Is winning all that matters? Norway doesn’t seem to think so…


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You may or may not have witnessed the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. If you did, then you might have noticed that Norway finished on top of the medal tally and for a country of 5.2 million, that is a pretty impressive feat.

So why are we talking about Norway and winter sports? I know… bear with us.

A population so small with outstanding performances must have a secret to their success, so some journalists did some digging and one stat stood out from the rest.

The Norwegians have a special mindset when it comes to children’s sport with the key idea that participation is encouraged above glory. In Norway, scores are not kept in games involving children under 13-years of age.

 It’s an interesting thought, even if some people think it’s ludicrous.

Casting our minds back to Luke Madill’s review of the recent rule changes, participation numbers begin to dwindle at the average age of 16-17, which is far too early for a rider to get the most out of their career.

Read that article – HERE.

If focus is directed more on the idea of getting out there and shredding on a bike, rather than who crossed the finish line first, then maybe some of our younger riders will continue to live, love and breath BMX.

BMXA family members know better than most that sport does a lot more than just develop performance on the track. Social skills, respect, and character development are only a few of the many positive influences that sport has on young people, and the community values in BMX are another positive entirely.

With this is mind, have a read of the article below written by Paul Kennedy from the ABC News Breakfast team.

Norway leads gold medal tally with low-stress junior sport approach


It was fascinating to watch the sporting community’s response to Norway finishing on top of the Winter Olympics medal tally. For a country of only 5.2 million, they finished with an incredible 39 medals from the 102 events at the games.

Journalists went looking for a secret of success. They found one part of it in the Norwegian approach to children’s sport, which values participation above glory.

For example, scores are not kept in games involving children under 13.

The Guardian interviewed Norway’s Olympic Committee president, Tom Tvedt, who said: ‘Our vision is sport for all.

‘Before you are 12 you should have fun with sport. So we don’t focus on who the winner is before then. Instead we are very focused on getting children into our 11,000 local sports clubs.’

Mr Tvedt said 93 per cent of children and young people participated in sport.

Another Norwegian sporting boss, Tore Ovrebo, told Time, ‘We do it this way, others do it another way.

‘We want to leave the kids alone. We want them to play. We want them to develop, and be focused on social skills. They learn a lot from sports. They learn a lot from playing. They learn a lot from not being anxious. They learn a lot from not being counted. They learn a lot from not being judged. And they feel better. And they tend to stay on for longer.’

I was not surprised Norway enjoyed success both in participation and medals with this approach.

Time and time again on resources such as Play by the Rules we’re reminded that a focus on fun and friendship compels children to keep playing season after season.

Happy athletes are more likely to reach their potential. I talked about this admirable approach on the ABC’s News Breakfast program and for a brief segment on ABC News online.

As usual, comments from viewers and online readers varied. Many were impressed by the ‘let them play’ approach. A few missed the point and drew attention to other obvious factors — more snow!

A minority of viewers and readers were angered by the Norwegian method.

These men and women claimed children still needed to be taught ‘life lessons’ as early as possible through winning and losing.

The silliest criticism of the Norway approach (similar to the rules employed by many sports in this country, albeit not up to age of 13) is that children know the score.

Of course they do, so why do we need to record it?

The mixed reaction only reinforces the work required by sporting leaders in this country to educate the community about the need for enjoyment in junior sport.

Parents who volunteer as coaches should understand the best measurement of success is not a premiership or producing the league’s best player, but the number of children who come back next year.

Surprisingly, after all we have learnt since the inception of professional sport, sporting CEOs still need to be reminded of the benefits of fun coaching.

Participation data is a worry for major sporting bodies. Yet these are the same institutions placing ever-increasing emphasis on pathway programs aimed at very young children.

Such programs often require of families more time, money and stress.

Children who are not picked in these ‘elite’ training teams are sometimes made to feel inadequate, or hopeless. (In reality, some of these children might be the late bloomers who could go on to become world champions.)

How can you tell if an 11-year-old boy or girl is going to ‘make it’?

Norway doesn’t bother trying to foresee greatness, nor should we.

Gold standard is keeping sport fun, challenging and educational.

Paul Kennedy

ABC News Breakfast

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