Could increasing sports professionalism affect Olympic performance in Australia?

In Australia, women’s sports are seeing a lot of positive developments, but there are concerns that their Olympic performances could be negatively impacted by some of those developments.

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Since the 1990s, the Stingers, Opals and Hockeyroos have all been medal winners, but in the Rio Olympics, none of them received a medal. With non-Olympic sports now being professionalised, performances could be put under even more pressure.

More female athletes than male

For the first time, at the Rio Olympics, there were more female athletes from Australia than males. Throughout history, the success of Australia in the medal table has been reliant on the success of their female athletes.

However, over the last two years, there has been a rise of opportunities and better financial rewards in non-Olympic sports such as AFL, cricket and netball. This is making them more appealing to athletes than Olympic sports, as women want to play games that boast professionalism.

Revamped netball league

In Australian sport, netball has seen the greatest number of females participating, and for many years there has been a national league. A revamped league is being introduced in February 2017, and will include three teams that are linked to the professional male teams in the NRL’s Melbourne Storm, and AFL clubs Greater Western Sydney and Collingwood. The average salary will be approximately $67,500 and the total player payment will be $5.4 million.

What does this mean for Olympic sports such as hockey? From watching a field hockey drill video such as those available at https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Hockey/drills.jsp to participating in world championships, it’s clear that strategies need developing to make sure countries have the right talent in place to succeed as these games. This is because the prospect of winning an Olympic gold may not be enough for players anymore, with the increasing rewards on offer from other non-Olympic sports.

Even though the professionalism of other sporting opportunities is undoubtedly a good thing, this needs to be transferred across the board. Financial rewards in male sports such as cricket, rugby league and AFL have limited the talent pool that is available for the Olympics. So, those sports that rely on female talent for the Olympics need to make sure their athletes are being compensated well and are perhaps given the opportunity to participate in more than one sport throughout their career.