A Primer for Athlete Selection Clearer Policies Clearer Pathways

Singapore Softball

Coach instructing Athlete

Why do we need clear guidelines and selection policies? How would this affect athletes?

With the Rio 2016 Olympics fast approaching, our athletes are starting to gear up and make preparations in their quest to qualify for the big games. With an increasing number of Singapore athletes making it to the Asian and World stage, our sports associations need to have clear policies and guidelines to ensure that athlete selection is done in a professional manner. This would help facilitate proper preparation by all parties involved and would also guarantee that Singapore sends her best sports talent to represent the nation at these competitions. Furthermore, it is only fair for athletes to know what to expect and what to prepare for, and these selection policies and guidelines would lessen confusion and frustration nearer to the competition when teams are being chosen.

Where do NSA’s Start?

Selection policies establish the basis for selection, as well as uphold the athlete’s rights in relation to decisions. The policies should be written and published, so as to be transparent and meet the athlete's need for certainty and consistency. Furthermore, the rules of natural justice must also apply, such as the rule against bias and the right to a fair hearing. In general, it is imperative that all athletes must clearly know the standards and criteria that have to be met for selection.

6 Components of a Selection Policy

A selection policy establishes the basis for selection and the athlete’s rights in relation. The policy should be concise, structured and encompasses certainty at every juncture so that the athlete “knows where he/she stands”. Principles of fairness and transparency should also characterise the process as well as a right to appeal. Below are 6 recommended components.

1)     Selection Process 

The selection process should be transparent. Athletes should be in no doubt as to what is required of them to be selected. NSAs need to clearly define: 

  • How selections will be carried out
  • How the decision will be communicated
  • What rights the athlete will be entitled to throughout the process
  • The rules / guidelines / laws that will govern the entire process

Giving clear instruction

2) Selectors

The names of the selectors should be included to ensure that:

  • All parties concerned (athletes, coaches, family) are aware of who will be making the selection.
  • The selectors will be prepared to justify and be accountable for their decisions.

NSAs are advised to choose selectors with the following criteria:

  • Odd number preferred
  • Must have high credibility and knowledge of the sport
  • Prepared to make tough decisions
  • Willing to be accountable for their decisionsRespected by the athletes and the coaches

3) Contacts

  • For general enquiries relating to selections
  • For submission of nominations for selections
  • For matters relating to filing of appeals

4) Applicable Events and Dates

In regard to timelines and designated events for selection, NS’s working with well- managed expectations (e.g. what results and events will be taken into account) and adequate parameters (e.g. clearly stated timelines) can form a stronger basis for selection and less room for misinterpretation.

  • The criteria should be applicable to more than one event
  • Athletes need to know how much time they have to train and comply with the criteria i.e. a qualification window

5) Selection Criteria

Objective vs Subjective criteria: A sport must determine its selection criteria according to the factors it believes are most appropriate. In cases where objective benchmarks are appropriate, they should be clearly stated and strictly followed. Where possible, discretionary elements in a selection policy should be accompanied by as much explanation as possible of how the discretion will be used. Any additional criteria should be listed to ensure certainty.

  • Objective Criteria: Benchmarks must be clearly stated
  • Subjective Criteria: If applicable, must be clearly indicated in the policy
  • Where appropriate, selection criteria could be a mix of objectivity and subjectivity

6) Appeals Rights and Processes

  • A timeframe should be given for the lodging appeals
  • Review panel / Appeals tribunal must be appointed well ahead of selections
  • Appeals are NOT a re-selection process
  • Re-selection to be referred back to selectors if selection process was not followed
  • If necessary, the sport may decide on the tribunal making the final decision
  • One athlete’s appeal may affect others therefore all those affected should be given a chance to be heard at the appeal
  • Athletes may be made to pay a fee and/or lodge a bond before making an appeal
  • Unmeritorious or frivolous appeals may see the bond being forfeited
  • The appeals process must be clearly indicated in the policy

Outside of the policy itself, it is important that the guidelines, as they are published, are strictly adhered to. Accordingly, only events that are designated as appropriate for selection purposesshould be factored into consideration.

Clear policies, clearer path

A positive side effect of clear selection policies would be the opportunity for coaches and athletes to prepare their schedules in advance. Timing is everything for an athlete. Timeframes, training cycles, staging camps, preparatory competitions – all these need to be created with the end goal of peak performance at a major competition in mind. At the end of the day, our goal is to take sport in Singapore to a higher level. The creation and dissemination of such guidelines and selection policies would aid athletes’ and coaches’ long-term planning, which would be advantageous should we want to move more of our sports up alongside the other sporting nations in the field.

 Coaches observing

Coaches observing training

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