Government to blame for Olympic failure

The blame for Australia’s below par performance has fallen at the feet of the Federal Government, with Olympic Chief John Coates citing the lack of a compulsory school sports policy as reason for the athletes’ failure.

Coates has singled out Australian swimming performances and called for a review of the policy. With only ten medals won in the sport, one of them gold, Coates said “Swimming will be disappointed. They’ll want to debrief and review what they did wrong”.

Australia currently sit 23rd in the medal tally table and looks set to post its worst Olympic performance in a quarter of a century. Coates pointed the finger at the Australian Government for not building on the success of the Sydney Games in 2000, to create a sporting youth legacy. This is what he believes Britain has done by introducing a compulsory sport in schools policy in the lead up to the current London Games.

Rejecting claims that the Government needed to spend more money on sport, Coates stated, “I think there’s enough money in the system, they’re just not necessarily spending it wisely.”

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Comment – Too much pressure

Australia’s performance in the London Olympic Games is far from what was expected and boy, are we disappointed? Swimming, long seen as our marquee sport, has delivered only one gold medal, which is just not good enough. Or so says Australia’s Olympic Chief John Coates.  Whatever happened to ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ mentality?

With our current crop of athletes failing to do the business, it seems that we should look to the next generation and prepare them early for the pressure they will face to perform. The lack of a compulsory school sport program is being blamed for our sporting failure, so therefore forcing all kids to endure swimming, running, hockey, cycling and all other manner of sports must be the answer. This is simply foolish.

Time and money would be better spent reviewing the current environment in which our young athletes are asked to perform. It seems that nothing has been learned from placing young men and women, who have a talent for sport, in a hothouse environment and pressuring them to succeed. These athletes undertake extreme training programs and as soon as they show a little promise, are thrust into the limelight as our next great medal hope. They are not given the chance to develop the skills required to deal with high expectations and disappointment; the need to succeed is all that matters. And now we are being told that we need to start the process earlier.

School children need to step up to the plate and deliver. Anyone who has children will know that no good ever comes from forcing them to do something they don’t want. Despite the fact that as parents, we all believe we know best, this isn’t always the case. Children shouldn’t bear the brunt of our failure as a nation to win medals.

Sport in schools should be compulsory, as a means of keeping our children fit and active, not as another means by which to add pressure to young people’s lives. Children are under so much pressure to perform academically and fit in socially and now we are also looking to them to perform well in sport. If children do show an aptitude for a particular sport, then of course they should be encouraged, but encouragement is vastly different from pressure to perform.

Australia has always had a great sporting culture and history, of which we should be proud. This pride is what we should be instilling into our children and potential Olympic athletes, pride in doing the best you can, pride in competing at the highest level.

So, before we start declaring these Olympic Games a failure, let’s celebrate the medals we have won and get behind those athletes who have yet to take to the Olympic stage.

Written by Debbie McTaggart