Parents who have visited Dallas parks over the weekend will likely have seen something similar: A dad dressed as a coach has his children running between cones. They catch passes, kick goals, and throw fastballs. Although it might be Saturday morning at 9 a.m., for these children, it is the Super Bowl's final minutes, Game 7's bottom, or the World Cup final penalty kicks. This is the theory: Champions are built from intensity at a young age.
However, not all agree. In Tokyo, Karsten Warholm from Norway broke the world record in the 400-meter hurdles. Already, the race has been hailed as one among the greatest in Olympic history. Warholm took to his global platform to praise his country's youth athletics program.
According to the Financial Times, he stated that he liked the Norwegian sports model. It is something I think many people can benefit from. I didn't feel any pressure. Although my parents didn't push me, it also gave me the ability to have my own drive and ignite my own fire.
This is not the first time that the small Nordic country's non-committal approach to sport has been highlighted in the media. Tom Farrey, executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program wrote an essay for The New York Times. __S.15__ The country also codified a "Children's Rights in Sport” list that prohibits national championships prior to age 13, regional championships prior to age 11, and publishes youth scores and rankings.
The whole system is designed to encourage low-pressure participation. It also makes children's interests, motivations, and choices central. Do you want to be a good soccer player? That's fine. You want to be like Norwegian Martin Odegaard the youngest player to ever play for Real Madrid. It sounds great. It sounds great.
Many do. Norway is home to approximately 5 million people. It has won the most Winter Olympic golds medals and produced top-class athletes in many sports including cross-country skiing and biathlon. Add Magnus Carlsen to the mix and it is clear that Warholm may be right about Norway's youth competition model.
Texas could take some lessons from this. In recent years we have seen concern both in Texas and nationally about the high costs, pressure, and declining participation in youth athletics. We have made it a priority to raise champions or college sports recruits, but we have lost much of what makes kids love sports and want to be great at them. It is participation and not performance that make youth athletics a social benefit. We forget that it is internal drive, not pressure, that creates psychologically resilient champions.
It is much easier than you think to bring the Norwegian model to Texas. Our priorities should shift first. We need to follow the Norwegians' lead and create a bill that recognizes the rights of children and encourages them to participate in sports.
We should also use public money to lower barriers to entry for the economy and ensure that these rights are protected. Associations that break the rules lose their subsidies.
We should also source these subsidies from the same sources as the Norwegians: lottery ticket sales and betting. A minor tax on fantasy sports will provide the funds needed to support a more inclusive Texas sports culture.
Although it might not produce the next great cross country skier, it would encourage more youth participation in athletics and I am certain that there will be many champions.