Introduction: This study reports empirical data from a project that investigates talent development in the 24 soccer districts in Sweden. The paper draws attention to the structural dimensions of specialization (roles and activities), standardization (rules, policies, procedures) and centralization (hierarchical positions and decision making) within the districts. The purpose is to explore whether the structural dimensions are related to and impact on soccer performance.
Methods: The material that the study is based on is an analysis of organizational form (Kikulis et al., 1989), data on the number of licensed players and elite teams in the district, the district's geographical location and a compilation of all 24 districts match results against other districts at 15 years age and at the age of 16. A total of 60 matches between 2001-2011 were registered for each district. The analysis of the district organizations was based on a content analysis of documents describing the structure and implementation of talent development. The documents were classified based on the structural dimensions of specialization, standardization and centralization.
Results: The results show that the specialization in the districts varies from explicit roles and responsibilities for different actions to a low degree of specialization. Similarly, the standardization varies from extensive rules to very low with few formal policies and that centralization differs from high to low. The analysis of performance between 2001 and 2011 shows that there are a both successful districts (won many matches) and less successful districts and that successful boy teams are not always followed by successful women teams in the same district. The results show that there are no significant relationships between organizational dimensions and performance. The relationship that arises is that there is a correlation between performance at 15 and 16 years of age and the number of licensed football players and number of teams at the elite level in the district for the boys. For the girls this correlation is only visible at the age of 16.
Discussion: Although no significant differences between organization and performance were found, the data indicate that larger districts are more specialized and standardized. However, there is a need for more research, both quantitative and qualitative, to enable a wider understanding of the talent development system in Swedish soccer.
References: Kikulis, l. M., Slack, T., Hinings, B., & Zimmerman, A. (1989). A structural taxonomy of amateur sport organizations. Journal of Sport Management, 3, 129-150.