Letting Children Develop At Their Own Pace

At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Norwegian athletes stood on the podium more times than any other nation. How did a nation with a tiny population (5million) dominate in so many sports? Norwegian athletes took home medals in: alpine, x-country and freestyle skiing, ski jumping, biathlon, speed skating, and even curling. Now consider that Norway sent just 109 athletes to PyeongChang: a team with less than half of America’s Olympic workforce yet won almost twice the number of medals.

But the success of Norwegian athletes is not limited to winter sports. Norwegian athletes can be found equally dominating in summer sports: Kartsen Warholm is the current Olympic and World Champion in the 400m hurdles, the three Ingebrigtsen brothers (Jakob, Filip, & Henrik) are dominant competitors at Diamond League and World level track events ranging from the 1,500 to the 5,000m. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Alexander Kristoff and Thor Hushovd are all UCI WorldTour level cyclists each with stage wins at the Tour de France. And lets not forget about the sport of triathlon… Casper Stornes, Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden are all top level ITU level athletes, with Gustav Iden also being the 70.3 Ironman 2019 World Champion.

How is the tiny nation of Norway producing consistently athletes who dominant not only in one sport, but across multiple winter and summer sports?

“In Norway, organized youth sports teams cannot keep score until they are 13 years of age. Tore Ovrebo, the director of elite sport for the Olympiatoppen, an organization of scientists, trainers and nutritionists who work with Olympic athletes across Norway’s sports federations explains: in Norway, we want kids to be left alone to develop, because they learn a lot from playing, they learn a lot from not being anxious, from not being judged, measured or scored. They feel better, and they tend to stay on for longer.” [1]

If a child is ever to experience their potential in sport, they need to stick in the sport long enough for that to be possible. Short cut the development process by forcing a performance spike is possible, but that spike comes with a long term consequence: these athletes typically fail to fully develop to their fullest.

Early Specialization Leads to Early Departure (from Sport)

The ‘adultification’ of organized youth sport – as in the pursuit of results, times, peak performance & podiums – before all else is ruining sport for children.

Performance – as in healthy performance – arises only as a result of children being encouraged to play, to have fun, to learn how to move, how to control their body, hence the thoughts their brains create.

Why is the focus at jTOEST first and foremost fun, with everything else second?

When children are comfortable, when they are encouraged to play, to experiment, to have fun, they make incredible gains.  Its when success, results, performance are placed as initial and immediate expectations that problems arise.

Late Specialization Is Recommended For Most Sports
The Burnout Factor
Specialication vs LTAD
Early Sport Specialization Eroding Youth Sport