School of sport: Latent talent

Susan Boyle

RUDENESS is generally not considered to be a special talent; indeed, it would for the most part always be seen as an unwelcome, unacceptable, unwholesome quality.

Furthermore, the fact that so many people in our society appear to have this quality would suggest that it is far from a talent, as a talent is normally considered to be a special gift, not owned by many. However, if the meaning of ‘talent’ is taken as an “inner quality that emerges effortlessly” then perhaps all those rude people around us can be called talented! After all, they do not appear to need to work on it.

Having said that, this writer was once described as having the gift of being rude. Leaving aside the merits of such a claim, this ‘gift’ should perhaps be redefined as actually getting away with being rude. Now there may lie the talent! Many are rude, after all, but do not get away with it; they are criticised, reprimanded, rebuked, disciplined for such behaviour. And what is more, they may not be aware that they are in fact being rude. Just imagine what could have been done if such people had only known they had that talent! Real talent is when we can be rude without offending anyone.

Susan Boyle shot to fame overnight when she defied the judges’ initial dismissal of her on account of her appearance by stunning the audience with her rendition of the song ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from the opera ‘Les Miserables’ for the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ show back in 2009 at the age of 47.

She later revealed that her “Teachers said I had talent but I was too young to know”. Indeed, it has since become firstly a catchphrase and secondly a reality on such ‘Got Talent’ shows that the panel declare to the contestant that “you don’t realise how good you really are.”

Indeed, it has been reinforced that such is the purpose of such shows: to give ordinary people the opportunity to have their talent unearthed after which it can be polished and refined.

The fact is that for many people, their talent is latent. Interestingly we can see that ‘latent’ is an anagram of ‘talent’, as well as a rhyme – unquestionably, the two words are closely linked.

Latent has the sense of being hidden, buried, unexposed, unrevealed and that certainly describes many people’s talent. Like gold or other precious valuable metals lurking in the ground beneath our feet just waiting to be discovered and mined, the talent is there but just has not been discovered in the first place or appreciated in the second.

Indeed, Susan Boyle had tried many times for close on fifteen years to gain some recognition, auditioning unsuccessfully on various talent spotting shows while all the time taking further lessons. Then she appeared on the show and by the end of the year she had sold 3.1 million copies of her debut album. She clearly had the talent all along but it had not been discovered, developed or polished.

Just as scientists or geologists may be unaware that there are fields waiting to be mined for their precious metal, so for many youngsters their coaches or parents may be unaware that they have real talent.

Sometimes, it is on account of the fact that the child has not had any opportunity to play or perform; a child may have a good eye for a ball but come from a family where there is no interest, no money, no history in sport or any sport in particular and that talent is never discovered or developed.

Sometimes the child may simply be playing the wrong sport or the wrong instrument or the wrong position. Sometimes the child cricketer may be playing right-handed when in fact he is gifted batting left-handed. He may be a better batter not a bowler, a spinner not a fast bowler.

Indeed, often the child may well not know he has a talent; the child may not understand just how much talent she has. So it is up to a coach to go looking for each person’s talent. It is up to the parent to allow the child to find the talent.

Prejudice, opportunity may all play a part in a talent remaining latent. We may be looking for gold but should look out for diamonds too.

In the 2000 film ‘Billy Elliot’, we find a young boy whose father wants him to become a boxer only for the young Billy to discover he loved and was good at ballet. The trailer to the film puts it concisely and clearly: “Inside all of us is a special talent waiting to come out. The trick is finding it”.

Read that again: inside all of us there is a special talent. Many youngsters will be left miserable if their talent remains latent. We are not being rude here. We must just make sure we find that talent. Dig it!

Tim Middleton is a former international hockey player and headmaster, currently serving as the Executive Director of the Association of Trust Schools Email: [email protected]

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