What an exciting few months sports fans have had!

The Soccer World Cup, Rugby Internationals and The Commonwealth and European Games, all performed to world class standards. And it has got me thinking; it wasn’t always the ‘highly talented’ players who made the difference.

The German national soccer team won a fourth World Cup. The all-time leading goal scorer, Miroslav Klose, was an ‘older’ German player who most defenders decided was not ‘highly talented’ enough to worry about. Ten years ago this team could not qualify at European level.

The USA soccer team performed beyond their ranking and are now soccer opponents to be taken seriously. The USA team performed exceptionally well, with arguably few ‘world class’ players in the squad.

The Rugby Internationals have seen New Zealand’s All Blacks hold an unbeaten record of 17 games in succession. Yet reporters and pundits rarely talk about a group of ‘highly talented’ players.

The Scottish athletes and swimmers performed so well at The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. A small nation against world class competition. We saw Hannah Miley and Ross Murdoch beat leading world swimmers, and Eilidh Childs and Lynsey Sharp handle huge pressures to gain medals. Yet few of the Scottish team would be at the top of your list of world names.

So how do these teams win?

What many fans refer to is actually rather simple:

The German and USA soccer teams work on core skills to a high standard; they didn’t lose the ball very often. They were highly organised and had a clear and clever game plan.

The All Blacks show a superior level of core skills that they can execute at a high level of intensity which opponents cannot keep up.

The Scottish athletes work rate was huge in every event, and their training schedules were followed to the letter and for a number of athletes, in the face of adversity.

Of course, there are talented players in all these teams, but the message that seems to come across is this:

If you ensure everyone has a superior level of core skills that they can deploy with intensity, and maintain under pressure, then results will follow.

This seems to remove the reliance on one or two highly talented people who can turn the game or save the match. Look at England, Brazil, Spain and Italy’s soccer teams who had very expensive and highly talented individuals, yet failed to progress to the final stages. Of course, a few gifted individuals may have an impact, but a substantial number of very skilled people with a good plan will make the percentages work every time.

So where does this leave us? It leaves me questioning whether we spend too much time seeking to recruit and develop a few highly talented people, and not enough time and effort ensuring that the majority have superior core skills and the ability to use these under pressure and at pace?

Are we spending a disproportionate amount of money and time on a relatively few people? Would higher levels of core skills possessed by a larger number of people produce better results?

I suppose the easy answer is that you need both. But resources do not always allow for that and so compromise or prioritisation takes place.

Therefore, I am starting to wonder if we spend too much time focused on highly talented people when the evidence from recent sporting events suggests we would do better to develop excellent core skills amongst all employees, whatever their level.

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