Taking on the baton: A year in the life of Norway’s young sporting leaders
From the edge of the Artic to the centre of the capital, volunteers flocked to Lillehammer in February 2016, with 230 young Norwegians taking part in the Young Leaders programme at the Youth Olympic Games. Here, we sit round a table with three of them, hearing their views on issues including the future blueprint for youth sport, the importance of physical education on mental health and the unexpected benefit of being an electrician on a ship…
Meet the young leaders:
Inger Warholm: age: 18, location: Tronsberg, current occupation: ship electrician apprentice
Sebastian Henriksen: age: 19, location: Tromsø, current occupation: student
Emilie Karlsen: age: 19, location: Hvaler, current occupation: student
What effect has volunteering at the Youth Olympic Games had on you as a person?
Inger Warholm (IW): It is hard to explain. It has had an effect on me in so many ways that I haven't really thought about. First and foremost, it made me a better person. It sounds like a cliché but it's true. The YOG showed me how I could help others. The Games also gave me new friends, friends I had only just met, but I'm sure I couldn't live without them now.
Sebastian Henriksen (SH): It was inspirational and motivated me to do more volunteer work in sports. I made a lot of new friends and saw the importance of volunteering.
Emilie Karlsen (EK): Volunteering can be hard, but if things go well and you see that people are having a good time it is absolutely worth it. It also gave me self-confidence and inspired me to keep on engaging in sports. Before the Games I had been engaged in my local sports club for a few years, but after the Games I took my involvement a step further and said yes when I was asked to join the board of my regional sports federation. If it hadn’t been for my experience at the Games I think I would have been too scared to say yes when they asked me. The Games also made me want to study physical education and sports for a year, so you can say that the Games have affected my career plans.
And on Norwegian society?
EK: In Norway there’s a strong culture for volunteering but many of the people who volunteer are starting to get old. Therefore, in order to bring sports in Norway further I think it’s important that we learn from Lillehammer 2016 and recruit more young volunteers. In that way young and old people can learn from each other.
What effect has the YOG had on youth sport in your home region?
IW: Because of my participation in the YOG it allowed me to become a big part of the regional sports board in Vestfold [Inger’s local county]. This made it possible for me to have an effect on youth sport in Vestfold. As a matter of fact, not only youth sport; I am now able to affect everything that comes to the board.
SH: The Games were important for young people all over Norway and the Arctic city of Tromsø was no exception.
EK: I am the youngest person on the board of my regional sports federation, at the age of 19. The one closest to me in age is about 30 years older, so you could say that it was time to let someone in with a youthful point of view. In the first meeting I said that one of my goals was to create a youth committee. At the start of 2017, the goal was reached and we had our first meeting.
What are your future plans? Will you stay involved in sport?
IW: I hope to get elected to the board for at least one more period. Because of my profession, as an electrician on a ship, I will be able to work even more for sport in Vestfold during the periods I'm home.
SH: I am now studying business at my local university. I am giving swimming coaching to immigrants and I’m a board member in my local club and on the common sports board for both [the city of] Tromsø and the region [of] Tromsø.
EK: This year I am studying physical education and sports. In the future I am planning on becoming a teacher in mathematics, science and physical education. Through sports I have learned about the importance of being active and the effects it has physically, mentally and socially. Therefore I want to work for more activities in school, both in the classroom and at break time. Besides my job I want to keep on being a volunteer and a leader in sports.
What single experience do you treasure most about your time at the YOG?
IW: During the Games all of us young leaders slept in classrooms at a school. The room I slept in was definitely the room with the most people in. We were only girls in that room, and all of us got pretty close. First and foremost because we enjoyed each other's company, but also because we had no other choice. When I walked from my bed to the door, I had to step on at least one bed!
SH: The best memory I have from the experience was the new friendships that were made between young people from all over the world.
EK: During the Games I worked at the Birkebeineren Ski Stadium [biathlon venue]. Some days there were a huge number of pupils from the local schools. A thing that touched me was that even though they were all Norwegians, they were cheering for every single competitor. They had also made small flags for all the participating countries. I think every competitor on the ski trail that day felt that there was someone supporting them.