This model indicates that elite sport policies should be evaluated at three stages:
Inputs are reflected in pillar 1, as the financial support for elite sport. If nations do not have the means to invest in elite sport development, chances of success are much less controllable and depend much more on individual athletes.
Throughputs are the support services and systems delivered to athletes, coaches and organizations at each stage of the development process. All the other pillars (pillar 2-9) are an indicator of the throughput-stage. Special attention needs to be paid to the processes behind each pillar.
Inputs and throughput are the independent variables. The dependent variable is the output.
Outputs in elite sport are actual performances, which can be defined in absolute or relative terms. Nations’ performances can be expressed in terms of Olympic or World championship medals, top eight places, numbers of athletes qualifying to take part in elite championships, or times and distances etc. The 2008 methods used to measure success were based on the principle of market share. Moreover, success can be interpreted in relative terms, controlling for exogenous macro influences such as economic, sociological and political determinants (such as population and wealth), which cannot be shaped by policies.
It is not sufficient that these nine pillars are ‘present’ in order to reach success; what really counts is ‘how efficiently’ they are ‘implemented’. Inputs and outputs are clear. They can be expressed in quantitative or qualitative terms, and are, therefore, relatively easy to measure. Throughput refers to the efficiency of sports policies, that is, the optimum way that inputs can be managed to produce the required outputs. ‘Throughput’ is more difficult to measure and often will have to be assessed using indirect rather than direct means. In the SPLISS study, the measurement of processes will partly be done by the involvement of athletes, coaches and performance directors, who will evaluate the elite sports climate of their nation.
Finally, the outcomes are the possible effects of success in elite sport. Elite sporting success is not only an end in itself, but can also be a medium through which to realize other (governmental) objectives, such as increasing social cohesion, national pride and international prestige. Literature on the wider role elite sport plays is scarce, and ‘evidence’ is often anecdotal, which make the value of elite sport rather fragmented. Therefore other future SPLISS research projects will aim to address the longer-term effects of elite sporting success.