10 Key Sport Development Strategies

The task of any sport manager is to develop their sport at both ends of the spectrum, at the grass roots level and at the high performance level. This is true at any level of sports management. A sport manager at the club level must ensure their is sufficient recruitment of participants, provide programs that enable participants to flourish, and prepare outstanding participants for representation at the next level up. A sport manager at the national level will be concerned with the total participation nationally in the sport, the pathways that may assist those participants that have talent and ambition to rise up, and the opportunities that are provided to the highest echelon of participants to compete in the international arena.

In some respect therefore, key sport development strategies are common to both ends of the spectrum are:

Education of Coaches

The reality for the overwhelming majority of coaches is that they have no expectation or desire to be anything other than a coach at the grass roots level. Happiness is simply keeping a team together and avoiding the wooden spoon. For such individuals, the coach education system provides a nominal level of information that focuses on safety and ethical coaching practice. Coaches at the grass roots level are often reluctant to pay out of their own pockets the price of ongoing education.

For coaches that do wish to go further than grass roots, the need for education is ongoing. It takes many years, a decade perhaps, before sufficient expertise is acquired to be recognised as a leading coach at the grass roots level. For these individuals, the coach education system often does not serve them well. Success as a coach occurs despite the coach education system rather than because of it. Coaches wanting to move up the sport development system will generally implement a variety of additional measures to gain knowledge and expertise. These measures might include:

Provision and Improvement of Sport Facilities

Participation in sport is all about enjoyment and the quality of the environment is all important. The critically important aspect of facilities, irrespective of indoor or outdoor, are:

The playing surface needs not only to be safe but also to inspire the player to better standards of performance. For the football (soccer) player, it is an exhilarating feeling to walk out onto a beautiful grass pitch. The ball travels smoothly across the surface without unexpected bumps and deviations and increases the confidence of the player. For the indoor player, a good playing surface is one that is non-slip and line markings are in good condition and do not cause trips and falls. Furthermore the immediate surrounds of the playing surface must be free of obstacles to prevent accidental collisions.

Good lighting is also essential whether indoor or outdoor. Gloomy lighting is dangerous and leads to players seeing the ball too late or not all.

For indoor sports, another critically important aspect of facilities is air conditioning and/or air ventilation. This is also a safety factor as well as enabling players to play longer and harder.

In addition to these aspects, quality sport facilities include:

Recruitment of participants

Recruitment is a very big issue in sport. At the club level, falling participation levels can spell the demise of a club. Falling participation levels mean reduced income for the club, loss of status in the community and an inability to maintain programs, events and facilities.

At the national level, the amount of government funding may be tied to the level of participation and the success of participation development initiatives. If a sport has low participation levels and demonstrates an incapacity to increase number of participants, it may lose government funding as a result.

For these reasons, sport administrators invest much time and energy devising and implementing initiatives aimed at promoting the sport, programs and events, and the organisation itself to gain increased participation. It is never easy because it is a very competitive environment where all sport organisations are engaged in promotion to some extent.

Organisation of Events

The organisation of events is not only a primary task for all sport bodies but also a major aspect of sport development effort. Apart from the enjoyment that good events bring to participants and spectators, the organisation of special events also provides other benefits such as:

Nurturing of Volunteerism

The sport industry depends to a very great extent on the work input of volunteers who coach, officiate at competitions and work on management committees of clubs. In recent times, some concerns have been voiced about the impact of modern life on volunteers. Social change such as the 7 days a week shopping cycle, the increase of women in the workforce and a rise in average weekly work hours have put pressure on people to drop out of volunteering.

If a sport is flourish it must encourage and reward people to continue to provide voluntary service. This is a very perplexing issue that often seems to get the better of sport administrators.

Further information on volunteer recruitment strategies

Openness in Political and Administrative Structure

There are few issues that have a greater negative impact on an organisation than political in-fighting. When this occurs, much time and effort of key people in the organisation is unproductive in terms of sport development. This is true at any level of the sport spectrum.

Sometimes, however, political in-fighting is inevitable and unavoidable, and the sport/organisation simply has to go through this stage because:

Knowledge Management

The issue of knowledge management in sport organisations is under-appreciated. For an organisation to be successful it must capture knowledge from its experts and distribute it to others in its own jurisdiction. The organisations experts will include its leading coaches, administrators, curators and referees, and the channels of distribution will typically take the form of:

Development of self-funding programs

The term "Self-funding" applies to organisations that have sufficient income streams to cover their normal operational costs and do not depend on funding from government. Some sports are able to derive very significant funds through sponsorship, TV rights, merchandising of clothing and equipment, and through the sheer number of participants. On the other hand, there are many sports (particularly Olympic Sports) that are heavily dependant on government funding to exist.

The ability of a sport/organisation, at any level, to be self-funding is highly respected by government. It means that a sport is not at risk of sudden and dramatic changes in funding levels that can result in the loss of key salaried staff, collapse of athlete development programs or the loss of key facilities.

Athlete development programs

Athlete development is, by its very nature, at the heart of what sport is about. Athlete development is not only about sport performance but also about developing social and ethical skills and preparing people for healthy and productive lives.

However, the usual understanding of the term "Athlete Development Program" is a program that has the objective to identify and develop people to high levels of sport performance. Thus an Athlete Development program might identify promising athletes at the club level and improve their capability to play at the state level, or identify athletes at the state level and prepare them for representation at the national level.

Athlete development is a critically important sport development strategy because it is part of the mission of sport organisations at every level to provide participants with opportunity. Every sports coach dreams of finding sports champions and every sport organisation is always proud of the champions it produces. Therefore, it can be a major problem if a sport organisation is perceived by the community as having a lack of capability in athlete development.

Key components of an athlete development program include:

Forming partnerships with other sports and organisations

There are a number of benefits that be gained if sport organisations work together in cases where this is feasible. The most notable benefit is in the development of facilities. Even though the high cost of building facilities is often assisted with government funding programs, sport organisations generally need to outlay sums of money of the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Such funding commitment is often beyond the capacity of a single sport organisation but achievable if 2 or 3 organisations work together.

Facilities can be developed for 'multi-use' and sports can obtain access without stepping on each other's toes to a great extent. Indoor facilities generally don't present too much of as problem as usage is matter of good programming. Outdoor facilities, especially where there is a reliance on grass, can be a problem as too much usage generally reduces the quality of the playing surface and this is a major obstacle to sport development. In the case of outdoor facilities, pitches may need to be dedicated to a particular sport but clubhouse, parking and other emnities can be shared.

 

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