Methodologies for identifying and comparing success factors in elite sport policies
This chapter outlines the methods explored as part of a large-scale project called the SPLISS study, which is an acronym for sports policy factors leading to international sporting success. This study aimed to improve the development of theory concerned with key success factors of an elite sport policy as well as the methods employed to compare elite sport policies more objectively and less descriptively (De Bosscher, 2007; De Bosscher, De Knop, Van Bottenburg, Shibli, and Bingham, 2009). To reach this aim, the SPLISS study mirrored the economic literature, where the measurement of world competitiveness is routinely used to provide a framework to assess how nations manage their economic future (e.g. Depperu and Cerrato, 2008; Garelli, 2008; Porter, 1990). This approach was replicated in an elite sport setting to assess how nations manage their future success in international sport competition (De Bosscher, Shibli, Van Bottenburg, De Knop, and Truyens, 2010), in an international comparison with six nations (extended in 2012 to a new study involving 15 nations). In this regard, the study was inspired by the way in which economic competitiveness is measured quantitatively as ‘the determinants of productivity’ and thus it explored the development of a scoring system to analyse and compare elite sport policies of nations as they relate to international sporting success. As competitiveness inherently refers to the relative position of an organisation vis-à-vis its competitors (Önsel et al., 2008), international comparisons are the only way to identify and compare the SPLISS. Elite sport is therefore seen as ‘international by definition’ (Van Bottenburg, 2000), and an international comparison of a theoretical framework was done in order to improve the development of theory and methodology. Special attention is paid in this chapter to how mixed methods research has made a valuable and suitable contribution to the study and to the evaluation of policies in general and elite sport policies in particular.