Not another Sports Academy…..aaaaargh!

Not another Sports Academy…..aaaaargh!

Sports Academies and Institutes of Sport…Are they more than just impressive buildings?

Another Sports Academy…………or is it an……..

  • Academy of Sport?
  • Institute of Sport?
  • Elite Sports Academy?
  • Centre of Excellence?
  • High Performance Centre?

Call it what you will – it’s the same thing.

Why this world wide obsession with Sports Academies / Institutes and Centres?

And more importantly, do they actually make a difference to the performance of elite athletes?

So Why A Sports Academy?

Sports Academies are like Smart Phones: everyone’s got one but no one’s quite sure how to use them to their full potential.

So why do we have Academies, Institutes etc – in high performance sport?

Because we are afraid not to!

It all started back in the 70s – the East Germans and Russians had Sports Academies. They were winning lots of Gold Medals so………..let’s all build a Sports Academy!

The Australian Institute of Sport grew out of this in the early 80s and then came the State Academies and Institutes of Sport in the Australian capital cities.

The Kiwis have built sports Institutes and Academies.

The English have built hundreds of them – (they can afford to).

The French have got some nice ones.

So have the Spanish. And the Germans.

And the Italians.

And the Swiss.

The South Africans are doing it.

So are the South Americans.

Everyone, everywhere is pulling together a Sports Academy or Institute or Centre of Excellence of some kind.

Pretty soon every second building on the face of the earth will either be an Institute of Sport or a McDonalds!

But here’s the criticial question – why?

Because people think it’s the cure for all ills. Because people think that an Institute of Sport or an Academy of Sport or Centre of Sports Excellence will miraculously change the elite sports culture of the nation. That a high performance precinct or group of buildings or set of new sports facilities will somehow transform the performance of the nation’s athletes.


If you have a limited supply of talented athletes, poor coaches, ineffective sports management, few world class sports scientists and have no quality leaders, simply building a world class precinct or Sports Academy will not change anything. You will just have built a nicer facility in which to fail!

You can buy me an F1 Ferrari. But without the desire to win the F1 Driver’s championship plus ten years of training to drive fast plus a world class crew of people to keep me and the car in top shape, we can not win.

Just having a world class Institute or Academy does not not mean you will change the high performance sporting culture.


Because the best Institutes and Academies understand this: Institutes and Academies are NOT buildings, precincts, facilities and centres: they are people, programs, passion and performance.

The attitude has to come first.

Then the desire to change.

And the desire to win.

And the belief that you can win.

Then identify, train and develop world class athletes, coaches, sports scientists, sports medicine staff and management.

And then let’s get the surveyors, engineers and builders in to start developing our Sports Institute.


  • Develop outstanding programs, recruit talented athletes and world class coaches AND THEN build a Sports Academy / Institute or Centre of Excellence to create the right environment for success. Most Academies do not work because they did it the other way around – they built something, ticked all the boxes, then recruited athletes and coaches to fit the pre-existing model.
  • Ask WHY are we building this Sports Academy and WHAT is it’s primary objective first. Another big mistake people make is to put together a check list of sports science services, facilities and buildings before really thinking about the reasons behind creating the Academy in the first place.
  • Look at alternate models. An Academy does not have to be a single precinct. An Institute does not have to be centrally located. A Centre of Excellence does not have to be central (but it does have to be excellent!!!) – do not copy other models of Academies and Institutes from around the world – do it your own way.

Wayne Goldsmith

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