Searching for Talent: The Construction of Legitimate Selection in Sports

Magnus Kilger & Mats Börjesson
Department of Child and Youth Studies
Stockholm University


This article analyzes talent selection within Swedish sports. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which this process of legitimacy is produced in the case of children and adolescents. The article involves a discourse analytical approach where organizational policy documents, annuals for operation, educational coach literature constitute the corpus of data. The aim is to document how problems of legitimizing talent selection are handled within the organization through the use of different discursive repertoires. The purpose is to deconstruct explicit statements and underlying suppositions through with the current process of selection is legitimized.

The research material allows us access into how the process for talent selection constitutes a significant part of a discursive apparatus of selection. In order to make the process of selection appear neutral, discursive work is played out in order to make the process appear fair and unbiased. Furthermore, this article shows how the production of the legitimate selection works in two directions, both individually and politically. The process of selection is being rhetorically displayed as legitimate to those within the system, as well as a Swedish egalitarian welfare politic at large.

Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 6 2015

About the Authors

MAGNUS KILGER is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University. His work deals with talent selection in sports and the construction of legitimacy for selection. His research includes analysis of social interaction and narratives in selection camps for Swedish youth national teams in a number of team sports. He works methodologically within fields such as discourse analysis and narrative analysis.

MATS BÖRJESSON is Professor of Sociology and Child and Youth Studies at Stockholm University. He has carried out research on social categorization and citizenship in a number of welfare contexts, such as forensic psychiatry, the social services and the school – often with an historically comparative design. He works methodologically within fields such as discourse analysis, narrative analysis and rhetoric.

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