Sports clubs in Norway have a combined membership of more than two million, so many people contribute to arranging the activities at sports clubs in your local area. As a member of a sports club, you have rights as well as obligations. This includes paying your membership fee and training fee, which contributes to your child receiving a good activity provision at the sports club. You can be involved in influencing what happens at the sports club by attending the club’s annual meeting. You can also make a direct contribution through taking on a role like coach, board member or event organiser.
In Norway, most people encounter and become involved in sports through a club that arranges activity in their area. A sports club can offer more than one activity and arrange events other than sports. The clubs are largely run by parents on a voluntary basis, but some clubs employ staff. Volunteer work is the heart of the Norwegian sports model. Without this voluntary effort from thousands of people, sport as we know it today would not exist. More than 11,000 sports clubs nationwide arrange various activities, and these clubs have a combined membership of more than two million. This means that a vast number of people contribute to ensuring that sport plays an important part in the upbringing of many children and young people.
An important distinction in sport is that you are a member, not a customer. Being a member involves both rights and obligations. You are expected to comply with the sport’s regulations and decisions. Members must meet their financial obligations to the sports club, which means paying your membership fee and training fee. You become a member of the club as soon as your membership fee is paid. The sports club keeps an electronic membership list in the sport’s national membership register, so it’s important to provide the correct contact details when registering. As a member, you can be involved in and influence the work of the club you belong to. All members of the club are invited to attend the club’s annual meeting. Reports about the previous year and plans for next year are presented at this meeting. You will find the legal norms for sport on the website of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NIF).
The tasks within the sports club are many and varied, ranging from coaches, board members and event organisers to practical tasks like preparing ski tracks or making waffles. All these tasks are achieved through volunteer work. This expands on the concept of unity, which provides a strong framework for Norwegian sport.
Our vision is “Joy of sport – for all”. The goal is that everyone can find their place in sport regardless of their reason for participating. Some choose sport and activity for health reasons or to enhance their social network, while others have a long sporting career at an elite level. However, most people’s introduction to sport is via children’s sport. In Norway, strict guidelines are in place for sporting activities for children aged 5 to 12.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been part of Norwegian law since 2003. This makes it clear that children have their own rights. Article 31 of the convention, which deals with the right to leisure time, is also a guiding principle for sport in Norway. Norwegian sport recognises the child as an independent individual, and that the rights and provisions for children’s sport apply to all children who live in Norway. They regulate all sports for children of both sexes up to the age of 12 in Norway.
Children must not be treated as miniature adults and children’s sport must be suitable for the children’s level of physical development and maturity. Children learn a lot through play, and they must be allowed to try and fail. Words like versatility and mastery are important keywords in the Norwegian sports model. Children’s sport aims to be general through versatile influence.
The focus is not on early specialisation, but rather on building versatility through basic movements. Being a member of the sports club in the local community creates a sense of security and belonging. Values like this are far more important and greater than just for sport. The goal of as many people as possible being active means that wellbeing and enjoyment are important aspects of children’s sport. As a result, sport plays an important role in the work involving public health. The joy of being active is important for activities such as self-care, regardless of participation in sport.
In Norway, grassroot and elite sport are combined under the same umbrella with the same vision and values. The Norwegian sports model is based on a desire for unity and everyone has equal opportunities.
Sport must be inclusive. This applies to parasports, as well as the increased differences between rich and poor in Norway. The number of children living in low-income families is increasing rapidly. Many of these families are also immigrants, who don’t know the Norwegian language, about Norwegian culture and how sport in this country works. Since more than 90% of children under age 12 in Norway take part in children’s sports, it’s extremely important that children’s sport includes children from low-income families and those with different cultural backgrounds.
Involving new arrivals to Norway in this communal volunteer effort is one of our goals. All resources are important. Perhaps by working together, we can find new ways to do volunteer work that enhances diversity to an even greater extent. Feel free to make suggestions to your sports club about what you can do or new volunteer projects to involve even more people. A voluntary organisation like a sports club needs as many contributors as possible. If this joint voluntary effort disappears and members need to pay for everything, the costs associated with sport would be much, much higher, and this would create many consequences.
Sport plays an important social role in children’s upbringing and, as such, sport reflects the challenges experienced elsewhere in society. The African Expression “It takes a whole village to raise a child” also applies to sport. Sport works in collaboration with local and central government to ensure that the vision of “Joy of sport – for all” applies to everyone who lives in Norway and is a member of a sports club.