Tag Archive for Magnus Kilger

From Hard Work to Grit: On the discursive formation of talent

by Magnus Kilger

Vol. 10 2019, pages 29–50
Published April 3, 2019


This article examines the long historical interest for the selection of young talented children in sports. This seemingly everlasting search for talents and the quest for the especially gifted is followed by the practice of trying to find and select the right individuals. This paper elucidates historical representations of talent and talent selection in a series of professional sports literature in Sweden during the 1930s, 1980s, 1990s and 2010s.

Drawing on a discourse analytic approach, it illustrates the historical understanding of selection and how such practices produce formations of legitimacy. The study shows how certain historical elements reoccur in contemporary selection discourse and how specific actions are transformed into personal characteristics. These selection processes construct a rationale for a legitimate selection and illustrate how talent selection is based on historically specific assumptions, normative and moral statements and activities connected to a specific discursive formation. This insight underlines that talent selection cannot be understood as essential skills identified through observation, tests or interviews. It is rather to be understood as a discursive repertoire responding to a specific historical legitimacy.

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About the Author

MAGNUS KILGER holds a doctoral degree in Child and Youth Science, and currently works as a Senior Lecturer in Sport Science, specialized in educational science, at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH) in Stockholm. His research deals with organized child and youth sports, focusing on talent selection and youth identity in sporting contexts. His research interests include social interaction and ethnography from a child and youth perspective. His methodological works is primarily within the fields of narrative and discourse analysis.

Searching for Talent: The Construction of Legitimate Selection in Sports

by Magnus Kilger & Mats Börjesson

Vol. 6 2015, pages 85–105
Published October 13, 2015


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.

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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.