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Producing success: a critical analysis of athlete development governance in six countries

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 05:34 authored by Barker-Ruchti, N, Schubring, A, Aarresola, O, Kerr, R, Grahn, K, Jennifer McMahonJennifer McMahon
The purpose of this paper is to analyse and compete athlete development governance in Australia, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland. A Foucauldian framework was used to theorise athlete development governance as shaped by and based on distinct ‘government mentalities’ and ‘modes of governance’. Qualitative procedures were used to collect and analyse 58 documents related to the six countries’ athlete development governance and conduct 14 informal interviews with national elite sport system experts. Our results confirm other scholars’ findings that sport governance is moving towards managerialist government mentalities. Specific modes of governance that are being implemented to systematise athlete development include targeted forms of funding and the modelling of athlete development. However, the results also highlight how athlete development governance is a site of negotiation, arising from a) historical events, b) socio-political contexts, c) financial conditions, d) government mentalities, and e) sport science knowledge. Our examination demonstrates how this problematises athlete development governance, but also allows for distinctive local athlete development government discursivities and/or sport-specific adjustments. These include less results-driven and more holistic interpretations of athlete development. We conclude by outlining implications, which intend to support stakeholders’ (e.g. coaches’, sport directors’) engagement in conceptualising, implementing and/or revising athlete development frameworks.


Publication title

International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics








Faculty of Education



Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Equity and access to education

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