Posted by Editoress on 05/14/08
CCA Releases High Performance Review - Our Analysis
The Canadian Cycling Association has released the results of a High Performance Review conducted by Podium Canada (Road to Excellence). This, in and of itself, is a remarkable event, given the past practice of secrecy. The full report can be found Here as a PDF.
The CCA also released the results of surveys that Podium Canada conducted as part of their review - with Athletes and Coaches. In a nutshell, the Athletes largely said that the CCA was not meeting their needs in development or competition - the only area that showed approval was how they felt about their coaching situation, which is largely outside of the purview of the CCA.
On the Coaches/Technical Personnel side, the results were even more skewed, with most personnel feeling that the CCA does not provide the resources or support necessary to do their work effectively.
As to the report itself (which can be downloaded at the above link), some general comments, before getting into specifics:
The authors correctly point out that Cycling (the CCA) has made a huge step (in inviting outside scrutiny), and that Cycling is the oldest sports governing body. The report was, in large part, based on interviews with athletes, staff, coaches and members of Provincial Sports Organizations (PSOs).
A huge hole in the process (from our perspective) was that the report authors did not step outside of this group to solicit opinions from other stake holders in the sport, such as teams, managers, industry, etc. This means that they are gathering information about the system largely from people within the system that they are trying to reform!
Having said that, the recommendations are completely valid, although many have been already suggested, by many people, for many years. Hopefully, the difference this time will be that they are actually implemented.
Among the key points noted in the study:
1. Strong leadership - the hiring of a CEO (who instituted this review) was one of the few areas that garnered favourable feedback from interviewees.
2. Develop a Strategic Plan - mandatory, and long overdue. But little or no discussion on how (or when) this development will take place - will it be developed by those within the system, or try to bring a broader perspective to the table?
3. Effective and open communication - already, this is happening.
4. Build trust - Believe me, in our regular interaction with athletes, staff and coaches at the many events we attend, this is LONG overdue, and will not be easy to achieve, given the past experiences of most involved in the system.
5. Develop an accountability framework - Again, long overdue. The report has also correctly pointed out that 'no money' has become the standard excuse for any backtracking on promised programs or projects.
The report also points out that the demands on the CCA have increased steadily as the number of disciplines have increased, with little or no commensurate increase in funding from Sport Canada. This has meant that the CCA has tried to service too many areas with too few resources:
Everything has been watered down in an effort to give everyone a "little something". The result is that athletes are not being optimally prepared to perform well at the highest levels internationally causing frustration among athletes and coaches as they see the rest of the world taking off. Many of the current athletes feel they have been left on their own to fend for themselves.
We cannot argue with this at all. The CCA needs to prioritize, and this necessarily means that some disciplines will have to be cut back, and find their own funding. In fact, our editorial "A Blueprint for Change" (see Daily News: September 19/07 7:00 pm EDT - A Blueprint for Change - An Editorial) made many of these same points.
One criticism we have with the report is that there were some specific shortfalls noted with no suggestions as to how to deal with them, or how to prioritize them. These include:
- Lack of indoor velodromes
- Lack of equipment
- Lack of European training base
- Lack of high level events in North America
- Lack of funding for athletes to attend high level events
Every one of these concerns is true - and everyone knows it. Reiterating it with no ideas on how to address the problems just exacerbates the situation.
Another key problem area identified is national team selections and the criteria used to select athletes. There were strong feelings (according to the report) that the HPC (High Performance Committee) was not an appropriate selection process, and that it should be full time technical sports personnel making these decisions. (We have editorialized on this situation numerous times)
So, how to deal with these problems? The report offers a number of constructive suggestions:
1. Hire a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) - this is a key step, and the CCA has begun the hiring phase. However, the list of qualifications that the CCA is asking for is daunting, and the cost for a fully qualified person will be high. The timing is also little off, we think - this is the lead up to the Games, so no one is switching jobs until after that is over. Come September, there will likely be a considerable number of suitable candidates available.
2. Give authority and accountability to the experts - Hire the CTO and discipline-specific coaches (hire/appoint them), and give them the authority and accountability to do the job. Currently, no one identified as a discipline coach has much authority, it all goes back to the HPC for selections, for one thing. This makes the coaches appear ineffective (or irrelevant), which is not a way to encourage the CCA's primary contact point with the athletes.
3. Restructure to discipline-specific program - A key requirement. The CCA has to prioritize and look at what works best in each area, given the resources available.
4. Establish partnerships - Long missing from the CCA mindset. The national sports body has made enemies over the last decade by being perceived to impose their will on other groups such as PSO and trade teams.
5. Indoor velodromes - What more can we say. However, there has to be a rational plan for where they go, not a highly political campaign that results in a facility being put in an area that doesn't best support high performance goals. "If you build it, they will come" is NOT a viable argument....
6. Organizational Structure - The report offers a proposed OS, but we feel that there is one key position missing: Partner Relationships/Development. To make this whole structure work requires both funds and partnerships, and those need to be managed and developed. The CCA has lost many potential (and actual) partners because they were under-served. This is too important to be foisted as an extra duty on an existing staff person.
The Own the Podium report is a strong step in identifying the issues facing the CCA, and how to tackle them. However, it is strong on what needs to be done operationally, and weak on how to accomplish this practically (ie, how is this going to be funded). There is also little in the way of a timeline for implementation of these proposals, and one of the struggles the CCA has faced in the past is implementing in a timely fashion. This has led to much of the current cynicism among athletes and staff.
However, it is unrealistic to expect much to happen until after the Beijing Games at this point. We look forward to seeing how effectively the CCA follows through on this ambitious proposal in the next 12 months.
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