Team sports: why is France so successful?

► It is the result of a system that is both public and associative

Emmanuelle Bonnet Oulaldj, co-president of the Sports and Gymnastics Federation of Labor (FSGT)

If we look closely at the results of recent years, France is world champion in team sports, at least in our sports, since there are sports that are not practiced in France. In all disciplines, it’s a bit the same recipes that work, thanks to the quality of the detection and training of young athletes.

It is difficult to distinguish one sport from another, but the French Handball Federation has succeeded in leading girls and boys to an Olympic gold medal, by putting the same means for women and men. .

We can also see in these successes the effects of the policy of high-level training that was put in place in the 1970s and 1980s. This has allowed part of French sport, in particular the collective disciplines, to build long-term strategies, which is essential. But the whole challenge for a sports federation is both to work on the next generation and to support the best, without putting anyone aside. I think it’s important not to cut high performance out of social practice. If we take the case of Great Britain, it certainly won a lot of medals at the London Games in 2012, but sport for all has not developed there.

Local authority support for small clubs

After the disappointing results of the Tokyo Olympics, the President of the Republic spoke of a form of privatization of the preparation of the next Olympics, saying that it is not public money that makes the results. I think, on the contrary, that if we privatize support for high performance, we will destroy this system which has worked and which is the result of a real public policy. It is a system that is both public and associative. Behind all this, there is an important issue: the support of local authorities for small clubs, which may be endangered with the increase in inflation and the fact that communities will have to refocus on their so-called “essential” expenses. “. Amateur sport risks suffering from this, while the base has already been abused during the Covid. Some volunteers never resumed their activities afterwards.

As far as football is concerned, it is obvious that the training system there produces excellent results. But it can also produce kids who will quit football early, because they aren’t deemed good enough. Before, many clubs had 2, 3 or 4 teams for these age categories, and there are fewer and fewer of them. This is precisely the role of my federation, to welcome all children. We really have to continue what has been done for the high level, but also support community life. Otherwise, we create inequalities.

► Generations rely on each other

Paoline Ekambi, former captain of the French basketball team (254 appearances), co-founder of Sportail Community

In France, I think we make a special effort to pass on the heritage of our sports, so that there is continuity between generations. We are part of a collective history where we follow in the wake of each other. As a handball spectator, I followed the exploits of the Barjots, the first French team to have won a world championship title in a collective sport, after which there were the Experts… In football, the generation of 1998 also was founding for the following champions, until the current team of France. It’s a long process.

For basketball, my generation (European vice-champion in 1993) represented the revival, passing from the semi-professional level to the professional level. Before us, the Demoiselles de Clermont were all amateurs. I was the second black player in the history of the France team. I was then part of the first promotions of sport-studies at Insep. Then, diversity has continued to enrich the range of talents. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, players from the former Soviet bloc, who dominated Europe, came to expand our championships. To the west, Italy and Spain were stronger. Then came Americans and players from sub-Saharan Africa, who brought a lot.

Early detection

At 14 and a half, I was discovered via the very first course reserved for large sizes. We were bigger players than our elders, and the girls who followed us gradually approached standards that could compete with the Americans. The same movement took place for the boys, with perhaps more media coverage, because the matches began to be broadcast on television on Canal+. Basketball owes a lot, for example, to presenter George Eddy, and to the exploits of the Dream Team.

I was the first Frenchwoman to play in the NCAA, the American university championship, but after me at the pivot position, there was Isabelle Fijalkowski, today a technical manager, and the first Frenchwoman to play in the WNBA. Clinics, which involved technical executives from the United States, have multiplied for the detection of talent.

Finally, all the expertise was added: physical and mental preparation, food hygiene… I think we should continue this momentum in the years to come. In Germany or the United States, sport and the world of school are one. In France, the mind and the body are still two things too often treated separately. It is indeed high time, even if we set ourselves the objective, to integrate sport into the development of the individual, and this from an early age.


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