Realising Talent

I am fascinated by what makes people tick. I always have been as, it seems to me, central to who we are and what we do in life. Some are especially academic, some creative, some practical and some have a diversity of abilities.  Unfortunately, for many, life gets in the way and they never flower as they might have done. Yet, if education is to be about anything, surely, it has to be about availing as many as possible of the opportunity to develop their  talents and enable them to live fulfilling, worthwhile and satisfying lives. That doesn’t seem too much to ask. Yet we still seem to have a society of “haves” and “have nots” with the engine of social mobility seemingly grinding to a halt. The world as I’d hoped it might be is as far away as ever. Moreover, on a personal basis, I see the icons and mavericks of my youth leaving the stage in increasing numbers. So, why am I writing this today?

Well it seems that some recent research by a group of Scandinavian scientists have identified what a high “football IQ” comprises. And, no, that isn’t an oxymoron.  It seems that they tested men and woman footballers of similar ages and education levels to determine each player’s executive functions that are their skills in such areas as problem solving, planning, multitasking, cognitive flexibility and the ability to deal with novelty. During one such test, players were assessed for their design fluency, an examination of their creativity under pressure. This something that, to my mind, is central to imaginative, flowing football and something we could extrapolate to the wider world.

In this research, two of the most creative of world footballers were among those tested; one of them turned out to be in the top 0.1% for design fluency and scored extremely well in the ability to alter learned behavioural responses, while the other had very high scores involving analysis and imagination.  Tasks that appear to be central to their footballing talents. What is important in this is that one psychologist was prompted to ask whether a 16 year old with similar footballing intelligence might be muscled out of the, more physical, nature of English or Swedish football. Something that, to me, seems a metaphor for life.

Now, as someone for whom life really did get in the way and who didn’t discover his writing talents until very late on, this research would seem to have some relevance. The satisfaction I get, for example, of using words to paint pictures is immense. So much so that, even I am prompted to ask, “Where did that come from?” That realisation of a talent should be more readily available to everyone; the world would be a better place if it was and the society that I’d like to see might get just a little nearer.

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