Are Elite Sports Schools an important factor in creating sports champions?

Seoul-Sports-Stadium-01Image credit: tom@hk. This image is published under this creative commons license.

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?

Destination Infinity

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.

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17 Replies to “Are Elite Sports Schools an important factor in creating sports champions?”

  1. To answer the question that titles this post – Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Yes cause, such schools do focus on training, learning and development in a very holistic manner and no because not everyone can afford these schools and the large masses still find these inaccessible!

    We surely need more of these and at an affordable scale.

    1. Private sports schools are largely like that. But in many countries, these schools are funded by the Government/private scholarships and hence the fees/money is generally not a constraint. In places like Europe and Australia, Govt. schools offer good quality and are administered well. Administration is another huge problem we have here.

      Destination Infinity

    1. It’s already taken off in a small scale. There are some private foundation based sports schools like the Amritraj Academy, MRF pace foundation, etc. That apart, there are specialized training centres offered by central govt. companies like SAIL. International schools in major cities already offer good sports facilities.

      I think we need to take this one step forward and create sports schools exclusively for the best athletes, sportspeople.

      Destination Infinity

  2. I think in some ways yes. But affordability is a big factor. Apart from building such schools, Goverment will have to look into the policy of providing it to the less privileged but talented.

    1. I think a more neutral policy needs to be in place. For once, let us forget about less privileged or more privileged. Let us focus on admitting the best talent available anywhere, in any segment. They can be from the city or they can be from the village. They just need to show immense talent, aptitude and dedication for the sport to be selected. Of course, I am dreaming but there is nothing wrong in hoping…

      Destination Infinity

  3. When the Sports Authority of India (SAI) scholarship schemes were started in the ’80s, this was the idea — to pick up talent in various sports and give them both residential and day school facilities to develop them. These sports scouts went to the remote areas including tribal belts to pick up atheletes and give them special training. Archers Limba Ram and his partner (I forget the name) came out of this scheme. Even Bhutia and Mary Kom are products of SAI. The problem in our country is that there is so much red tapism and favoritism in every scheme that nothing works in the long run.

    1. Private initiatives are expensive and the Government initiatives are struck up due to red-tapism, favoritism and corruption. Hmmm… We seem to need some determined individuals who could get together and do things in-spite of all these factors. Otherwise, our medal dreams will remain just that…

      Destination Infinity

  4. hmmmm again the problem is how to sustain it all, things start with a bang and all works for a year or two and they die a slow death..

    I remember in my school we had every facility , proper grounds hockey -football pictches and cricket too, each year inter public games were held the elite country schools participated..
    I was so bad at academics but i was very good in sports won a lot of medals, the problem i had was after 10th school Where to go, there is no one to guide you after that , what college to go for, I went to gcm and it was normal college , nothing was done for sports though it was there , and slowly it all fizzled out by the time i reached my graduation..

    Had someone guided me, I could have done good, all the gold medals and certificates are laying in a trunk back home, havenot even seen them since i left studies, in UNI yes went on to play inter uni and all that , and junior india but that was it .. or maybe my sport was hockey and NOT cricket it might have helped .. but then same happened with athletics I won a lot of medals in 800 and 400mtrs ..

    or wish my dad was a millionaire or maybe he was a minister I would have had more chances

    1. Exactly. The sports schools need to be in place to help people like you… Nice to know that you were good in sports.

      Destination Infinity

    1. Encouragement and practice along with world-class facilities, planning and professional guidance are important for Olympic/World-Cup victories.

      Destination Infinity

  5. I prefer the word “special” rather than elite. The word elite at least to me has a negative connotation. But yes, I agree that special sports facilities are badly needed in this country. Without proper sports infrastructure we cannot hope for much.
    But considering that common people don’t have access even to open spaces and parks, isn’t it too much to hope that we provide space for sports facilities? Which should be the priority? World sports medals or breathing space for citizens?
    And considering that there are other infrastructure problems like roads and bridges, electricity and water, what should be given priority? I wish it wasn’t either/or, but isn’t that an ideal situation? I do not have the answers, just some doubts as to whether India can really do this.

    1. I think living conditions and sports facilities are closely related. Better the living conditions of people, better sports facilities they get. How much sports facilities people can afford to have, has been a factor in a nations sporting success.

      India has money for everything. Just that they are not spent properly. If money is spent properly, we can easily have good living conditions as well as good sport facilities.

      Elite perhaps means ‘talented’ in this context. Not rich.

      Destination Infinity

  6. Sachin Tendulkar never went to any elite sports school .. his elite school was the ground in mumbai where he practiced whole day long !

    you don’t need a school or education to achieve success.. the only thing you need is willingness to learn, succeed and want to win !

    that’s my viewpoint!!!

    1. Well, that’s a point of view and I agree to it. Some people already have extraordinary talent and need no schools to polish their skills. But still, not everybody might be as lucky as Tendulkar and every sport might not be as lucky as Cricket in India. A formal stepping stone to identifying and promoting talent across multiple sports disciplines may require some specialized institution like a sports schools. Of course, not all sports can be practiced with something as simple as a bat and a ball. Some facilities can be provided only by a specialized sports schools.

      That said, there is nothing stopping infinitely talented people from becoming champions. Except bureaucracy, in our country.
      Destination Infinity

  7. The problem is in India, the parents decide what their child should do…and in other countries, the child decides what they want to become. We in India, are always behind high marks, mugging, exams, %. Even if someone has got extra ordinary talent in sports, parents urge the child to concentrate on studies first and place their passion in 2nd place. I am still seeing it happening. But its gradually changing (underline gradually!) And even if parents lets the child to decide his/her own sports career, there’s this Quota / caste / recommendations that act as speed brakers. You need to bribe, get letter,recommendation to get into a established team…imagine how people get into ranji trophy! May be these elite sport schools will be a great system, but lots of things need to change for this to happen.

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