At first, the concept doesn’t seem groundbreaking: Help kids play and enjoy sports.
But, as a recent New York Times op-ed points out, Norway’s approach to youth and sport is different because it really puts children, and their priorities, at its centre. In the article, Tom Farrey explores how the country places value on kids’ participation and enjoyment first and foremost.
“We believe the motivation of children in sport is much more important than that of the parent or coach,” Inge Andersen, the former secretary-general of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports, told Farrey.
What’s notable is Norway’s athletic success—winning 39 medals at last year’s Olympics, the most of any country in the history of the Winter Olympics—with this approach.
Related read: Developing soccer talent takes time
The nation also has a document called Children’s Rights in Sport that sets out how crucial kids’ autonomy is when it comes to what sports they play and how much they train.
The HBO series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel recently took a look at youth skiing in Norway. Entry fees are low, and while kids do race, they’re not ranked before the age of 12.
On a smaller scale, a Canadian comparison could be the Ontario Soccer Association’s Long-Term Player Development (LTPD) program, which prioritizes making soccer fun for kids. The idea is that when children enjoy themselves while playing soccer, they’ll stick with the game throughout their life.
Here are some resources to help your kids play like kids and encourage their love of sport.