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Jun 11, 2014 10:33 AM EDT

FIFA World Cup 2014: Teams may Lose Out From Having 'Too Much Talent'


There may be such a thing as having too much superstar talent on a sports team, according to a recent study.

As the FIFA World Cup kicks off and the NBA finals 'heat' up, new research suggests that the presence of too many individuals with top talent can undermine players' willingness to coordinate, which can compromise effective teamwork and overall team performance. 

"Most people believe that the relationship between talent and team performance is linear - the more their team is packed with talent, the better they will do," researcher Roderick Swaab said in a statement. "Yet our latest research documenting a 'too-much-talent effect', reveals that for teams requiring high levels of interdependence, like football and basketball, talent facilitates team performance... but only up to a point. Beyond this point, the benefits of adding more top talent will decrease and eventually hurt the team performance because they fail to coordinate their actions."

The research was conducted using data from the FIFA World Cup 2010 and 2014 qualifying periods and the 2002-2012 National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB) seasons.

The research suggests that the too-much-talent effect only emerges in sports that require a high level of interdependence between players. For more individualistic sports, such as baseball, very high levels of talent do not seem to hurt performance.

Researchers said that  while Miami Heat fans may currently be rejoicing in their "big three" - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - they should not forget the Heat's NBA title loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, a team built around one star player - Dirk Nowitzki - and a number of lesser-known sportsmen. While the Mavericks were successfully complementing each other's strengths, Miami's newly acquired superstars were jostling for the spotlight, and paid the price.

"As the FIFA World Cup 2014 draws near, we expect to see plenty of team-sheets boasting impressive lineups with top talented players," Swaab said. "However, coaches that simply select their side with superstars may, contrary to popular belief, be the ones taking an early exit from Brazil!"

The findings were recently published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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