In addition to being asked about various positive and negative aspects of the Athlete Assistance Program (AAP), athletes were asked to indicate what their first, second and third priorities for AAP would be if changes were to be made. In terms of first choices, changes based on financial need are highlighted; living support based on financial needs (33 per cent) is the top change for a third of athletes while supplementary support based on performanceand financial needs (29 per cent) edges out support based solely on performance (22 per cent). These options are also represented strongly at the top of the list of second and third priorities.
Changes to tuition support and to deferred tuition support do not resonate strongly as first or second priorities but do increase in importance as a third priority.
The views of coaches place a stronger emphasis on supplementary support based on performance alone or in concert with financial need. This is also true of responses from CSC Presidents and Service Managers.
When asked specifically about top priorities for change to the AAP in the surveys, athletes identify supplemental support based on financial need, while coaches identified supplemental support based on performance as the highest priority. High performance coaches interviewed were asked to comment on these differing perspectives. There was no common thread to their responses. Rather, interview respondents touched on a number of themes or issues in their response, including:
The importance of focusing on performance: Several interview respondents emphasized that the AAP should not be regarded as “due” to athletes but should rather be linked to performance. While addressing the financial needs of sports and athletes is viewed as extremely important, they agree that performance is an important factor. One states “coaches focus on performance because they know how much it costs to cultivate and train an athlete. Coaches are concerned with rewarding the top performance and getting the most out of their investment”. Another states “if you want to see results you have to pay for results by funding the sport and the top athletes in the sport”.
Ensuring sufficient financing: While coaches do place emphasis on the importance of performance, several also comment on the importance of ensuring a sufficient basis of funding for all sports and all athletes. For example, some underscore the importance of sufficient support for developmental athletes, who are often “dependent on the AAP to continue”. Others note that each sport requires sufficient support to enable them to train and compete. One notes “we cannot improve our performance and become targeted without resources to train and compete”. Another commented that “sports where Canada is not in the top need at least as much funding to be able to advance and improve”. So, while they agree that performance is key, it is not the only factor for consideration.
Support at the highest levels of performance: A few coaches also commented on AAP support to athletes at the highest level. One notes that some athletes are earning a lot of money and do not really need the AAP. Another noted that “podium potential means more travel and competitions” which requires a full time focus and additional expenses which requires more funding. This same respondent comments that even at the senior international level of carding there should be two tiers: with a higher level of support for those in the top 5 and then the top 6-15, as each level has costs associated with it.
8.3Awareness of Special Need
In terms of the types of expenses covered under the special needs category, the awareness level of coaches is fairly low. In fact, three-quarters of coaches (76 per cent) say they are not aware of the types of expenses included in this category. Coaches that were not aware of the expenses were then presented with a list of areas and asked to indicate which areas they were not aware of. Most are not aware of each of the key areas (child-care expenses, relocation assistance and retirement assistance) while very few (11 per cent) say that they are aware of all of these areas.
As a follow-up, coaches were asked, through an open-ended question, if there were additional areas that Sport Canada should consider under the special needs category. A majority of coaches (53 per cent) are not able to provide any additional areas that might be considered.
8.4Preference for Financial
After being presented with the monthly amount received by all senior carded athletes ($1,500), athletes were asked to indicate which of a series of options would be preferable to them. Overall, about half of athletes (46 per cent) reported that they would like to see a change in the way that the monthly amount is determined, however four in ten (42 per cent) say that they prefer the status quo, that is that all athletes carded at the senior level receive financial assistance. In terms of specific changes maintaining the basic financial assistance while providing extra assistance determined by performance was selected 13 per cent of the time, while demonstrated need was selected less often (8 per cent). An option that combines these two choices while also qualifying that Sport Canada card fewer athletes each year, is the preferred option for one-quarter (25 per cent).
Coaches are nearly equally likely to prefer the status quo (29 per cent) as the combined option that would involve carding fewer athletes (32 per cent). They are also more likely than athletes to indicate a preference for additional assistance based on performance (24 per cent). CSC Presidents and Service Managers are considerably more apt to prefer additional assistance be based on a combination of performance and demonstrated need (half of respondents) or on performance (one-third of respondents).
Results are generally consistent across the subgroups with a few exceptions. Individual athletes (17 per cent) are more likely than team athletes (7 per cent) to prefer the option of additional assistance based on performance, as are athletes carded at the senior levels.