An exploratory study of the experiences of receiving funding support for elite sport in South Africa
Adom-Aboagye, Nana Akua Achiaa
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Despite government’s formation of financial support grants such as the Operational Excellence Programme to provide much needed assistance, South African elite athletes have not been performing to expectation at recent international championships, such as the Olympic Games. International experiences demonstrate the importance of a well-structured and implemented funding support system to improve elite athlete performance at international levels. This has led to questions of how to improve this situation for elite South African athletes who receive funding support from the South Africa Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee and to revisit the implementation of the funding support for elite athletes. This study will take, experiences of South African elite athletes as well as sport managers into consideration and will also look at international lessons of experience of the funding support of elite sport to provide improved options for financial support and elite athlete development. Using qualitative research methods, this study explored the underlying factors regarding funding support of elite athletes in South Africa based on experiences and perceptions of elite athletes. Within the context of the study, elite athletes would refer to senior track and field athletes and senior swimmers who had been a part of Team South Africa and represented the nation at international competitions. Data was collected in three ways: a) A literature review in the form of an analysis of the high performance policies of: the National Olympic Committee of South Africa and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee that has governed elite sport in South Africa post 1994 and the policies that govern high performance funding support within Athletics South Africa and Swimming South Africa; b) interviews with eight preselected elite athletes to discuss career performances and funding support received and c) interviews with four coaches/managers of the preselected elite athletes to discuss their perspectives on the funding support their athletes received. Strict ethics considerations were also adhered to insofar as written consent was obtained from all participants beforehand, as the intended interviews would be either audio recorded or video recorded. Pseudonyms were also used for participants with the assurance that participation was voluntary. The eventual findings of the study brought to light that the implementation of the funding support provided by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee was good in theory but not necessarily so in practice. Overall, participants were grateful for the support received but felt that certain changes needed to be considered going forward for the improvement of future performances.