Educating Gifted and Talented Children – Turning Research Into Practice

Invited speaker Kristoffer Henriksen

KH puls

Kristoffer Henriksen

The Ecology of Talent Development in Sport

Kristoffer Henriksen, PhD, licensed psychologist. Associate professor at University of Southern Denmark

Research on athletic talent in sport has evolved from talent detection to talent development with both perspectives focusing on an individual athlete. In contrast, ecological approaches to talent development in sport acknowledge the role of the overall environment in athletes’ development.

The Holistic Ecological Approach to talent development in sport acknowledges that some sporting environments are more successful than others in nurturing athletes’ development, and stimulates a researcher to describe successful athletic talent development environments (ATDE) and explain their success. With inspiration from systems theory, ecological psychology and cultural psychology, the ATDE is described as a dynamic system comprising an athlete’s immediate surroundings at the micro-level, the interrelations between these surroundings and the larger context in which these surroundings are embedded, as well as the organizational culture of the sports club or team, an integrative factor of the ATDE’s effectiveness. Using a case study approach, we have examined successful environments in different sports and countries. Together, these studies suggest that although each environment is unique, successful ATDEs (at least within a relatively similar cultural setting) share a number of features.

In terms of applied practices, adopting an ecological perspective will inspire coaches, sporting organizations and sport psychology practitioners to look beyond the individual athlete and focus on developing and maintaining environments that underpin athlete development.

Although these perspectives originate from a sport context, it is a sound hypothesis that the ecological perspective, the working models of the framework, the list of features describing successful environments, and the applied guidelines hold the potential to develop and enrich the research and practice initiatives in other areas of performance


Kristoffer Henriksen, PhD, licensed psychologist. Associate professor at the Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark. This employment includes a specialized function as Sport Psychology Practitioner in Team Denmark (the Danish Elite sport Organization).

Kristoffer’s research in talent development in sport has contributed to an international change in focus from the individual athlete to successful environments. For this innovative approach he received the “Developing Scholar Award” of the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP).

As a sport psychology practitioner, he works with international top level athletes from several sports such as Olympic sailing, track and field, Triathlon, Orienteering and motorsport. This work includes working with individual athletes, smaller crews and national teams, as well as coach supervision. His applied work includes themes such as handling stress, training mental skills and creating winning cultures. As a sport psychology Practitioner, Kristoffer has supported athletes during international events such as European and World Championships and the Olympic Games.