Magnus Pettersson- Shifting the paradigm of a traditional sporting culture towards empowerment and community

Magnus Pettersson- Parent-coach and visionary   

Enskedemoddelen 1   

Shifting the paradigm of a traditional sporting culture towards empowerment and community

In spring 2007 father of two Magnus Pettersson began as a football coach in one of Stockholm’s oldest and most well-known club. That club was Enskede IK. Situated in the southern suburbs between idyllic leafy housing estates and apartment blocks the club was always going to be a socio-economic melting pot of class and culture. Formed in 1914 Enskede IK has had a long history of being a meeting point for the local community and providing grassroots soccer for its children. With tradition comes strength and community, a sense of place and a safety net for many to fall back on. Also with tradition comes inertia, a DNA that refuses to adapt to environmental, political, social and economic changes. Safety nets begin to unravel. A sense of place becomes a sense of comparison as modern X-Factor culture and adult perspectives highjack the child’s game.

Even at his very first meeting with the club Magnus Pettersson felt that he could not support some of the views that were being expressed. The only way he could influence the situation was by staying involved. By 2009 he had begun to convince Enskede IK that it was time to reassess its modus operandi. However, within the halls of tradition echoed much resistance. Magnus heard all the usual arguments especially around the subject of young children being put through an early selection process to identify talent. Here are a few of them.

  1. Yes we know what science says but we know what is best for the club!
  2. For children it is no problem to change team, it is only us adults that think it is a problem
  3. Everyone knows that the best young kids must train with the best otherwise they will not develop.

The process of taking on inertia

Magnus was responsible for a very large group, the boys born 2001. As he communicated his thoughts with the other coaches he found that ideologically they had much in common. “We managed to influence the selection process of our group so that at least it was a more inclusive process. We lost only 2 players out of 110 thanks to the measures we took”.  A special mixed team called “Team 42” was started. Players from the various teams within the age group would play with each other. Another great project was the Knight Cup initiated by long time club member Daniel Kings (another parent coach). All the players born 2001 would be mixed up randomly in to various teams and play a tournament over one night. The purpose of the Knight Cup is to create a community between the young people playing football in Enskede IK.

“We see the team as a free zone. If it is tough at home, at school or among friends, the team will provide an opportunity for security. With the Knight Cup, we hope to lay a good foundation for the players to get to know each other and help to prevent any future conflicts when they meet each other in the years to come in other environments”.

Behind the scenes Magnus was busy working on his own development. “I read, I researched and I continued to train a group of young players of varying abilities”. Most evenings and nights after training were spent online intensively searching for ideas, information and inspiration. One of these evenings Magnus came across a coaching document by Ulf Carlsson from the Gothenburg Football Association. Magnus took a chance and emailed Ulf. Pretty soon they were discussing topics such as early selection models and early specialisation while at the same time Magnus got an insight in to how things worked at grassroots level in Gothenburg. “Thanks to Ulf, in the autumn of 2012 I got a draft of Fredrik Sundqvist’s “How Youth football works”, a book that would prove to be very influential.

Ulf Carlsson came to Stockholm and held a seminar for Enskede IK. It was then that things really began to happen. The club had started to take notice of the boy’s 2001 group that Magnus had been responsible for and how it worked. Enskede IK held a “Talent development meeting” in August to address the issue as to why they were producing less and less players that could compete at elite senior level. The club after all was structured around the ambition to deliver talented senior players. They were competing with all the top clubs at grassroots level. But in the long term they were not succeeding. Magnus delivered a talk on the fundamental problems with using an early selection process in a community club like Enskede IK. Then Fredriks Sundqvists book “How Youth Football Works” came out. Fredrik held a seminar for the club and the pieces began to fall into place.

Magnus felt it was time to challenge tradition and create a new environment where the club could express its true DNA.

In the Autumn of 2013 a task force chaired by Magnus was put together to develop a new Enskede Model. A report was submitted to the board in April 2014. By May the new model was being introduced to the boys born 2003 (120 children). Many discerning voices both inside and outside of the club predicted a mass walkout of players. Their dooms day predictions were unfounded. The coaches and players embraced the new model. For them it was no problem to run a serious organisation without having to adopt an early selection process to create an elite team.

As many as possible as long as possible

The board at Enskede IK was very positive and eventually approved the delay of all first team selections until girls turned 15 and boys turned 16. In June 2014 the clubs chairman informed the media that Enskede IK will stop with all early selection methods and  focus on having as many people possible for as long as possible. In 2014 Enskede IK held its 100 year anniversary.  At a special event for sponsors Magnus introduced the new Enskede Model. Afterwards the clubs main sponsor walked up to Magnus and thanked him by simply uttering the word “finally!”.

The Enskede Model is a living document based on principles that hopes to breed new life in to the grassroots soccer culture in Sweden’s capital city. Enskede IK has chosen a unique direction to work with the complexities of participation, performance and personal development among its young members. The club is also aware that it has not chosen the easiest way forward. With over 100 boys and 50 girls in each age category, this will require a high quality of leadership and coaching resources. At the heart of the Enskede model is the understanding that young people go through a biopsychosocial development in a sporting context. All development and learning is non-linear. Therefore talent is non-linear. Enskede IK along with its 2,400 members through its model has the ambition to develop and build the social capital that it will eventually come to depend on. The club It is connecting with the future.

In spring 2007 father of two Magnus Pettersson began a process of taking on inertia by shifting the paradigm of a traditional sporting culture towards empowerment and community.

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