Wednesday, November 29, 2017

An Evaluation of the Governance of US Olympic Sport Federations

Today at the Play the Game conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands I presented our preliminary rankings of the governance of US Olympic sports federations. This post provides a brief overview of our methods and results. You can find my slides here in PDF and also on Twitter. (UPDATE 12/2: Detailed rankings now available here.)

We have adopted the evaluation metrics developed for the 2015 Sports Governance Observer of Play the Game (here in PDF) and used them as the basis for evaluating US Olympic Sport Federations. Our work here would not be possible without the excellent foundational work of Play the Game in its project on Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations supported by the European Commission.

In the SGO evaluation framework there are 36 indicators, across 4 dimensions, which are equally weighted and distilled into a single index. Our preliminary rankings are for 22 of the 47 US summer and winter Olympic federations. In total in the US, there 39 summer, 8 winter and 25 Paralympic federations. Presently there is insufficient public information available to produce meaningful rankings of the 25 US Paralympic sports organizations.

Our results are preliminary. Our next steps will be to share the details of our rankings with the federations for their comment (and possibly, evolution of their governance in response) and completing the rankings for the remaining federations.

Of the rankings, which are expressed on a 100-point scale, the SGO states:
“It must be stressed that the SGO index reflects the presence of basic criteria of good governance. Medium-size federations should be expected to have an SGO index close to 75%, while large federations should achieve a score higher than 75%.”
So expressed as a classroom grade, a 75 is a solid "C". Below are our rankings, with grades provided:

1 Track and Field 79.1 C+
2 Weightlifting 67.8 D+
3 Curling 67.2 D+
4 Ski and Snowboard 66.1
5 Soccer 65.5
6 Hockey 64.7
7 Water Polo 64.5
8 Rugby 64.2
9 Boxing 63.4
10 Rowing 63.0 D-
11 Wrestling 62.1 D-
12 Gymnastics 62.0 D-
13 Baseball 61.4 D-
14 Volleyball 61.0 D-
15 Cycling 59.7 F
16 Triathlon 59.2 F
17 Diving 58.4 F
18 Speed Skating 58.1 F
19 Badminton 55.9 F
20 Swimming 55.6 F
21 Basketball 53.0 F
22 Sailing 50.0 F

Some conclusions:
  • In general US national sports governing bodies are better governed than their international counterparts;
  • Median score 62.0 (US) to 46.3 (international in 2015 SGO)
  • But don’t get too excited, a score of 62 is a D-
  • Only one US organization meets the SGO minimum criteria of 75% - USATF (USA Track & Field)
  • The US Paralympic organizations get a grade of "I" for "incomplete"
  • Much work remains to improve governance
You can find more details in my presentation here in PDF.

Finally, here is an image from the presentation showing the US and international rankings together (blue = US; yellow = international).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Anti-doping & governance: Time for athletes to take destiny into their own hands

Yesterday at Play the Game 2017 I had the privilege of chairing the opening plenary panel that included Travis Tygart (USADA), Richard Pound (IOC) and Silke Kassner (vice-chair of the German Athletes Commission) -- seen above via @jensweinreich. During our discussion Dick Pound said of the leadership of international sports federations: "Nothing scares these old folks as much as athletes getting organised - so don’t [athletes] stop doing that."

Silke Kassner spoke exactly to this subject and her remarks should be read by all athletes and administrators. She has graciously allowed me to publish them here, lightly edited by me. 

Guest Post

Silke Kassner, Vice-Chair German Athletes Commission, Vice-Chair of “Athletes Germany”, Vice-Chair NADO Advisory Board
Play the Game – Conference 2017

Anti-doping & governance: Time for athletes to take destiny into their own hands 

We ‘Athletes’ are highly motivated to become one of the best in the world in our sport.

On our way to the international top level as a professional athlete, we accept many regulations of the sport structure and sport organisations.

As an athlete I accept and sign the World Anti-Doping Code. This enables me to compete on international level in my sport. Signing the code, I learn to be available – always - for irregular, unannounced doping controls.

I accept cuts into my personal freedom; always provide ADAMS with very private information to secure my whereabouts – all to be available at any time for unannounced doping control. It includes unpleasant procedures in giving blood and peeing in a small cup, pants to my knees, while being watched. In other live situations this would be highly inappropriate.

As athletes, we take the whole procedure into account because we permanently have to prove that our performance is clean. We struggle against a general suspicion day by day. We feel constantly pursued.

That makes the difference between the athlete and the official.

Three years ago, the world got to know about a state sponsored doping system in Russia - for sure, the greatest doping scandal in sport history.

As athletes representatives in Germany we followed up the entire McLaren Report, the independent Pound Commission results and the journalistic investigation. As German Athletes, we were really shocked and felt concerned about the health and the rights of the Russian athletes, who cannot be blamed in what system or country they were born.

The sports organisations, especially the IOC then were in the role to decide weather a Russian Team may compete or not at the Olympic Games in Rio. Among all research and evidence, the IOC decided not to exclude the Russians. Furthermore they called two commissions, to examine the given information about the Sochi Games.

This decision was based on that athletes couldn’t be blocked on a collective punishment but only by individual justice. And that’s it.

Reflecting this and the current step-by-step publications by the Oswald Commission, we understand that the IOC is keeping distance from applying the core principle of the WADA Code: the strict liability.

In the retrospective Russian athletes were not requested to be available for unannounced doping controls or any documentation of their testing by their Anti-Doping Organisation.

Until today it seemed that our general accepted & unique regulations to keep a doping free sport are not applied in Russia. But on the other hand athletes, NADOs and countries world wide, keep their daily sport & anti-doping business.

It is a fact that no one is talking about the strict liability and the reversal of evidence anymore. In view of:
  • an enormous sanction catalogue by the WADA Code and 
  • a national Anti-Doping Law, 
  • and questioning former results at the Olympic Games
We took initiative as German Athletes to approach the IOC with several statements and position papers – we even gave offer to speak in person.

We described our view on a future anti-doping system which is free from conflict of interests. Since August 2015 we claim an independent anti-doping system, a stronger position for WADA and even a three-power separation in anti-doping management.

Three years following the whole scene, we do not feel accepted by the IOC as the main stakeholders in sports. We don’t feel protected as athletes able to compete in clean competitions, we feel powerless and frustrated, unable to act and not being heard.

The WADA Code is the principle and the requirement to protect clean sports.

We want a worldwide binding regulation that provides international equality in the fight against doping. We want everybody and every institution that the rules are respected and applied.

Otherwise, we will shut down the strict liability, the WADA Code and close the WADA in Montreal.

If the application of the rules is not guaranteed, we close our national court of arbitration and the CAS as well and bring all the cases before our ordinary public courts.

Then all this is no longer needed.

But, these are all achievements that distinguish sport from other laws and rules. This all makes entirely sense to ensure a clean level playing field. It is – at present - without alternative.

Coming from this, German Athletes discussed the entire situation and the future in sports. We believe in the unifying power of sports. But the credibility of the sport is severely damaged and we lost confidence in the international sport system. We can see that the public is turning back from the organised sport and the Olympic movement.

The doping scandal, corruption affairs and the half-full audience during the Rio Games was a distraction from competition and the actual reason why athletes going to the Olympics. This all shakes our confidence in the values of the sports.

The structure is the problem. The entire construction of the sport system is a pyramid - the much broader bottom is the athlete, the protagonist of the competition. But, we are far away from decisions that affect us.

Today we conclude that many former decisions cannot be explained to an athlete. Because of that, we want to be significantly involved, demand more documentation and transparency in any decision making process that affects our lives and our sport.

For this, it is important that athletes stand in solidarity and represent their concerns professionally.

Therefore, the German Athletes and the Athletes Commission had the urge to empower the solidarity in founding an independent organization in Germany. That all happened today six weeks ago.

The new institution "Athleten Deutschland" / “Athletes Germany”:
  • is the foundation for a professional network of German Athletes 
  • shall become a service institution for athletes related issues 
  • shall be the centre to organise the athletes involvement in all athletes related processes and decision from the start.
We want no decision without the athlete!

We are
  • nearly 9.000 athletes 
  • on the international level 
  • listed at NADO Germany, 
  • Olympic, non-Olympic and Paralympic elite sport 
and we will grow step by step.

We no longer want to be a fig leaf in a statute or a insignificant minority in a board. As the central stakeholder in sport, we want to play the role we deserve. That's our right, according to democratic principles.

We encourage athletes worldwide to do the same – to show solidarity and to speak up for their rights.

We really thank Yulia & Vitaly Stepanov – they encouraged us, Richard McLaren for his work and investigations in Russia, Beckie Scott & WADA AC as well as the iNADO community for their leadership in anti-doping.

Thanks for your attention.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Hyper-linked List of Journals that Publish Sports Governance Research

Impact Factor
International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology 3.353
Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology 2.593
Journal of Sport Sciences 2.095
Psychology of Sport and Exercise 1.768
Sport, Education and Society 1.333
Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 1.261
Sociology of Sport Journal 1.125
Leisure Sciences 1.109
Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 1.098
Leisure Studies 1.096
Journal of Sport and Social Issues 1.049
The Sport Psychologist 0.933
Quest 0.902
Journal of Sport Management 0.727
International Review for the Sociology of Sport 0.725
European Sport Management Quarterly 0.638
Journal of Leisure Research 0.592
Journal of Sports Economics 0.544
International Journal of Sport Psychology 0.453
International Journal of the History of Sport 0.291
International Journal of Sport Finance 0.179
Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education (open access) 0.062

Inspired by the North American Society of Sports Management (here in PDF), above is a list of journals that publish research related to sports governance. The one's listed above are sorted by the journal's impact factor.

The ones listed below do not have readily-available impacts factors and are sorted alphabetically. This listing is compiled for my own research purposes, but hopefully can be of use to others interested in sports governance.

If you know of any journals that ought to be on the list, just let me know and I'll add.

ABA Entertainment and Sports Lawyer
Applied Research in Coaching and Athletics Annual
Case Studies in Sport Management
Communication and Sport
DePaul Journal of Sports Management and Contemporary Problems
Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University Entertainment & Sports Law Journal
Detroit College of Law Journal of Entertainment & Sports Law
Entertainment and Sports Law Journal
Entertainment and Sports Lawyer
European Journal for Sport and Society
European Sports History Review
Harvard Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law
International Journal of Developmental Sport Management (online)
International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
International Journal of Sport communication
International Journal of Sport Management
International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing
International Journal of Sport Management, Recreation & Tourism (open access)
International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
international Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship
International Review on Sport and Violence (open access)
International Sports Law Journal
Journal for Sport for Development (open access)
Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education
Journal of Amateur Sport
Journal of Applied Sport Management
Journal of Contemporary Athletics
Journal of Entertainment & Sports Law
Journal of Intercollegiate Sport
Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics
Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport
Journal of Park and Recreation Administration
Journal of Physical Education and Sport Management (open access)
Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports (online)
Journal of Sport and Health Research (open access)
Journal of Sport and Tourism
Journal of Sport Behavior
Journal of Sport History
Journal of Sports Analytics
Journal of Sports and Recreation
Journal of Sports Media
Journal of the Philosophy of Sport
Marquette Sports Law Journal
Mississippi Sports Law Review
Pamukkale Journal of Sport Sciences
Physical Culture and Sports Studies and Research (open access)
Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Recreational Sports Journal
Serbian Journal of Sport Sciences
Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law
Soccer and Society
Sport History Review
Sport in Society: Cultures, Politics, Media, Politics
Sport Management Educational Journal
Sport Management Review
Sport Marketing Quarterly
Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal
Sporting Traditions
Sports Historian (currently known as Sport in History)
Sports Law e-Journal (online)
Sports Management International Journal: Choregia
The All Rounder**
The Sport Journal (open access)
University of Denver Sports & Entertainment Law Journal
University of Miami Entertainment & Sports Law Review
Villanova Sports & Entertainment Law Forum
Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal
Women in Sports & Physical Activity Journal

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Girls Youth Soccer and the College Scholarship

For the past several years I've been on the board of FC Boulder, our local youth soccer club, and this fall I became co-president. This vantage point, coupled with my day job, has led me to develop some views on youth sports. But to be perfectly clear, even though I refer to FC Boulder in the post below, the views offered are mine alone and not those of FC Boulder or my colleagues on the Board.

These views are offered to stimulate discussion, ultimately over what is best for our children in youth sports, recognizing that the answer to this question will be different for different families.

With that, let's take a look at girls youth soccer and the college scholarship.

Playing college soccer is an ambition for many girls. For some the opportunity comes with a financial benefit, for others it is simply an opportunity to continue playing the game that they love at a higher level. To understand the challenges faced by a players, their parents and the clubs that they pay for it is instructive to look at some numbers.

There are 333 NCAA Division 1 women’s soccer programs (PDF). Although they average 28 players per team, under NCAA rules, each program only is allocated 14 scholarships. That means that nationwide there are 4,662 total scholarships available. Because scholarships are awarded over a period of 5 years (during which a player is eligible for 4 of those years), that means that there are only on average 930 full scholarships open every year.

Most programs split their scholarships up to distribute them more equitably across their team, so on average, a college player “on scholarship” is likely to be on about a 1/3 scholarship.  Based on its population, Colorado should expect about 30 such partial scholarships to be awarded each year. NCAA Division II schools award about 2/3 of the scholarships of Division I, and Division III does not award scholarships.

At DI, DI and DIII levels there are about 27,000 total college soccer players. There are approximately 5,000 total scholarships. Right away it should be clear that playing soccer in college is not identical to securing a scholarship, much less a "full ride."

Lets look at some specifics. Colorado has more than 60 youth soccer clubs, but if we assume that the 10 biggest clubs are the ones that secure scholarships (not exactly right but pretty close), then just as a proportional average my club-- FC Boulder -- should expect about 5 (partial) Division I and II scholarships to be awarded to girls in the club every year.

But what if we don’t care about scholarships? What if we look to all girls in Colorado who sign with NCAA universities to play soccer regardless of whether they get financial assistance?

Last year the state of Colorado saw 121 girls commit to play NCAA soccer: 69 at D1, 38 at D2 and 14 at D3. Almost 2/3 of these commitments came from three clubs in Colorado:
Not surprisingly, these are also the programs with dedicated elite girls’ programs - specifically the US Soccer Girls Development Academy and ECNL. That means that the other 44 college soccer players came from about 60 other clubs. If we again assume that the top 10 clubs (other than Rush, Real, Storm) produce these athletes, then we should expect FC Boulder to have about 6 commitments per year -- that is less than 1% of girls who play at the club.

In recent years, the numbers suggest that FC Boulder has punched above its weight, for instance in the class of 2017, 9 FCB girls signed with colleges. FC Boulder does this even though it does not offer the formalized, elite-level programming offered by other clubs in the state. While that is great, even if we wanted to, FC Boulder could not replicate the programming at the bigger clubs because FC Boulder simply does not have the size or resources to offer such programs. Most clubs in Colorado (and every state) are face similar limitations based on their size and programming.

Given these realities, should there come a time when the best advice a local club can give an outstanding player is that there will be better opportunities for development by moving on to specialized elite programs at other clubs? Of course we should!

Advice to move on can be tough to hear for parents (trust me), and also for a club. Moving to a bigger, non-local program with elite programming might mean a commute to practices of an hour or more. It could mean more expenses. It will inevitably mean that your daughter (or son) no longer plays with her friends of many years in order to seek new opportunities. From the club standpoint, they lose one of their very best players. It might also mean giving up the chance to play in high school, which I fully endorse (but I know many do not).

Moving on is exactly what happened with FC Boulder (boys) player Shane O’Neill, who played for FC Boulder and then moved on to the Colorado Rapids Development Academy, then the US U-20 MNT and a professional career.

It is also what happened with Colorado standout Mallory Pugh, who went from training with an elite girls’ program to training with a boy’s US Soccer Development Academy when her growth as a player exceeded what was available on her team. She recently de-committed from UCLA to pursue a pro career and US WNT service when it became apparent that college soccer wouldn’t serve her developmental needs and career ambitions.

Youth soccer clubs serve their players well by helping them to identifying when it may be time to “graduate” to the next level. They also serve them well by being realistic with parents about the opportunities to play in college. The fact is, only a small percentage of girls (and boys) go on from youth sports to play in college. However, these numbers are of limited value because we all think our kids are special, and some parents (and kids) suffer from a form of "scholarship derangement syndrome." 

So what advice would I give to the parent (and kid) who wants to play in college?
  • If the ambition is financially motivated, understand that the typical scholarship to play girls soccer is valued at about $70,000 (assuming a 1/3 scholarship for 5 years and a full annual scholarship worth $40,000). With youth soccer costing as much as $5,000 to $10,000 per year (equipment, club fees, tournament travel, etc.), a family could save $70,000 over 18 years by socking away half this much each year by cutting soccer in half. The pay-to-play model for US soccer is much discussed these days (and some families can't afford soccer or college), but for now, its the way the game is played. Bottom line: The parent-provided "scholarship" is always going to be a far better way to pay for college than an athletics scholarship.
  • If the ambition is athletically motivated, understand that there are many different options for playing soccer beyond youth sports. The more prestigious D1 scholarships in the power conferences are few and far between, and go to the exceptionally talented players - its just a fact. Talk to coaches inside and outside your club and ask for the straight scoop. But for most girls, the opportunities will be found at smaller programs. There are also university club programs and intramurals. The opportunities to play beyond youth soccer are much broader than scholarship opportunities, and each girl and her family needs to find the right balance of education, soccer and life. But make no mistake, playing high level sports in college and succeeding academically is a lot of work.
The United States is unique because Title IX has created many opportunities for girls to move from youth sports to women's ports in college. But the number of girls playing soccer has increased much faster than have college opportunities. That is great news for soccer programs in college because the talent pool is deepening, but might not be great news for your daughter, as it means that competition for roster spots is tough.

As with most topics, the best advice to to get educated. Seek different points of view. Ultimately, recognize that soccer is a beautiful game that can be played by both men and women for many decades after youth sports, high school and college are in the rear view mirror. As we say at FC Boulder -Soccer for life.