As the structure in and around the full-time Norwegian National system evolves it seems opportune to reaffirm what is encompassed by the Norwegian Taekwondo top sport system. Since its insurrection in January 2013, the system adopted by NKF has undergone processes of evolution (documented in Figure 1), such that the present system is a series of interconnecting models serving to foster a sustainable high performance system. In the following overview each timeline entry will be described in temporal order of implementation.
Full-time centralised Senior National Team model
This model is based on a team of full-time, professional athletes wherein the Olympic sport of Taekwondo is their primary focus (“… Idretten er for disse utøverne en hovedbeskjeftigelse”, Olympiatoppen.no). Such an environment enables the complex temporal (day, week, month, year) processes of elite athlete development to be trained, analysed and subsequently optimised.
Such a model is the first of its kind for Taekwondo in Norway and since its onset in January 2013 has illustrated progressive athletic development and result profiles. In general, full-time athletes based in Oslo and receive i. Accommodation, ii. Fully-funded competitions, iii. Financial support, iv. Result based financial rewards, v. Medical cover, vi. Group based and individual training.
The overarching aim is to continually develop a Senior National team to a ‘Podium potential’ classification at the highest level of Sport Taekwondo.
High School Senior, Bridging athletes and Partnership club model
Each of these system levels were introduced after the structure and function of the National team had been tested and ecologically validated. All three concepts were elements of an overall system structure developed to foster long term development for, but not limited to, the following: Senior National team, Junior-Senior transfer, Club-National team dynamics, Coaching practice and Talent Identification.
High School Senior
The High School senior program is directed at athletes who are successfully selected as being of a level good enough for the Senior National Team but who are greatly constrained by their high school commitments (for example, when an athlete still has more than one year to study). As such, these athletes are unable to commit to the full-time program in its entirety and therefore would not receive monthly income and/or accommodation but they can be selected to represent the Senior Team when the National coach decides it is appropriate (in this instance the respective athletes would have all expenses covered). These athletes are required to attend a specific number of sessions with the full-time team.
When athletes are not directly with the National Team then they develop in, and represent, their respective clubs and high schools. Furthermore, when it is no longer necessary for these athletes to attend their respective schools then they are then expected to move to Oslo as a full-time member of the Senior National Team.
The concept of the Bridging athlete was introduced specifically to facilitate the transfer from top-level Junior athletes / top-level recreational athletes into elite level Senior athletes, with the premise that some would then enter the full-time programme. These athletes are aged between 16-19 years of age.
Once selected as a Bridging athlete each respective athlete is tracked and profiled through trainings and competitions to enable a comprehensive assessment of development and progression. In addition, the Bridging model incorporates the respective club coach as an integral part of the development process. Each coach commits to leading at least one individual session per week for their athlete wherein they focus specifically on the foundation elements that underpin the Senior National team game-play (a ‘Bridging curriculum’). To facilitate these sessions each athlete / coach receives a number of video files explaining and illustrating these elements together with some ideas for training drills. This again supports the directives from Olympiatoppen that youth sport should be developed within regional / club environments.
Furthermore, all bridging athletes are invited to train with the Senior National team in Oslo on a monthly basis (competition schedules permitting). This enables each athlete to be reviewed in an environment of deep practice.
Partnership Club model
This component of the overall system focuses on the respective Club-National team relationship as well as the Club-Club relationship.
Clubs are annually invited to apply for status as a Partnership Club and when doing so they commit to fostering the overall system processes through their role as said club. As a Partnership Club each Club is provided access to resources and expertise associated to high level sport performance. In addition, each club is invited to attend four workshops per year wherein their athletes are trained by members of the full-time system (coaches and athletes) in areas of Sport Taekwondo specific to the identity of the Senior National Team.
Furthermore, Coach education is fostered through a series of lecture / discussion on contemporary areas of coaching science. In a similar way, athletes are also taken through some education activities to further develop their understanding and knowledge of the many interdisciplinary elements of sport taekwondo.
Focus group / Challenge group strata
The intrinsic dynamics of the Senior National team were further fostered by the implementation of a Focus Group / Challenge Group strata (refer to Appendix 1). Such an approach serves to produce a competitive environment for team members with the aim of ensuring a dynamic, challenging approach to development.
Group allocation is based on a performance and result profiles respective to High performance criteria with each respective group receiving specific levels of athletic support (Table 1).
Table 1 Outline of respective group conditions
|Focus Group||Challenge Group|
|Full stipend||Half stipend|
|All G-rank competitions fully-funded||5 G-rank competitions per year fully-funded (determined by National team coaches)|
|All Major Championships fully-funded
|All Major Championships fully-funded
Result based financial rewards
|Re-imbursement of self-funded competitions if medal is won
Result based financial rewards
|Weekly Individual-based sessions||Weekly dual-based sessions|
|Full medical cover||Full medical cover|
Group allocation is informally assessed through tracking modalities and formally assessed at the beginning and mid-season reviews. As such athletes can change groups throughout the year should their profiles indicate such a change should occur.
Future Development: Cadet Development Pathway model
The next logical development for the Norwegian system is that of Cadet athlete development. Building on the development process previously implemented by NKF, 2016 will see the implementation of new Cadet Development Pathway, focusing on identifying and developing the higher level cadet athletes to facilitate performance capacity and subsequently enhance transfer to Junior level performance (Figure 2).
Cadet athletes will attend an open invite ‘Development Day’ wherein each athlete will go through a series of general and specific tests related to motor skill, motor development and motor learning as well as physiological attributes. These tests will be age dependent with all athletes being separated by age group. This day will enable athletes to be recognised and their relative stage of development noted in turn establishing the development requirements of each athlete.
After this first screening, X number of athletes will be invited back for a more specific second screening day and after which X number of athletes will be then selected in to a development group. This group, in a similar way to the Bridge athletes, will be tracked, profiled and in collaboration with their respective clubs, development will be fostered. For the elder cadets this will include exposure to high-level performance.
Appendix 1 Focus Group-Challenge Group
It is important to note that embedded within this process is the selection of Championship teams (Worlds and Europeans).