A recent article by Reuters, “Fun and Friendship Fuel Norway’s Gold Rush” hits the nail on the head. Tore Oevreboe and the Norwegians measure success in different terms.
“The main objective for us is to make the athletes have fun all the way through the Games,” he said as Norway won the men’s cross-country team sprint for a 13th gold at the 2022 Winter Games, one medal shy of the record jointly held with Canada and Germany.
The Norwegians put their winter sports success in recent years down to a three-pronged approach.
“One of them is to have a very high quality of daily training, which is the main thing to do to achieve development over time, and we are also very specific in the work with the competitions, preparations and execution,” he told Reuters.
“But there is a third area that we are very, very eager at working with – it’s to establish and develop good and safe relationships between the athletes themselves and also between the athletes and their coaches and the staff around.”
“We are very occupied with creating a good environment, a stable environment, a safe environment, an environment full of fun, so they can really enjoy life when they are doing sport at a high level,” Oevreboe added.
Creating those conditions for success begins long before Olympic champions get to the elite level.
Here is the really important part:
“This is part of the Norwegian sports model, all the way from the start from childhood – it should be physical activity based on fun, many types of activities, variety, different sports,” the 56-year-old former Olympic rower said.
“Lots of small competitions, but we do not track the results of the athletes.”
Stay with me on this, because all fun and no competition is NOT the answer. In the 80’s and 90’s where kids were forced into games at school where everybody wins, was a disaster. Competition is natural.
Oevreboe prefers an approach whereby youngsters can try as many sports as possible before specializing at a later age, rather than hand-picking talented children for specific events.
He believes the aim should be not just producing great champions but also good Norwegians at every level of society.
“Many of the kids have good opportunities to realize their potential in a variety of fields, and sport is one of them … and then they will develop their potential as humans and citizens,” he said.
Clearly, Norwegians encourage sports. They let the child find his/her way. They develop a bond among athletes. No wonder they dominate the Olympics.
As a teacher, I do the same thing. When a child is learning how to put on shoes, I cheer them on, step by step. I don’t do it for them. When a child is learning how to pump a swing, I shout out what to do with their legs, “Tuck them in, kick them out!” Other children are there, they see it all. It creates an athletic bond with peers.
I have to say, my thoughts immediately go to Finland. They have the same attitude and philosophy as Norway when it comes to school. I could go on! They’re among the top countries in education.