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The Future of American

Sport Development
In determining a way to assess the success of the United States with respect to that of other nations in
international competition, we decided it would be best to focus on Olympic competition, as that is the
pinnacle of international sport. The rating system we developed to quantify Olympic success of
individual countries, called the MAP system (short for medals, athletes, and population), is comprised
of 5 different metrics. The metrics are as follows:
1) Medals/Athlete - Total medals won divided by amount of athletes
2) Gold Percentage - Amount of gold medals divided by total medals won
3) Total Golds - Amount of gold medals won divided by all possible gold medals in
every event in the entire Olympics
4) Total Medals - Amount of total medals won divided by all possible total medals in
every event in the entire Olympics
5) Medals/Population - Total medals won divided by current national population
After a score in each metric was calculated, the total MAP score was found by simply adding together
the 5 metrics. Each country we analyzed received one total MAP score for every Olympics that we used
in our study. Those MAP scores were then used to analyze trends in Olympic performance.

Using this rating system, we analyzed every Olympic Games,


summer and winter, since the 2000 summer games in Sydney,
Australia. For each year of the Olympics, after each country
received their MAP score, the 5 countries with the highest total
MAP score were put into a radar graph to allow for simpler
comparison of individual metrics.

The Graph on the left is the resulting radar graph from the 2000
Summer Olympics. These graphs allowed us to more easily
compare the USA in each individual metric. Each section of the
pentagon represents one of the 5 metrics that make the MAP.

The radar graphs also allowed us to see trends for each country. For example, the shape of the United
States was extremely consistent between all Olympic years from 2000 to 2014, but slight differences
can be seen when comparing between summer and winter. Also, one trend that stuck out was that the
USAs graph was typically the highest of the 5 countries in metrics 3 and 4. This could be seen in the
graphs because the USAs pentagon reached furthest on the 3rd and 4th axes (the bottom two). This
was due to the fact that the United States was usually the leader in medals won.
Analysis of the United States performance using the MAP system shows that while they are generally
successful in both Summer and Winter Olympics, being ranked in the top 5 in both, they are not the
best in either. What is impressive, however, is that the US was the only country to be in the top 5 in both
summer and winter.
The following pages will explain the results from MAP analysis, how a few
our competitors develop sport in their countries and what we can learn
from them. We will conclude with our recommendation for how to proceed
with the future of American sport development.
Summer
The top 5 countries for Summer Olympics between 2000 and 20012 according to the MAP system were
1) Australia, 2) United States, 3) China, 4) Russia, and 5) Great Britain. Australia being number 1 was
a bit of a surprise, but their impressively high medals/population scores in all 4 Olympics were enough
to bring them to the top. The United States was extremely consistent, scoring in the 15s in 2000, 2004
and 2008 before jumping up to 17 in 2012. The United States was rated as the number 1 country in an
Olympics only once, in 2012, finishing in 3rd in the other 3 Olympics we looked at. A positive note for
the United States is that while they are behind Australia, they are trending
upward while Australia has been on a steep downward trend since 2000.

As you can see in this graph of the top 5 MAP


scoring countries between 2000 and 2012, The
USA (shown in blue) was very consistent when
it came to overall MAP score, while the other 4
countries in the top 5 fluctuated greatly.
Generally considered the United States closest
rival in sport, China received MAP scores very
close to that of the US in all 4 Summer Olympics
examined. The US finished only about 3 points
higher than China in the final MAP rankings.
Overall, the United States was very successful
at Summer Olympics between 2000 and 2012.

Winter
The top 5 countries for Winter Olympics between 2002 and 2014 according to the MAP system were
1) Norway, 2) Austria, 3) Germany, 4) Canada, and 5) United States. Norway was the clear winner in
the Winter Olympics, nearly doubling the score received by #2 Austria. The reasoning behind this was
that Norway consistently finished in the top 5 of medal tables, while bringing fewer athletes than most
countries, and having a population of only 5 million people, the fewest of any of the countries we looked
at. It may be disappointing to see the US in 5th place, but it is not entirely unexpected. The other 4
countries above them all specialize in winter sports, so to see the US compete with them is more
impressive than disappointing. The United States best finish in a Winter Olympics was at home in Salt
Lake City in 2002, and they have been on a slight downward trend ever since.
You can see that the United States is at or near
the bottom of the top 5 in every Winter Olympics
since 2002. It is certainly interesting that the US
is consistently outperformed by countries with
much smaller talent pools. Although winter sports
are more accessible in countries such as Norway,
Austria and Canada due to their colder climates,
is is their focus on these sports that creates their
success. If the United States increased focus on
winter sports, they could catch up to and surpass
these dominant
winter countries.
Sport Development Paradigms
Based on the results from the MAP analysis, the following 3 countries were chosen to study in an
attempt to learn what changes we could potentially make to the sport development system in the United
States.

China
The system of sport development in China is very different from that of the United States. Main
differences include government control, emphasis on early specialization, and focus on sports that
specifically provide many medal opportunities in the Olympics.
One interesting aspect of Chinas system of sport development
is that they will find particularly promising young athletes,
sometimes as young as age 5, and assign them to play a
specific sport. This goes hand-in-hand with their emphasis on
early specialization as a means to achieve success.
The graph on the right represents the average performance of
China (red) vs. that of the US (blue) over the 4 Olympics that
were analyzed. China was most successful in the Gold %
category, meaning that out of all medals they won at the
Olympics, a high percentage of them were gold.

A major drawback to the system in China is that early specialization that early can lead to injury or burn-
out. The developing athletes arent allowed enough time to become physically literate, which could also
hamper their potential. While not perfect, Chinas sport development system gets very positive results.

Russia
In Russia, like China, their sport development system has a centralized, government-run organization
structure. The main aspects of the Russian model are the use of Olympic reserve schools, a high
pressure to succeed, and strong government influence.
At these reserve schools, young Russian athletes receive relatively cheap boarding, meals, and
education. Students lives at the schools are almost entirely focused on sports, and any free time they
may have usually consists of studying or practicing sports on their own. This system may be good for
achieving Olympic success, but it is questionable as to whether or not children at these reserve schools
are truly happy. The high pressure to succeed only adds to the stressful life of a Russian athlete.
In the graph on the left, Russia (red) is compared to the US
(blue) by average score across all 5 categories of the MAP. It
shows that Russia was successful in the medals/athlete
category and very successful at medals/population. This means
that Russia gets more out of the athletes it brings to the
Olympics as well as their potential talent pool as compared to
that of the United States.
While the Russian system as it is would certainly not work in
the United States due to a myriad of political differences, there
are certain aspects that we could take from them in order to
improve our current system of
development.
Norway
Norway was chosen because of their incredible success in the Winter Olympics over the last 12 years
as well as the fact that they have an interesting take on sport development. In contrast to Russia and
China, Norway chooses to focus their development on the sport for all policy. They strongly
encourage all of their citizens to participate in sport, not just elite level athletes, and to so for their entire
lives. They discourage early specialization, and want their young athletes to play all sports before they
decide which to specialize in.
The graph on the right represents the average performance of
Norway (red) in comparison to that of the US (blue) according
to the 5 metrics of the MAP. Norway is clearly in another league
than the US when it comes to Winter Olympic performance. By
far their best category is medals/population. They were in the
top 5 of the medal table in all 4 Winter Olympics while having the
smallest population of the countries analyzed by a wide margin.
A flaw in Norways system of sport development could be that
they do not focus on elite sport as other countries, leading to
an eventual dip in performance. Based on their performance in
the Winter games over the past 12 years, the US could stand to
learn a thing or two from Norway.

Our Recommendation
We have developed a 5-step plan for how to proceed with future sport development in the United States

Step 1: SWOT Analysis


We will perform a SWOT analysis of the current state of United States international sport after MAP
analysis. This analysis will allow us to analyze what they do well and what they need to work on when
it comes to international competition.
- Only country in top 5 MAP in both Summer and Winter Games

S - At or near the top of the medal table in every Summer and Winter Games analyzed
- Consistent in achieving a strong gold % score in every Olympics analyzed
- Weak in the Winter Olympics when you look at how many athletes they bring

W - There are certain sports that the US never win medals in


- Little focus on these sports in terms of athlete development

O - There is an opportunity to improve in the Winter Olympics if the US were to put more
focus on the development of winter sports

T - At risk of dropping out of the top 5 in the Winter Olympics if they do not improve on the
current downward trend

After SWOT analysis, it is determined that the best course of action


for the United States is to increase focus on the development of the
winter sports that they dont typically have success in. The example
that we will use for the rest of this recommendation is the sport of
cross-country skiing, an Olympic event that the United States has
only medaled in once in the history of the Winter Olympics.
Step 2: Recruit
In order to improve in cross-country skiing, the US must first increase size of the talent pool of
potential cross-country skiers. The obvious problem with this is that cross-country skiing is very low on
the list of popular sports in the US, and many American youths may not even know about CC skiing.
Our solution to this problem is to begin recruiting 13-15 year olds who are already physically literate,
but are currently playing other sports. Five and a half million kids played basketball in 2013, and an
extremely small percentage of those kids will go on to become elite level players.
Our strategy is to target excellent athletes in popular American sports, but who arent quite good enough
to be elite. We believe that a 14-year-old basketball player with DII college potential could have the
potential to be an elite level cross-country skier if given proper training. This strategy takes the best of
both Chinas and Norways systems. We will be recruiting specific players to play certain sports, but we
will wait until they have reached physical literacy before doing so.
Step 3: Camps
The next step is to make camps for the recruited athletes to go to in order to teach them how to play
their new sports. These camps are modeled after the Olympic reserve schools in Russia, but they will
have a few major differences. Camps will be less like boarding school, and more like actual summer
camp; we want to focus on the fun of the sport. We dont want the athletes to feel the pressure to be
great, we want them to develop a love for the sport that they are training in. They will have plenty of time
to become elite through practice. The major goal of this step is to increase both the size and the talent
level of the pool of athletes that could potentially represent the US at the Olympic level.
Step 4: Marketing/Advertising
None of these steps will make an impact if nobody in America knows what we are doing. That is why
marketing is so important. We need youth athletes in America to know about these interesting new
sports and the potential for them to represent their country on the biggest stage. One major tactic would
be to utilize social media to expose the young athletes to the idea of cross-country skiing. Kids these
days are always on social networking sites such as twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Heavily using
these platforms would be a great way to reach them.
Another focus of this step is to increase television coverage of the sport and our goal, be it by airing
cross-country races or by showing commercials to explain our goal to America. A simple commercial
explaining the need for young people who might be interested in playing a new sport and for the chance
to compete in the Olympics could go a long way in increasing the public backing of this plan. Americans
want to be the best at everything, If we explain to them the reasoning behind trying to get better at
winter sports like cross-country skiing, they will get behind our ideas.
Step 5: Winning
Potentially the most important step, of course, is winning. If we roll out this plan and then fall flat again
at the next Winter Olympics, we will lose public support in a heartbeat. Winning a few medals in the
typically underrepresented sports could begin a positive feedback loop. The more we win, the more
youth in America will want to start playing those sports, and the more will join our training camps. This
can be achieved by providing the best possible training at camps, and meticulously
picking which athletes we believe to have the greatest potential in each sport.

We believe that by following this 5-step plan, the


United States will be well on its way to achieving in the
Winter Olympics the sort of success that it has seen in
the Summer Games.