Year 2000. Next to the red brick house with the mullioned windows, on an uneven lawn, Rune Lind runs around with his two brothers. Wearing the iconic red and blue-striped Barcelona kit, Rune kicks the ball towards the old wooden goal with the green net. It's the two younger brothers against him. He pulls the ball back with his foot, stops, dribbles, feints, and - plays. Joy, smiles, and freedom fill every corner of the garden. Rune's parents stand on the sidelines and witness their son surrendering to his imagination in small segments. They have no doubt that, in brief moments, he disappears from the backyard in hometown Bramming and finds himself right there in the middle of Camp Nou, in overtime, in the most crucial match of the season. They smile and delight in their 15-year-old son, who has just been declared one of Denmark's biggest football talents, still being driven by an enormous desire and love for the game.

Photo: Lars Suchmidt. Rune Lind was an obvious football talent in his youth and was featured in TV2's hit series ‘Talenterne’. Today, Rune is the head of research and development at the Danish Leagues.

This article and podcast focus on exposure, talent development, and parent-club cooperation. At the same time, the article portrays Rune Lind, the former U15 national team player who has retired from football and now works in the crossroads between football and research to benefit the development of the sport and its players.

Twenty years ago, in 2001, the TV2 series ‘Talenterne’ (The Talents) made its debut on Danish television screens. The documentary followed selected talents from the 1985 age group, all of whom were selected for Denmark's youngest football national team, the U15 national team. About 12 minutes into the first episode, the tall young striker, Rune Lind, was introduced. He was the top scorer in the junior league and played for Vejle Boldklub. Through the program, Rune shared his football journey with over a million viewers.

No one at the time had anticipated the program's popularity. The many new impressions were difficult for the teenager to navigate, and participation led to an emotional rollercoaster for the young football player. After the program, Rune found himself sitting on the platform at Bramming station - on his way to football training - and suddenly having to sign autographs for younger fans. At the same time, he was called names and had bottles thrown at him in town. There were many opinions about Denmark's new football hope.

"As a public figure, you are constantly made aware of other people's opinions, directly or indirectly, and that can be difficult - especially as a teenager when you are just figuring out who you are. I quickly adopted a facade and a filter to protect myself, trying to be friendly but at the same time trying not to listen to everything people said," recalls Rune.

But using a filter can make it difficult to reach a young man.

"For me, it took a lot of time to try to learn which information I should sort out. Sometimes, a protective filter came up that interfered with good professional information and feedback from talented people around me. But it was difficult to figure out when to listen and when not to, as the football player Rune and the person Rune had merged. Therefore, I became incredibly vulnerable to criticism."

But despite the difficulties, Rune does not regret his participation in ‘Talenterne’.

"Every process provides a lot of learning, and it has affected the direction I have taken. That's why I will never regret the choices I made," explains Rune Lind today.

Nevertheless, Rune would not say yes if his son were offered to participate in a similar TV documentary. The reason can be found in the tension between personal well-being and talent development.

Photo: Lars Schmidt/Schmidt Photography

In the year 2000, on June 17th, the best players from the talented 1985 generation gathered for a football tournament in Vejle. The then youth national team coach, Hans Bruun Larsen, was present to form an impression of the young talents' qualities. Who should make it to the national team - and who should not? In addition to the national team coach, talent scouts, parents, and a camera crew were ready in the stands to cheer, support and evaluate each player.

The starting whistle sounds, and the game is on. Rune's parents had come from Bramming to Vejle to support their son in his quest to wear the red and white national team jersey. The repeated small contractions in Rune's parents' faces testify that the game is not working for their son. Missed passes and chances. The frustrations are clearly visible in the young player's movements.

Rune controls the ball with his chest so that it falls down in front of his feet in a secure movement. He elegantly maneuvers around his opponent on his way forward in the field. As Rune approaches the penalty area, the audience moves further and further out on the benches. With his chest facing the goal, Rune pulls back his right foot in a power move.

The tension builds from the audience, and for a brief second it feels as if everything has come to a standstill. Until the foot is moved forward and hits the ball...past the goal...

Rune gets a new attempt, and again the ball misses, again and again.

The above scene is from the TV2 documentary, and it is a misleading one, if you ask Rune Lind.

"For me, ‘Talenterne’ and this episode are an example of the extra pressure that participation in TV-show created. Less successful actions in games were magnified to create drama with ups and downs. In football, however, it is a very natural process, especially for younger players, to fluctuate in their performance, and thus there is nothing dramatic about it. But for me, this is an example of how a natural part of being a young football talent is put on edge with all the sound and visual effects that good TV requires. For me, doubt about my own perception and my own reality was suddenly sown when the TV narrative diverged from or amplified the emotional negative effects. I probably got things mixed up and started to believe in this concocted story about how emotionally dramatic everything was."


Photo: Diego azubel


Overall, the Vejle tournament went well for Rune, and he made it onto the national team with players a year older than him. The real football challenge came after the TV program was aired.

"I became aware of every little detail I did wrong when it was highlighted and shown repeatedly in the documentary, and I didn't talk to others about what it actually did to me to see it. When I felt constantly confronted with the mistakes I made, even though they weren't that big, I felt pressure to work even harder and succeed. Possibly because I'm such a perfectionist," Rune said.

Rune's football career peaked in the years immediately following the TV program's airing, and while injuries were the definite cause of his exit from the field, Rune believes that the mental pressure was a major contributing factor to him never finding out if his football potential was big enough to go all the way.

"I worked really hard to succeed, and maybe too hard. I wanted it so badly that my stress level was always too high, and the performances were lacking. I trained and trained to improve, but when I played, it always felt a little cramped. After a couple of years of things not quite working out, I experienced a little bit of success at Næstved BK. Here, I felt free, and the desire, motivation, and joy of playing came back."

At that point, six years after the TV program aired, Rune had gained more control over his thoughts and had rediscovered the joy and desire to play football. At Næstved BK, he played football because it was fun.

Who creates the pressure?

To this day, Rune says that "with great talent comes great pressure. If you become exposed and a public figure, the pressure increases."

In his early teenage years, Rune juggled with football, identity, and a TV camera. Too heavy a burden for his still-growing shoulders. Who was Rune really as a person and as a footballer when everyone suddenly put him in a box and defined him? In a time when social media wasn't commonplace, Rune lacked a helping hand.

"I should have had help handling the consequences of being part of the media world. Exposure and external pressure were not something we were equipped to handle as young players back then."

Expectation pressure and anxiety are an important reason why Rune does not want his own son to go through the same media mill as he did.

So if the world were to one day look at Rune's son as a huge football talent, Rune would continue to see a little boy who should be allowed to develop as a person and footballer with calmness. That chance should not be wasted.

Talent Development

Year 2021. Rune's son is only nine years old. Rune himself was 15 years old when the recordings for Talenter were made. Developmentally, he stands in a completely different place than Rune did when he became a public figure. But even though the ages cannot be compared, the reason for saying no to the camera at home is the same - football for children should be a free space and not a job with an expectation of performance.

"Football for children should be liberating, acknowledging, fun, and filled with joy for the game. In this way, children will have the strongest driving force to improve themselves and the most solid personal foundation for handling ups and downs. Too many fixed structures, locked roles, and high expectations early in one's football career are not for everyone. Furthermore, if a camera is placed behind you, it will not benefit many children or young people, including my own son - if it becomes relevant when he gets older. I know myself, and I see many things in him like me, so it would be an unnecessary stress factor for him."

When Rune looks at his son and faces a choice regarding his everyday life, inner motivation will always be the goal, and play will be the way to get there.

"Reaching the top requires a lot of training, but when you enter the structured systematic training, you have to be careful not to lose the desire to play. I believe that the good talent environments are those that integrate play and that we need to "systematize" free play so that children in clubs have some framework to play freely and be creative with the ball."

The possibilities in the backyard

It is not only Rune who believes that talent development for children and young people should be driven by desire and fun. According to Niels Nygaard Rossing, associate professor and researcher in game and talent development at the Department of Medicine and Health Technology at Aalborg University, there has been a paradigm shift in the perception of talent development in recent years. Hard, structured, targeted training is on its way out in favor of self-organized, playful training. A good direction, according to the researcher.

"Children have other opportunities in the backyard, and there is nothing right or wrong. And their creative skills are strengthened, and the skills they find most exciting, they can spend time on."

In addition to being a researcher in talent development, Niels Rossing is also a father and is faced with the same considerations about his own children's upbringing in sports environments.

"As a parent, I do not want to ruin the opportunities for my children to go far in sports, but I will not compromise their well-being in the short and long term, and there may be side effects of the hard structured training five times a week. We have been a little blinded by the fact that practice makes perfect."

10,000 hours rule.

Many have grown up with the idea that if you want to become really good, you have to train for 10,000 hours. It was Anders Ericsson, a Swedish cognitive psychologist, who introduced the world to what we now know as the 10,000 hours rule. He was among the first researchers to question what separates people who are skilled at a particular skill from those who reach an international level. In search of answers, Professor Ericsson, in collaboration with colleagues Ralf Krampe and Clemens Tesch-Römer, conducted his best-known study, which was published back in 1993 in the scientific journal Psychological Review. The focus was on violinists from a music academy in West Berlin. The music students were divided into three groups: the best violinists, who were selected violin students with the potential for a career as an international soloist. The academy professors also appointed the second group, which consisted of good violinists. The last group was violinists who planned to become music teachers and had been accepted into the academy under lower admission requirements.

Children don't needto train football all the time. Playing ice hockey also means something. It will not diminish their chances of becoming elite athletes.

- Niels Nygaard Rossing, Associate Professor and Researcher in Game and Talent Development.

Through three interviews with all the participants as well as diary reporting, they discovered that the students who would become teachers had an average of about 3,000 hours of practice from the time they started playing the violin until they were 18 years old. The good violinists had around 5,000, and the best had just over 7,000 hours of practice. On this basis, they concluded that it is training hours, not innate talent, that differentiate extraordinary artists from ordinary ones. And to reach a professional level, 10,000 hours of training are required. Ericsson and his colleagues subsequently compared the best violinists with already professional soloists, and the difference here was also the number of hours in the training room. The same results in piano, tennis, swimming, and long-distance running have been found by other researchers.

Niels Rossing explains that this way of thinking inspires many coaches in local clubs, and the return is not necessarily good for children's football.

"There is a domino effect going on in the clubs. When some clubs start training more and more intensively, others do too. So some of the children may develop now and here, but in the long run, it will not have an effect. On the other hand, targeted talent development risks losing motivation."

In addition to the many hours, Ericsson in his study points out that how training is structured is not insignificant. Training alone is not the same as training with a coach. Targeted training and relevant feedback are essential to reach the top. He uses the term deliberate practice, often translated as "conscious targeted training." Thus, Ericsson and his colleagues succeeded in proving that it is not only about a large amount of training, but the better you are at your sport, the more structured, conscious, and targeted training is required to improve. In effective training, deliberate practice, the coach plays a leading role and controls all the processes, and in collaboration with the athlete, intensively works to improve one or more of the athlete's properties. Therefore, his study suggests that early specialization in a sport is important if you want to reach an elite level. But if you delve deeper into his studies, some slightly different points emerge.

Talent development today

Until today, even more research has been done on talent development. And even though the 10,000 hours of training for expertise is still in people's consciousness and has reflected the way talent development in sports has been structured, things and mindsets have begun to change. One of the researchers behind this paradigm shift is Jean Côté.

In contrast to Ericsson, the focus of Côté's studies was team sports such as ice hockey and basketball. Here, he and some of his colleagues found that elite athletes did not have 10,000 hours of training, in the company of a coach, in their luggage. They had more like 3,500-5000 hours, and it was entirely different things that distinguished top athletes from other athletes. The main ingredient was engagement. The athletes who made up the elite were those who practiced much self-organized training. That is, training in the schoolyard and garden. At the same time, there was some evidence that top athletes had actually tried many different sports and only later specialized in one.

The ingredients, according to Côté and Rossing, are inner motivation, play, and joy in the sport, which should be found in a more loose and self-directed training.

One sod deeper

Did Ericsson get it wrong? Perhaps the only thing that is certain is that we do not know anything with 100% certainty, and that all children are different. We know that repeating exercises in sports, art or science is a good investment in terms of incorporating skills into our memory and body. There is a consensus on this. So expertise requires training, but above all, it requires motivation, and our two researchers agree on this.

In Ericsson's study, he also explained that the activity should start with play, and only later in the individual's development should more and more structured training be added. He adds that one of the important things in all phases of talent development is that the athlete receives support from the external environment. Parents, teachers, and institutions are key elements. Before structured training is initiated, motivation and engagement are crucial. If you do not have motivation for the activity, there will be no improvement in performance. Motivation comes from within, but also to a large extent from the outside.

In 2021, in his Paris Saint-Germain jersey and with his soccer ball under his arm, Rune's son stands in the hallway, on his way to the garden. Rune watches his son, knowing full well that he was supposed to have gone to training at the local club today. But he didn't feel like it. However, his evening was spent on the green lawn with his father, where they juggled, dribbled, did tricks, and played.

"He should do what's right for him."

Motivation is crucial, and for the Lind family, soccer is much more than just a game. Soccer is a place where you can free yourself and express yourself. Soccer is play, and we must never stop playing.

Photo: Diego azubel
Photo: Diego azubel


1) Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance.Psychological Review, 100(3), 363-406. doi:

2) Henriksen, K. (2011). Talentudviklingsmiljøer i verdensklasse. 1. udgave. KBH: Dansk Psykologisk Forlag.