African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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A comparative analysis of elite sport systems of national judo federations in Great Britain, South Africa and The Netherlands

Petrus Louis Nolte, Willem Hollander


The growing social significance of international sport competition, and the benefits of sport at socio-political level, have resulted in increased  recognition for systems in sport that promote the development of elite athletes. Elite sport systems are globally becoming increasingly more uniform, with local variations characterising the differences in  implementation such as higher levels of complexity, greater financial investment and optimising talent identification and talent development processes to function more effectively. The question therefore arises as to what extent differences could be measured amongst elite sport systems of different national judo federations. The aim of this study was to conduct a comparative analysis of elite sport systems of three national judo  federations (Great Britain, South Africa and The Netherlands). Judo in England forms part of the British Judo Association. The study followed an international comparative case study design utilising qualitative methods (document analysis and interviews), in order to explore the management of elite judo systems in depth. The research model consisted of a vertical (micro, meso and macro-levels), and horizontal analyses, with multilevel elements articulated as a subset within a subsequent higher level for analysis. The horizontal analysis assisted in seeking similar and distinct trends between the judo federations at each level. Qualitative data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with one (n=1) executive member of the British and South African judo federations (n=1), as well as a sample of elite judo coaches from Britain (n=3), South Africa (n=3) and the Netherlands (n=2). Results indicated that elite sport systems are guided by a sound vision, mission, strategy and plan supported by relevant and sufficient human, financial and physical resources systems. The extent to which these systems are aligned and integrated with the strategy and plan, will determine the success of the input of elite sport systems. Britain, South Africa and the Netherlands have are similar in terms of structural components; however the main differences that exist are related to the contextual realities of these countries.

Keywords: Elite sport systems, long-term athlete development, strategic management.

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