Little is known about the evolution of career pathways among young athletes. This study aims primarily to explore how consistent career pathways develop among age group swimmers. Each of three sub-cohorts of German 11-year-olds ranked top 100 from 2004 to 2006 were followed, as measured by their best Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) point score, for 8 years up to the age of 18 years of age. Careers were reckoned as consistent when athletes still appeared in the top 100 at 18. The degree of consistency of performance was measured by the number of years which those who started in the top 100, remained in the top 100. Correlational analysis examined the relationships between success at 11 and the consistency profile over 8 years. These results showed weak consistency of performance among age group swimmers. Only 33% of those ranked among the top 100 at 11 years were also ranked in the top 100 at 18, and only 23% were consistently ranked. The best performance in a certain event, stroke or distance category showed no significant correlation or a low level of correlation with consistency. The results confirm that we still know too little about the consequences of talent identification, talent development and long-term athlete development programmes.
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