The needs of elite athletes in the 21st century: facilitation of elite athlete development and a model for management

Por: Caroline Ringuet, Patrick Schamasch e Sue Hooper.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

Many factors contribute to the overall development of an elite athlete and the cohesive integration of these factors is important to maximize performance [1]. Therefore this investigation was designed to examine the multi-faceted needs of elite athletes in the 21st century, the support provided to them, and the current practices for elite athlete management to understand how best to facilitate personal and performance development. This knowledge will assist in the development of a model for athlete-centered service provision to conceptualize the many factors associated with elite athlete development. This will allow sport organizations to set strategies that meet their objectives for elite athlete support.

Methods

This investigation relied on qualitative data collection through 76 semi-standardised in-depth interviews with elite athletes and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Olympic Committees (NOCs), government bodies, and international and national sporting organizations. These were conducted in 8 countries. Where permission was obtained to audiotape interviews, they were transcribed and analysed according to pre-selected themes. Data were collected after a review of existing literature on elite athlete needs and the support services provided to facilitate their development.

Results

The most commonly reported needs of elite athletes to maximize personal and performance development were maintaining balance in life, career and education opportunities, sport science and sport medicine support, access to facilities, resources and high quality coaching, and sufficient funding to meet living, training, and competition expenses. Data indicated that collaborative efforts among NOCs, national sport organizations, and government bodies are required to maximize service provision. The benefits of collaborative working partnerships included greater funding available to finance elite athlete preparation and development programs and a greater number of resources and services available to elite athletes.

Discussion / Conclusions

This comprehensive review and analysis of elite athlete needs and the support provided to them was undertaken to investigate issues relevant to elite athlete development. The information obtained was used to identify recommendations for an elite athlete-centered sports system which focuses on (1) delivery of comprehensive and high quality support services to meet the personal and performance needs of elite athletes, and (2) development of working partnerships among NOCs, national sport organizations, and government bodies to better integrate and coordinate support services and programs.
This study highlighted the many factors contributing to the overall development of an elite athlete and that a cooperative environment is required to deliver comprehensive, effective, and high quality programs to meet the needs of elite athletes. Importantly, the investigation stimulated discussion and awareness on how the development of elite athletes can be facilitated.

References

[1]. Gould D. et al. (1999). Sport Psychologist, 13(4), 371-394.

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