In May 2014 Sweden’s Minister for culture and sport gave the following speech at the opening of the Research Conference on Children and Youth in Sport
Here is my translation from Swedish to English.
In the sports ideas document “Idrotten vill” it says that sport should be permeated through the child’s rights and perspective. This means that the child’s needs come first. The adult demands on performance and results will in time happen anyway – sport should be a safe haven for children and young people, united by joy, desire and togetherness.
Sport is a good measure of independence and freedom. It is important we continue to protect it. However, we have received several warning signs of abuse in sport, which I take very seriously .
About a year ago I received calls from a number of scientists – many of you are here today – who expressed a strong concern. The main issue been the impact on premature elite programs and premature specialisation, where parental, coach pressure, selection and ranking is at odds with the vision of sport.
We should show respect to what the latest research says. There is no medal worth more than a lost childhood. Sweden must become the leading country in terms of the perception of athletic success and its price tag.
Those who wish to work hard and reach the summit should naturally have the opportunity to do so – but it should be done under safe and secure conditions. This conference is an important part of ensuring such development and I am pleased that the Swedish Sports Confederation and the Centre for Sports Research chose to organise this together.
Today sport has guidelines for children and youth in sport but have no effective sanctions against those associations and societies that violate the guidelines. If a business is conducted without respect for the child’s rights and perspective, there must be consequences. The associations and societies that consciously focus on allowing children and youth to practice a lot must also take responsibility for the environment in which this is done.
The environment must be so good that those in charge can always ensure that they have the child’s best interests at heart. I therefore look forward with excitement to the new guidelines Riksidrottsförbundet is taking up around children and youth sport .
Common to all of us is that we want a healthy and safe sport that more children and young people want to be a part of. Now let us continue the dialogue and work to achieve it.