Part 2 of the Overview of the Development of Sport in Australia and Overseas
Need to give International exposure to athletes
Searching for and finding the next elite athlete is assisted by significant programs like the National Talent Identification and Development Program, which helps sports find talented athletes and prepare them for local, regional, State, National and International competition (Australian Government (2008) ). Overseas athletes can be better prepared with advents like the European Training Centre. However, giving exposure to athletes is full of mixed experiences and responses to reaching the heights of a sport. In basically all the areas of sport in Australia and overseas, there are athletes who have made it to the International level and gone on to be legends, such as Andrew Johns [Unlink] for Rugby League, Jonah Lomu [Unlink] for Rugby Union, Wayne Gretzky [Unlink] for Ice Hockey and Lauren Jackson [Unlink] for Women’s Basketball. However, there are also athletes who have reached the International level but who have peaked and climaxed. Such athletes have lost form for various reasons, especially because of not being able to continue and maintain their good performance and or getting distracted with other issues such as other sports, substance abuse, money and gambling problems, family issues or being a celebrity. Examples of this are Timana Tahu [Unlink] from the Newcastle Knights going to Rugby Union, star Brisbane Broncos NRL Rugby League players Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau going to AFL and the loss of dominance of the Australian Men’s Cricket team and Australian Men’s Wallabies Rugby Union team. Sometimes the standard of International competition is not to the level of Australia’s or the other teams are too strong such as the All Blacks in Rugby Union.
Whatever the case may be, it is still fair and important to give an athlete, star or potential champion, a chance to compete at not only national and state sporting levels, but also internationally. Australian Tennis stars Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt are examples of this and look how they have performed and come through the ranks. Staging sporting events like the FIFA Football World Cup in Australia in 2018 would provide a tremendous boost to a country on many levels. Again, it could be said there is favoritism and preferential treatment of selecting one athlete(s) over another, but having persistence, tolerance or feeling proud of one’s achievements, regardless of what level they have attained, is important. Higher level sporting teams are bringing in younger and or fresh-faced players to give them a go, such as the Australian Men’s Cricket team, the Australian Wallabies and NSW Blues NRL State of Origin team. Some national sporting competitions are still being over-dominated by Australian athletes, such as Rugby League and Netball, creating an air of boredom and under-motivation. Rugby League and Netball have brought in overseas players into the national competitions, for example, players from New Zealand and Great Britain, making improvements on an international level by bolstering competition in such sports.
Provision of top-quality training facilities, equipment, personnel, training and education
Australia has been lucky to have responded favorably to the poor result in the 1976 Montreal Olympics by establishing a high quality sporting environment for its athletes. There was the advent of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Australian Sports Commission and this flowed onto National and State sporting organizations. According to the Australian Government 2008 report, the creation of the Australian Institute of Sport in 1980 was a key reform, making the way for much of Australian sport’s future success, “we pooled resources, found a new focus in sport science and placed the benefits of excellence in coaching at the hub of the system” (Australian Government (2008) ). But like the AIS, the Australian Sports Commission finds itself needing to adapt to change. Also, it is somewhat contradictory for coaches to be given such high esteem and yet blamed if an athlete does not perform. Surely, critics should realize it is a group effort. Coaches and training officials are usually tremendous role models and mentors for the commitment and enthusiasm of junior and elite athletes. The Australian Government 2008 report supports this by asking for “greater recognition of the importance of coaches”, for instance the “re-establishment of the Australian Coaching Council” and other measures to be better prepared for the “latest and best information in their (coaching) fields” (Australian Government (2008) ).
Again it could be said are the right athletes being exposed and allowed to fully benefit from these facilities, equipment and personnel? In some developing countries like Nigeria and Ghana, this is not the case. In fact, there are a number of factors affecting this area with economic, religious, political and socio-cultural influences playing a part in these two developing countries, as well as developed countries like Australia. The Australian Federal Government has made it a significant policy to contribute to sport, including facilities, equipment and personnel. Since the 1976 Olympics, and more recently with Olympic Games in Melbourne and Sydney, considerable funding and work has gone into creating good quality facilities such as Sydney Olympic Park. The Sydney 2000 Olympics left a legacy for New South Wales with elite sport continuing to be played at Sydney Olympic Park.
Money was also invested in science and technology and related and non-related areas to produce a fitter, stronger and better athlete and better qualified, trained and competent staff and officials. Local sports could do with better training, such as facilities and equipment with some of these being actually fairly mediocre and poor. The Australian Federal Government is looking to provide sporting infrastructure to help sporting clubs and organizations attract new members and develop and retain current ones. The Australian Sports Foundation is an example of this funding assistance (Australian Government, Australia.gov.au, ‘Sports’). Local club personnel can be encouraged to undertake some form of education in the form of personal development, nutrition and coaching for example. There were sport-specific education institutions set up, such as the Australian College of Physical Education and sporting courses at the popular Macleay College.
Australia has long over-achieved and out-performed its competitors on the sporting stage, but now this stage is becoming increasingly crowded and competitive (Australian Government (2008) ). In fact with Australia’s strong performance in sport, other countries began to notice and copy this strength, for example the solid performance of international competition against Australia in Swimming at the 2012 London Olympics, a sport Australia usually dominates well. A number of Australian coaches were training these international athletes. The British Government for example increased its spending on sport after years of neglect with the coming of the 2012 London Olympics. The Australian Government 2008 report stated that “many countries have adopted elite sports structures and programs similar to those in Australia, and many Australian coaches and scientists have accepted opportunities overseas, with some making substantial contributions to the performances of Australia’s major competitors” (Australian Government (2008) ). In stating this, it is questionable Australia should be sharing their secrets with overseas athletes and staff and officials, especially since Australia fought hard to be where it is today in sport. However, it may be, or was going to be a matter of time before the competition was going to catch up. Additionally, we have not fully made it yet. There are other sports we need to improve on and produce well in, such as running in Athletics, Tennis and Soccer and sub-popular sports such as Volleyball, Table Tennis and Badminton.
An Athlete’s or Team’s Sporting Expenses
Australia is one of the most taxed countries in the developed world. Obviously there are worse conditions in other developing and third-world countries, like Ghana and Nigeria as mentioned earlier. Hopefully Government and other funding can help to an extent, but then there would be no need for athlete or team sponsorship and fundraising. Some athletes fight vigorously to compete at elite sport by finding and securing sponsorship and fundraising to pay their expenses, such as travel and training from a quality coach. On one hand, an athlete or team should not have it given to them on a plate and therefore need to work hard for it. On the other hand, working hard for it means working hard and performing as best as one can on-the-field and trusting family and personnel to look after activities off-the-field, like extra money and safety. Athletes in Europe and North America can be said to gain large salaries, including sponsorship, going into the millions. One could say they earn enough money to not even worry about the smaller expenses and would most probably have a manager and or personnel taking care of this. Most athletes in Australia and other countries like Asia, Africa and South America usually do not see these large amounts of money, and if they do have to work hard to maintain themselves in the sport to get this amount, in other words, not get injured and consistently perform well. What is more, coming up the ranks in a sport is harder with some athletes in some sports having to look after themselves, like Surfing and in the X-Games with skateboarding, bicycles and motorbikes for instance.
Disadvantaged groups in sport – Women, Indigenous and Disabled
The Australian Government 2008 report stated how there have been many reports into sport, with a Senate inquiry into women in sport and an unreleased plan for disabled sport for instance, but few of the recommendations have been acted upon (Australian Government (2008) ). It is a very simple premise when handling these groups in a country that is supposed to idolize its sporting people – ‘increase awareness, participation and rights in sport for each of them’. These groups have made great inroads into Australian sport but there is more work that needs to be done.
Women have made it with the men in representing Australia in local, regional, State, National and International sport but are sometimes discriminated against with the stereotypical physical and skillful prowess of men, money and salaries earned, sexualization and sexual harassment and poor media exposure – “women’s sport in Australia is a victim of vicious circle in which poor media exposure leads to lesser profile and exposure, leading to lesser sponsorship and remuneration opportunities, leading to less financial support and opportunities for promotional activities, leading back to less media coverage”, and, “Only 2% of televised sport is women’s sport” (Australian Government (2008) ). Female Chinese swimmer, Ye Shiwen, at the 2012 London Olympics, was making times equivalent to or better than some of the men. Sport in the Australian Defense Force, like Army and Navy, would definitely have some discrimination against women in what is stereotypically a men’s field. In America, there is the new female Grid Iron where females play American Football in their underwear, highlighting another example of the sexualization of women in sport. Only “53% of 14 year old girls and 30% of women over 65 participate in organized sport” and only “13% of executive positions in the top 40 sporting organizations are filled by women” (CSIRO (15 March, 2012) ). A number of initiatives have been recommended for women with possible action likely. There is a new national Soccer league for women likely to be televised, investment in a Trans-Tasman Netball competition, training opportunities and a Sports Leadership Grants for Women Program by the Office for Women and Australian Sports Commission (Australian Government (2008) ).