increase the chances of junior national team participation. Furthermore, the most successful constellation (Football enthusiasts) may illustrate the relevance of domain-specific diversity, induced by several types of practice and play. In line with previous studies, specialising in football and sampling different experiences within this specific domain seems to be the most promising pathway. Therefore, we argue that the optimal model for the development of football talents is a specialised sampling model.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW)
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW) > Sport Psychology and Research Methods

UniBE Contributor:

Sieghartsleitner, Roland Gilbert; Zuber, Claudia; Zibung, Marc Raphael and Conzelmann, Achim


700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment




Frontiers Research Foundation




Roland Gilbert Sieghartsleitner

Date Deposited:

08 Mar 2018 12:11

Last Modified:

27 Oct 2019 03:53

Publisher DOI:






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