The fallout from South Africa's miserable Olympic Games campaign continues. Perhaps this is happening because the mistakes made in Beijing were repeated with the Paralympic team in the same city... Maybe it is because there is a bigger problem at hand.It has been a torrid time for SA sport of late. If only there was a plan to put things on the right track. Well, the thing is, there is a plan. The only problem is that nobody really seems willing to use it. Last week, iafrica.com chatted to Professor Tim Noakes about the problems in SA sports and he highlighted what he called the 'Tucker Plan', a proposal that was asked for, and later presented to government in an effort to turn our sports around. Intrigued, we approached the man who drew it up ? Dr Ross Tucker, the man, who in Noakes's opinion (which is good enough for us) could very well contribute to changing the face of SA sport for the better. That is, if he is allowed to. In 2005 at the behest of Sascoc, Tucker and Noakes oversaw an audit on South African sports for the last ten years in an effort to discover if it was really as bad as people made it out to be. The results were not good... Tucker, speaking exclusively to sport.iafrica.com, explains: "What I did was look at world rankings, look at points' differences in rugby, the performances of SA swimmers, hockey, athletics, etc as a function of global standards. And we found that over the last ten years we are heading in the wrong direction." Sascoc, however, was not listening. They were not even willing to take a look at the results. Unpatriotic to criticise "That analysis was done at the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006, but Tim (Noakes) was never asked to take that back to Sascoc. I think it was because of the occasion that he spoke in Helsinki and he criticised the coaches," reveals Tucker. "And he's right. We have this culture (in SA) that you can't criticise anyone. You're deemed to be unpatriotic and negative to the system. How can you ever fix something if you can't criticise it? Because seriously, who ever learns from their success? But you can learn from failure. Unless you are a South African ? then you don't even learn from that. "We don't retain expertise in the system, so every guy who comes in has to start new. It's mad. It's like sending an explorer into an uncharted territory and then before he can draw the map and communicate it with the rest of the world, you kill him, and send the next guy in! "Why not let the first guy draw a map? I have no doubt that (former Springbok coach) Jake White has a map from one point to another (for our rugby)." The 'Tucker Plan' That Tucker is frustrated is obvious. Why wouldn't he be? But what exactly is this 'Tucker Plan'? When Tucker got to work on his proposal, he looked at four key areas: One was a professional business structure, two was science, three was coaching and four was a structure at the top ? a nerve centre ? to oversee it all. In a nutshell, Tucker proposed that South African sports would be run like a business with professionals as employees. You see, Tucker emphasises the need to invest in expertise and grow a so-called brainstrust of knowledge. "We needed to 'professionalise' sport and turn it back into a business, to get professional marketers, financial people, logistics and human resources ? among other ? on board," he stresses. "Part one (of the plan) was to professionalise management. Part two was to take the available expertise in South Africa and form a full-time employed, fully-supported academic, scientific and technical body that would consist of doctors, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, dieticians, life-skill experts, anti-doing control, etc. "To bridge the gap between the two, would be the coach. I came up with a system where the top coaches would be nominated by each federation ? called 'Platinum Coaches', then below that was gold, then silver then bronze. The idea was that the state would subsidise the top three levels and those people would be owned by a system. If you did that then you could try and retain knowledge in the system. "Each federation would then appoint a High Performance Manager who would bridge science to management, to coaches and make sure they are following the world's best training methods. "Part one also dealt with professional business structures, part two was science, part three was coaching and part four was a structure at the top, which would be the nerve centre; consisting of a board, a chairperson, a national sports director, who was a qualified professional ? which if you have to get from overseas then you get him here ? and he would be key decision-maker (the CEO), and below him the people to run the executive structure. "At the top we would have one nerve centre for South African sport ? call it Sascoc re-incarnated ? and beneath it the High Performance Directors would come from each federation. It made sense to group them according to categories: aquatics, racket sports, court sports... so that you could get some economy of scale and so try and run the thing as a business." Invest in the people Tucker presented the proposal to government and they gave it the thumbs up, but unfortunately that did not mean a green light for the whole plan, but rather aspects of it. As it filtered down the chain of command, it began to change shape. "In their defence, they got the plan a year ago only, the timing was bad because they couldn't really make a change a year before the Olympic Games," says a charitable Tucker. "They would have had to wait, but what has now happened is that they have tried to implement elements of it ? it has kind of been divided up." Tucker does not want to overly criticise the government's approach, but to us it seems they want to use the expertise, but not pay for them. For example, six people working without remuneration, while at the same time holding down full-time jobs, is never really going to cut it. The plan was handed to the then sports minister, but unfortunately as it made its way through the respective sets of hands it began to change its shape. As the government looked to cut some of the costs the initial vision shifted. The more people who saw it, the more it was modified. "There is nothing inherently wrong with that," admits Tucker, "because it would be arrogant to say to people that their inputs could not improve a plan further. There is a real lack of 'listening' in SA sport, and everyone's input should in fact be welcomed. "But the communication was poor ? whatever modifications were made were not made in consultation ? it was just changed, and ended up heading in a different direction. The problem was that it gradually began to compromise what it aimed to achieve. We presented it up in Pretoria to the executive committee of sports and recreation and they told us 'This is great, but it's exactly what we have been doing for the last ten years!'. "Now, if that's true, then we should be packing up. Because if the last ten years had not worked then why would it now? If this is the same plan then we are clearly wasting everybody's time because you're doing everything right and we're winning medals, or we're wrong as well, because you clearly were... "It's a classic response. It's an indication that either they have missed the crucial parts or they don't want to see them. The key element was investing in people and incentivising those people to be committed to the cause. They didn't commit to appointing people to the top and that's key, because somebody needs to be held accountable... who is held accountable now?" On page two Tucker calls for a change of mindset. Read on!