With the 2012 London Olympics around, every country will be looking forward to their athletes winning Olympic glory for their nation. But, is the Olympic/World Championship victory dependent on how the sportsmen and sportswomen play during the duration of the competition? That’s just one small factor. The larger factor is, how much preparation and efforts were invested for achieving those exclusive gold/silver/bronze medals.
How are some countries with less(er) population (like Germany, Australia, France, etc) are able to win a considerable number of medals competing with larger countries like the US, Russia and China? One important factor that might have contributed to their success could be the development of elite sports schools, in these countries.
Elite sports schools identify and give professional training to prospective athletes and sportspeople and enables them to compete in sporting events in the national/international levels. While the main focus is on sports, these schools also ensure that sufficient facilities exist for students to complete their secondary school/college education, often through specialized curriculum tailored to their needs and availability.
Salient points about elite sports schools:
- Elite sports schools are a part of national sports policy/strategy.
- There is specialized curriculum in place for both academics and sports.
- Majority of them are state funded and there is no/minimum fees for deserving candidates, some of them are private/funded by sports clubs/industry.
- Some are exclusively for sports while others are integrated with regular schools with special curriculum/schedules for aspiring sportspeople.
- Healthy sports:academics concentration ratio (50:50, 60:40, 40:60, etc). Considerable number of hours are spent on sports/physical training everyday.
- Students are trained either in the schools or at local sports clubs/associations, if sufficient facilities are not available at the school premises.
- Some sports schools are fully residential as practice facilities may require training at certain locations (winter Olympic sports, for example).
- They follow flexible academic schedules that allow students to extend the duration of their study and/or gain extra tutorials, engage in distance learning, conduct summer coaching, etc. in order to allow students to participate in events anywhere/for any duration.
- Some schools are autonomous and hence they adopt a reduced/customized curriculum that can be personally negotiated to suit each student and enable them to concentrate more on sports.
- Professional coaches are hired for each sport addressed by the school and in some cases, the coaches of the local clubs/associations also train the students.
- Provides all facilities/guidance required for students to excel in the sporting event of their choice.
- More opportunities for students to compete with quality players within the school and also at city/state/national levels.
- Students need to demonstrate some form of sporting excellence to get selected in these schools.
- Student’s performance in national/international events is a key criterion for evaluating these schools and scholarships/perks maybe extended by the Government/sponsors accordingly.
I know a few students in my school who were not good at academics but were excellent in certain games. Perhaps if we had such special/elite sports schools and these students were trained there, we could have won more medals? What do you think, should we have more such elite/specialized sports schools?
Reference: “Sports schools: An international review, Report to the Scottish Institute of Sport Foundation” by Dr. Sabine Radtke, Prof. Fred Coalter. University of Stirling. August 2007.