The aim of this article is to explore the relationship between elite sport policy systems (inputs and throughputs) and success in international competitions (outputs). A conceptual model of the sports policy factors, which lead to international sporting success was implemented in an empirical environment in a pilot study with six nations. The study has sought to operationalise nine pillars, or key drivers in elite sport systems, into measurable concepts, which can be aggregated into an overall score for each pillar. In addition to a national sport policy questionnaire, athletes, coaches and performance directors were also involved in the collection of qualitative and quantitative data. Although the results are inconclusive, the findings suggest that some pillars could be regarded as possible drivers of an effective system because they were prioritised in the most successful sample nations: financial resources (pillar 1), athletic and post career support (pillar 5), training facilities (pillar 6) and coach development (partly pillar 7). On the other hand, nations may instead strive for a competitive advantage in underdeveloped areas: ‘talent identification and development’ (pillar 4), scientific research on elite sport (pillar 9) and coaches’ provisions (pillar 7).