This Is What Youth Sports Should Look Like
Norway is doing something most countries aren’t.
Universally developing athletes (and dominating) while maintaining a healthy, balanced, ‘fun’, kid-centric approach to youth sports.
Norway won more medals than any nation in the history of Winter Olympics. For a country with only 5 million people (California alone has 8-times that), that’s not too shabby. Yet, they define their youth sports mission as “The Joy Of Sports For All”.
So how are they able to do it?
Tom Farrey, Executive Director of the Sports & Society Program at the Aspen Institute, traveled to Norway to find out.
Watch our recent Tuesday Topic, “What Does True Athletic Development Look Like”.
Here are our key takeaways from the interview and you should also read Farrey’s recent NY Times Article on the subject: Does Norway Have the Answer to Excess in Youth Sports?
First of all, what’s THE PROBLEM?
- As author David Epstein says, we are creating amazing junior level athletes (13 & 14-year olds) but they are peaking at that age and then mentally and physically breaking down. Read this recent article in ESPN about young NBA stars coming into the league so over specialized that they are physically breaking down before they even play one game in the NBA. “Ticking Time Bombs”.
- Kids are dropping out at alarming rates, one report said 70% will drop out before they are 13. Watch Project Play’s latest campaign: #Dontretirekid
What is Norway doing differently?
- Norway’s Children’s Rights In Sports manifesto, deliberately tries to align with a kids desire to have fun and be with friends
- Children “must be granted opportunities to participate in planning and execution of their own sport activities,” according to the document. They may “decide for themselves how much they would like to train,” and can even opt out of games if they just want to practice
- No National Championships or regional championships or publication of game scores or rankings before age 11
- Costs are low
- Travel teams not formed until teenage years
What can we do?
- Ask your child what they want
- Educate ourselves on what true development looks like, Project Play’s parent resource center
- Play multiple sports or engage in diverse physical activities
- Develop love of game
- Free play and creative play
- Potentially change policy at a state level
- Train all coaches and educate them on how to encourage development over winning