Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking in from the Outside

Today I ran across a blog post at BBC Sport that was written just after the most recent Women's NCAA Division 1 Championships. It is an interesting read in that it gives a little perspective from across the pond about the American college swimming system and the benefits of sending foreign athletes over to train with our universities. I have read a lot about how Americans feel about our best coaches helping other countries to build strong Olympic teams, but I had never read anything from the outside. Especially from the perspective of not only a foreigner, but a non-swimmer, Ollie Williams, who writes on the sports "which don't normally hit the headlines - from archery to ice hockey..." as he puts it.

The article is about Gemma Spofforth and the dual nature of being a British Olympian and living life as a Florida Gator. It also has an excellent video interview that includes a tour of some of Florida's athletic facilities. Essentially, the blog takes a look into what British swimming can learn from the American system. Obviously the advantages of facilities and Title IX are a part of it, but Gemma turns the conversation in another direction: she puts responsibility on the fans to help create an inspiring environment.

An excerpt:

So, given she made the conscious decision to cross the pond, does Spofforth feel British Swimming should be learning any lessons from the States? She has an interesting answer which places the focus not on facilities, but fans.

"My coaches at home have been able to do really good things with me, although the facilities out here help the coaches a little bit more," she explained.

"I don't really know if it's a case of what the UK can do, rather than what the crowd [back home] can do to change.

"In the US, the crowd stand there and shout the whole way through. I was like, 'Wow'. Every person in the crowd is invested in one team or another. But it's not a rivalry where you're going to beat people up, it's a rivalry where you're having fun with it."

1 comment:

  1. I know this has been a big debate in college tennis as well, about the international athletes taking over from Americans (although, the debate there has focused more around the fact that the international athletes are clearly professionals). I honestly don't have a huge problem with it, as long as it advances the sport, I suppose. I mean, I'd love for every American kid who wants to keep swimming get a chance to swim in college. But I guess it's just not bad enough yet to bother me. It's going to take 50 years for any other country )not named Australia) to build the youth infrastructure we have in the states, so I don't see it as a true immediate threat to our dominance in the sport.

    Hey Viking, shoot me an email when you get a chance. I'm posting this comment through my gmail account, so it should pop up my email address.