wishes you a wonderful 2017

2016 was a special year, with the most exciting news being three finished doctoral theses from researchers around the world! 

- Dr. Leandro Mazzei received his title after completing a thesis on the organizational factors influencing the international sporting success in high-performance Judo. (Brazil, University Sao Paulo)
- Dr. Jessie Brouwers successfully studied the role of elite sport policies, pathways and inter-organisational relationships in developing elite tennis players. (Australia, Griffith University)

- Dr. Jasper Truyens doctoral study named 'Organizational Capacity in elite Athletics' identified how nations develop a competitive advantage in athletics. (Belgium, Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Content of this newsletter:
  • Research and PhDs working with SPLISS
  • 2016 scientific publications
  • What can SPLISS do for countries?
Do you also use SPLISS for your research or policy? Did you publish something interesting? Let us
Other great news was that SPLISS successfully organised a SPLISS conference in Melbourne Australia. Finally, SPLISS was able to publish a series of peer reviewed academic publications - an overview is provided at the end of the newsletter.

We hope that 2017 will continue as prosperous as the past years. And we hope exactly the same for all of you! A lot of exciting plans are made - so keep in touch with SPLISS in 2017!

High-performance Judo: organizational factors influencing the international sporting success

Dr. Leandro Mazzei (Brazil)
Prof. Dr. Maria Tereza Silveira Böhme (University of Sao Paulo), Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher (Vrije Universiteit Brussel).


The objective of this research was to identify factors at an organizational level that influence international success in high-performance judo. To fulfil the objective of this research a Sequential Exploratory Design was used involving three phases. The first phase used a qualitative approach and involved the Content Analysis on interviews with 33 individuals (athletes, coaches, performance directors and experts) from the international high-performance judo. The results were 11 categories and 44 subcategories which were considered the dimensions and the organizational factors influencing the international sporting success in high-performance judo. It was verified that these results are similar to other studies, which had the purpose of investigating sport policies or high-performance sport systems, like SPLISS model. However, specific judo characteristics that affect the development of judo in a country were identified, such as tradition, history and cultural aspects inherent of judo practice. Furthermore, environmental factors were also identified. From these results, the "Judo Organizational Factors Influencing the International Sporting Success" (JUDO-OFIISS) model was developed (Figure 1).

The second phase was the development of a questionnaire, which was validated by Content Validation by six experts. The reason of this second phase was to provide the JUDO-OFIISS first validation. The third phase employed a quantitative approach. An Exploratory Factor Analysis was applied on data obtained in a sample of 406 individuals, divided into athletes, coaches, performance directors and experts from Brazilian high-performance judo context. The results in the third phase showed that the JUDO-OFIISS model is validated and suggested that the search for international sporting success in high-performance judo depends of the relationship among of all identified organizational factors. This research provided knowledge into the development of high-performance judo and contributes to the understanding of sport policies and high-performance sport systems considering a sport specific level.

More info:

The role of elite sport policies, pathways and inter-organisational relationships in developing elite tennis players

Jessie Brouwers (Australia-Belgium)
Dr. Popi Sotiriadou (Griffith University), Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Prof. Dr. Graham Cuskelly ((Griffith University)


Elite athlete development is the result of a combination of elite sport policies, athlete development pathways and interactions between various stakeholders that are involved in the delivery of athlete development pathways. These factors make elite athlete development a complex, multi-layered and multi-faceted field of study that necessitates specific research efforts that focus on how these factors contribute to elite athlete development in specific sports.

 This thesis used mixed methods and three studies to examine elite sport policies, athlete development pathways and interactions between stakeholders that are involved in the delivery of athlete development pathways in tennis. 

In the first study, 35 international tennis experts participated in an online questionnaire which examined tennis-specific and policy related factors that influence international tennis success. The questionnaire combined (a) open questions on factors that influence elite tennis success of countries, and (b) Likert scale questions based on the Sport Policy factors that Lead to International Sporting Success (SPLISS) model (De Bosscher, De Knop, van Bottenburg, & Shibli, 2006). In the second study, in-depth interviews with 18 tennis experts revealed how sport organisations and stakeholders within these organisations develop, deliver or support tennis player programs and strategies that shape elite player development pathways. The third study examined the ways that inter-organisational relationships between tennis clubs and a tennis federation facilitate player development. Data were collected through document analysis and 14 in-depth interviews with representatives from the tennis federation and clubs in Flanders.

More info: You can view a publications list of Jessie Brouwers on the Research Database of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (R&D-Net)

Elite athlete development in a commercialised sport, like tennis, appears to shift away from typical government driven sport policies and development pathways to include the emerging influence of private tennis academies, clubs and third party organisations which sit outside government policy direction. Practical implications of this thesis help athlete development stakeholders to manage and deliver sustainable elite player development programs.

The role of elite sport policies, pathways and inter-organisational relationships in developing elite tennis players

Dr. Jasper Truyens (Belgium)
Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), prof. Bruno Heyndels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Sporting success and the competitive advantages of countries are found within individual sports’ contexts. Different authors contributed to the need of research on elite sport practices in specific sports, but so far, no research identified key determinants or evaluated sport practices leading to a competitive advantage in a country-by-country comparison.

 The purpose of this PhD study is to identify how nations develop a competitive advantage in athletics. 

The comparison of five sport systems helps understand how countries develop strategy from specific resources and capabilities and poses significant implications for high performance managers and policy makers.
In the first study, 98 key organisational resources and first-order capabilities were identified and categorised in the 10 dimensions of the ORFOC-framework (Organisational Resources and First Order Capabilities), congruent to common dimensions of elite sport development. In the second and third study, a method to evaluate the organisational capacity of countries in athletics has been developed and applied in a five sport system comparison (Canada, Finland, Flanders, the Netherlands and Wallonia). The method represents the development of composite indicators that can be used to evaluate the key organisational resources in athletics. Additionally, the method uses a configuration analysis to review the alignment of resources into specific resource configurations. The results indicate that for six dimensions of the ORFOC framework, Finland obtained the highest composite index score, followed by Canada and the Netherlands. Flanders (talent identification and development), the Netherlands (coach provisions and development) and Canada (training and competition facilities) obtained the highest competitive index score in one of the ORFOC dimensions. The configuration analysis revealed that these sport systems organise their resources differently. The sport systems vary in relation to program centralisation, athlete development, and funding prioritization. In the fourth study, a market based analysis on top 8 and medal success at world championships and Olympic Games provided evidence of a systematic decrease of competitive balance in athletics. Additionally, the international competition is very dynamic as market shares changed significantly between countries. 

More info: (article 1) (article 2) (article 3) (article 4)

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A selection of SPLISS publications 2016
A Mixed Methods Approach to Compare Elite Sport Policies of Nations. A Critical Reflection on the Use of Composit Indicators in the SPLISS Study. Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics. Special issue: Research Methodologies and Sports Scholarship, editors James Skinner & Terry Engelberg, Griffith University.
Veerle De Bosscher
Journal of Global Sport Management, 1(3-4), 70-89. doi:10.1080/24704067.2016.1237203
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This paper discusses the utility of mixed methods research in international comparative studies on elite sport policies and (quantitative) composite indicators (CIs) in particular. It illustrates how complex and large amounts of data in 15 nations have been objectified into easily understood formats, CIs. Using a nine Pillar model, data were collected through a research inventory and surveys completed by 3142 elite athletes, 1376 coaches and 241 performance directors. Ninety-six critical success factors and 750 sub-factors were aggregated into a CI. The paper shows how CIs are helpful in identifying a possible (non) relationship between elite sport policies and success, in facilitating interpretation and comparison, and in understanding differences and convergences in elite sport systems. However, there are a number of drawbacks, for example, understanding elite sport policies as part of a broader social, cultural and political context. Complementary qualitative analysis is necessary and has been used to interpret elite sport policies of nations.

An Analysis of Countries’ Organizational Resources, Capacities and Resource Configurations in Athletics.
Jasper Truyens, Veerle  De Bosscher, Popi Sotiriadou, Bruno Heyndels,
Journal of Sport Management.: 1-52, 30, 5 , 566-585.doi:
Research on elite sport policy tends to focus on the policy factors that can influence success. Even though policies drive the management of organizational resources, the organizational capacity of countries in specific sports to allocate resources remains unclear. This paper identifies and evaluates the organizational capacity of five sport systems in athletics (Belgium [separated into Flanders and Wallonia], Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands). Organizational capacity was evaluated using the organizational resources and first-order capabilities framework (Truyens, De Bosscher, Heyndels, & Westerbeek, 2014). Composite indicators and a configuration analysis were used to collect and analyze data from a questionnaire and documents. The participating sport systems demonstrate diverse resource configurations, especially in relation to program centralization, athlete development, and funding prioritization. The findings have implications for high performance managers’ and policy makers’ approach to strategic management and planning for organizational resources in elite sport.

Competitive Balance in Athletics
Truyens,J., De Bosscher, V., Heyndels, B. (2016)
Managing Sport and Leisure, ISNN: 2375-0472. 21(1), 23-43. doi:10.1080/23750472.2016.1169213
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While most research on elite sport success focuses on sport policy factors or the explanatory powers of macro-level factors such as wealth and population, sporting success of countries is also determined by the competitive environment of a sport. This paper identified trends in competitive balance in athletics at world championships and Olympic Games between 2000 and 2015. Using Spearman rank correlations between multiple indicators of competitive balance and the passage of time, a systematic decrease in competitive balance was found for athletics in general, men’s and women’s competition. At discipline-specific level, divergent trends in competitive balance were identified. Based on top-8 point market shares, women’s sprint/hurdles, long-distance running and race walking became systematically more unbalanced, while the medal competition in men’s long-distance running became significantly more balanced. This study informs policy-makers on shifting opportunities for success caused by dynamic changes in the competition and the systematic reduction of competitive balance in specific disciplines.

Convergence and Divergence of Elite Sport Policies: Is There a One-Size-Fits-All Model to Develop International Sporting Success?
Veerle De Bosscher, Simon Shibli, Hans Westerbeek & Maarten van Bottenburg
Journal of Global Sport Management, 1-20. doi:10.1080/24704067.2016.1237203
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This study is based on a detailed international comparison of the elite sport policies of 15 nations as part of the SPLISS (Sports Policy Factors Leading to International Sporting Success) study. It aims to provide deeper insights into the phenomena of convergence and divergence of elite sport policies. The research uses a mixed methods approach based on document reviews, interviews with high performance directors and surveys of 3142 athletes, 1376 coaches and 246 performance directors. There appears to be no generic blueprint for achieving international sporting success. Nations that perform well in international competition show varying patterns of relative strengths and weaknesses across nine pillars, 96 critical success factors, and 750 sub-factors. While the basic raw ingredients of the recipe might be common in broad terms, the combinations in which they are mixed are diverse. Much of this diversity appears to be driven by social, cultural and political factors.
KEYWORDS: Elite sport policyconvergencedivergencesuccessfactorsSPLISS

The role of inter-organizational relationships on elite athlete development: The case of tennis in Flanders.
Popi Sotiriadou, Jessie Brouwers, Veerle De Bosscher, Graham Cuskelly
Journal of Sport Management, 2016,
Previous studies acknowledge the importance of sporting organizations developing partnerships with clubs for athlete development purposes. However, there are no studies that address the way partnerships influence athlete progression and pathways. This study explores inter-organizational relationships (IORs) between a tennis federation and tennis clubs in their efforts to improve player development processes. Document analysis and semi-structured interviews with representatives from clubs and the Flemish federation were used. The findings show that the federation and the clubs engaged in IORs to achieve reciprocity and efficiency. The federation anticipated gaining legitimacy and asymmetry, and clubs expected to develop stability. Formal and informal control mechanisms facilitated IOR management. The conceptual model discussed in this study shows the types of IOR motives, management and control mechanisms that drive and influence the attraction, retention/transition, and nurturing (ARTN) processes of athlete development.

A multidimensional approach to evaluate the policy effectiveness of elite sport schools in Flanders.
Veerle Bosscher, Paul De Knop, Jikkemien Vertonghen
Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, p 1596-1621
The increasing demands of elite sports make it difficult for talented young athletes to balance school and sport. This paper investigates the multi-dimensional policy effectiveness of elite sport schools (ESSs) in secondary education in Flanders. Four hundred and eight elite athletes who graduated from an ESS, and 341 from mainstream schools, completed an online survey. The data showed no clear evidence of more effective outputs (performance), or more positive evaluation of throughputs (processes) by athletes who attended an ESS. Athletes who did not attend an ESS received less support services, but those who did receive such services were generally more satisfied. They were equally satisfied about their coaches’ expertise. Only training facilities were rated generally better in an ESS. The study concluded that evaluating effectiveness of ESS (at input-throughput-output level) requires a tailor-made, sport-specific approach. Furthermore, as ESS is only a small part of a total career, many other factors influence long-term success.
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