In my previous installments in this series I detailed how China has a national sport school that they combine with several national training centers similar to our Olympic Training Centers. I also described how absolutely incredible their training facilities are. In this installment I want to briefly discuss what I’ll call hardware and software. Hardware is the facilities and equipment. From my short stay there it appears that they spare no expense on facilities and equipment. In fact, it would appear that they have an almost unlimited budget and have produced what appears to be one of if not the best training environments in the world. This is seemingly in contrast to the USOC, which does not invest nearly as much in facilities and equipment as the Chinese Olympic Committee. Luckily in the U.S., the collegiate system largely addresses the need for facilities. If it weren’t for the collegiate system the Olympic sports in the U.S. would be in serious trouble.
On the flip side though is the software. What I’m calling software is the people – the coaches, sport scientists, and support staff. Contrary to what many may believe sport science in China is still a very immature field. Peer-reviewed sport science research and advanced degrees in sport science are still in their infancy (but growing fast). Likewise, there doesn’t seem to be the same organized coaching education system like the IAAF or USATF schools that can be used to educate their coaches and support staff. As a result, China seems to lag behind in the software department compared to U.S. The country currently uses a system of National and Provincial team coaches similar to what is seen in former Eastern Bloc countries. In most cases, the coaches are former athletes themselves and not typically byproducts of the Beijing Sport University. To an outsider, this seems like a valuable resource (well educated sport specialists with above-average sport science backgrounds) is going unused. This is starting to change though.
It’s interesting to see the contrast between the two systems and makes you wonder what China will accomplish when they put it all together.