There are various systems in the UK and other countries for nurturing elite sports talent, which differ from country to country and tend to reflect the political and cultural beliefs of that country’s government. Some of these are decentralised and therefore organised by local committees, whereas others are highly centralised where government takes control of all sporting issues. Other systems vary in terms of funding and success rates. China is an example of a country of which the sports talent system is highly centralised.
The country currently supports approximately 23,000 athletes through their sporting careers; this can be seen as good because it is giving athletes the best possible chance in global games, thus increasing the amount of gold medals won in games such as the Olympics and bringing pride to that country. Zhang Yining, the Olympic tennis table player, has never bought anything in terms of sports equipment since he started playing table tennis. This shows the effectiveness of the system China have and how the individual doesn’t need to be able to be wealthy in order to reach the elite level, unlike other countries.
For example, in the UK, there is no major system for catering for grass roots level so that they do not have to buy anything themselves. The effectiveness of a centralised system is also shown by France’s INSEP programme, which caters for elite athletes and helps them reach their potential. However, it can be argued that the government should be focusing on other things rather than sport, such as education or poverty and so the money could go to much better things.
On the other hand, if you put money into sport, you are more likely to get money out and it does provide the best athletes. At the other end of the scale is America, of which most sports are privately funded and decentralised with the exception of the Olympic games. Despite this, America still has strong sports teams and this shows that centralisation of sport isn’t essential in order to get amazing athletes. However, this can be seen as bad because it may indicate a lack of pride for the countries’ sports teams and it is also less effective.
Countries also use national academies and training camps in order to nurture their elite athletes, for example the UK Sports Institute which national squads use to train and improve their performance. This has its advantages for a country, as it puts their best athletes somewhere with the best facilities, equipment and coaches and this therefore gives them the best possible chance. However, it can also be seen as detrimental to a country because if all funding and emphasis is on improving elite athletes’ performance, it ignores the grass roots level provision.
Also, in countries such as China and India, young children who have the potential to be elite often have large periods away from home, sometimes in harsh and unfriendly environments. On the other hand, in countries such as France and New Zealand, children aren’t allowed to be taken away from home before school leaving age, and so it is only a few countries that this does happen in. It can also be argued that if the athletes don’t make it, then they have nothing to fall back on, for example they may have dropped out of education in order to focus on sport.
This has been made possible because of the grants and funding available to the sportspeople. On the other hand, in the USA, you must also work hard in education as well as sport and so this shows how initiatives have been taken in order to make sure this doesn’t happen. It can also be argued that in order for any elite athletes to make it, they must train full time and so education is out of the question. However, not all of the systems for nurturing elite sports talent are legal or moral.
For example, East Germany in the 1970s developed institutionalised drug use for all athletes in the Olympics in order to improve the elite athletes’ performance and to ensure that they won. Although this is much less common these days, there are still individual cases of drug abuse such as Ben Johnson in 1988 Seoul Olympics. This shows the Lombardian or win at all costs view that the systems for nurturing elite talent have encouraged. This can be seen as bad because a win at all costs approach may cause aggressive behaviour and further deviance.
In conclusion, there are many various systems for nurturing elite sports talent, some of these more successful than others. However, there are many reasons as to why some of these could be overall detrimental to a country, whether it may be because it is seen as a waste of money, or because it involves bad treatment of the children involved. On the other hand, systems for nurturing elite sports talent can be seen as beneficial because it improves an athlete’s performance and gives them a much better chance of winning.