Credit: Bill Moore photo

Organized summer youth sports programs are about to begin shortly in a variety of sports like basketball, baseball, net ball, soccer and tennis. Some have already begun.

Over the years, there has been a growing concern with the increasing cost for young athletes to participate; the behavior of some of the participants, more notably the behavior of some of the parents; how some of the programs are run; and a young athlete’s burn out, their loss of interest in participating and maintaining their commitment.

In Norway, youth sports is organized differently than how they’re structured here in New York City and the rest of the country. The youth sports experience is guided by a doctrine called, Children’s Rights in Sport and Provisions on Children’s Sport. It’s like the U.S. Constitution, but for youth sports.

The provisions, the foundation, the rules advocating children’s rights in sports are rules which must be obeyed, complied with and enforced. The document states,“There shall be no exemptions from the provisions.”

Some of the key provisions state: “Children have the right to participate in training and competitive activities which will facilitate development of friendship and solidarity.”

“Children have the right to experience a sense of mastery and to learn many different skills. They must also be granted opportunities for variation, training and interaction with others.”

“Children have the right to state their viewpoints and to be heard. They must be granted opportunities to participate in planning and execution of their own sports activities along with coaches and parents.”

“Children have the right to choose which sport, or how many sports, they would like to participate in, and decide for themselves how much they would like to train.”

An example of a violation of these rights is if a child is pressured by their parents to participate in a competition against their will.

In Norway, games aren’t scored, there are no standings, players cannot be ranked or published for children 11 years old and under. Young athletes are not permitted to participate in national championship events until they’re 13.

Rule violations in Norway can result in a program’s loss of government funding. Here, student athletes compete in national basketball tournaments as young as 6 years old and are nationally ranked as young as 8.

Here in the U.S., there’s also an intense effort for youth to succeed in sports as a pathway to a college scholarship. There is no tuition for Norwegian colleges and universities, eliminating that burden from parents.