So Great Britain has an outstanding high performance sports system.
Australia had one a few years ago…and they hope to have it again.
The “Eastern Block” had some brilliant high performance sports systems – systems which influenced the development of high performance sport all over the world in the three decades since.
The Chinese have a huge one driven by State money and a very large population.
The French are doing some great things in theirs.
The US has a strong high performance system driven through the College system.
South Korea, Japan and India are growing theirs. Canada is re-building theirs.
The South Americans will be working hard to make their high performance systems the best in the world now that Rio has been announced as the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games.
South Africa is building one on the back of the Football World Cup.
Seems like every nation in the world has to have three things – a flag, a carbon policy and a high performance sports system.
Here’s the thing…..none of them do what they are supposed to do….none of them actually produce winners.
Every nation is looking to build the “Holy Grail” of high performance sport: A system which guarantees the sustained success of athletes and teams in international competitions.
The ten fundamental laws of having a great high performance sports system are:
- Find talented athletes (i.e. put in place a talent id program);
- Increase (effective and targeted) funding to high performance sport;
- Increase the focus on finding, training and developing world class coaches;
- Increase the focus and funding for sports science, sports medicine and analysis technologies;
- Increase the access to high quality international sporting competitions;
- Provide world class high performance sports facilities, e.g. training facilities, gymnasiums, competition venues;
- Recruit, train and retain quality sports management staff;
- Put in place ongoing “audit” and continuous improvement systems;
- Invest in the latest equipment, technology and IT;
- Manage the system through an integrated high performance sports system network – typically Academies and Institutes of Sport.
Regardless of when and where high performance systems have been developed around the world, invariably most or all of the above “boxes” are ticked: they are the accepted “non negotiables” – the universal fundamentals of high performance sports systems. They must be correct – because everyone is using the same ten “laws”!
Governments do some benchmarking, come up with a list of things that other Governments have put together in their high performance systems, give it a funny new made up name like S.P.O.R.T. – Sports Performance and Olympic Race Training – put some money behind it and announce to the world that their “new” system is the best in the world.
Football teams and sporting organisations do the same thing by copying whoever won their competition last season – it’s about copying…it’s about copying…it’s about copying…it’s about copying…it’s about copying winners.
However, there is a huge difference between having the world’s best “tick the box”, high performance sport system and producing winners – i.e. producing athletes, coaches and teams who win at the highest level.
It is much easier to talk about having a great system and how you have all the high performance system elements in place than to talk about, think about and strive for winning.
The ten fundamental laws of winning in high performance sport are:
- To be different;
- To be unique;
- To do things first;
- To be more creative and more innovative than your competition;
- To take risks;
- To create and sustain a culture which is focused on winning – on being the best;
- To fight hard and compete with total commitment;
- To not accept anything but the best from everyone involved in your team: athletes, coaches, staff, management, Board – everyone must be committed to winning;
- To see winning as not just a destination but an attitude that pervades every aspect of every thought and action within your team every day;
- To not compromise on the consistent implementation of the first nine laws.
And this is the difference between a systems led approach and a winning focused approach. Having a great high performance sports system means having an outstanding high performance environment with all the programs, facilities, equipment and KPIs lined up and functioning: whereas winning means to come first.
Regardless of the nation, the team, the people, the geographical location, the size of the population, the money invested in the system, two clear and undeniable statements can be made:
- Systems do not create winners. They produce consistency. They provide opportunity. They provide a measurable quality control framework. They provide high quality environments for training and competition but systems by themselves do not create winners;
- The winners in all the high performance sports systems around the world for the past fifty years have been athletes, coaches, managers, teams, researchers, scientists and leaders who have thought and acted differently – who have been unique but who have had the good sense to tap into the opportunities provided by the high performance sport system.
So as you all head back to work in the new year, ask yourself this question, “Am I here to ensure my athletes, coaches, management and staff have the best possible system – one which provides them the opportunity to do their best – one which has all the elements one would expect to find in a high performance sports system” or “am I here to win?”
Because they are two completely different things.
- Are you encouraging difference?
- Are you embracing uniqueness?
- Are you celebrating creativity and innovation?
Or are you just another “audit bunny” sitting in an office ticking the boxes and kidding yourself you are driving the world’s best high performance sports system?
Happy New Year.
Sincere thanks to Bill Sweetenham who stimulated this post over coffee and breakfast during the Christmas Holidays. To read more about Bill, please check out Bill’s web site.