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The surprising secrets of the tiny Norwegian club that produced Erling Haaland

Sometimes the stars align and the article you have just published speaks perfectly to the next guest you booked on your podcast.

As a perfect alternative to what we read about in my post about ‘The Lamentable Lemmings of Talent Development’ we are introduced to this brilliant case study of a club that has decided not to throw itself off the cliff in the race to the bottom but to do it differently...

This weeks episode I speak to Martin Erikstad who is a researcher at the Department of Public Health, Sport and Nutrition, Universitetet i Agder in Norway. Martin has just published a fascinating case study about a football club called FK Bryne which is in a small city of 12,000 people in North West Norway. The club is probably best defined as a 'talent hotbed'.... the club motto is "We will enjoy football, cultivate talent and perform miracles".

The study follows the journey of a team of young players that included Erling Haaland and the remarkable environment which was created by their coach which led to amazing outcomes in terms of retention, progression and personal growth of the young players. The study looks at the way that the group developed through the lens of a theoretical approach to participant development which is developed by Prof Jean Cote and colleagues which is called the 'Personal Assets Framework'. In this story we we how the coaching team focussed on a player led, games based approach to foster participation combined with a strong emphasis on personal development of the individuals and the group which led to performance in the long terms.

It is a great example of how a genuine child centred approach which places the voices of young people at the centre of the experience and provides them with an environment that is developmentally appropriate and supportive can not only retain young people in sport but also help more of them to thrive and progress. This is a particularly important message at a time when the world of youth sport is becoming more and more hyper competitive, adult driven and children are being commodified and forced into 'premature professionalism'. It is an important counter narrative that shows that things can be done differently, the performance narrative does not have to dominate everything and the 'talent needs trauma' messaging can be seriously questioned.

At a time when sport is being challenged by horrific stories of abuse, bullying and dehumanising behaviour by coaches and officials it is a beacon of hope that points to an alternative conceptualisation of how developmental environments are shaped. After all....if a nurturing developmental environment that emphasised the voices of young people that provides autonomy and choice can work for one of the best players in the world...surely there is much to be learned!! I urge you to listen to the podcast and also read the article and share it with others is a great story and one that more people need to hear about.


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