Championing Notts In Norway

About the study tour

Delegates* from CSPs around the country, Association of Colleges and Sport England are exploring the practices of volunteering in Norway, speaking to key organisations and those directly volunteering. Funded by the Erasmus Plus programme, it will enable the group to develop their education and understanding of practice in volunteering; in order to help guide the sector in the UK. In return for the Norwegian hospitality we will also share our own experiences of sports development with the local officers, highlighting some of the key projects and programmes that members of the group have been working on.

*Laura Whitehead (Black Country Be Active Partnership), John Selby-Sly (Sport Nottinghamshire), Lorna Leach (London Sport), Niall Judge (Active Gloucestershire), Adam Brougham (Tyne and Wear Sport), Kieran Crombie (Herts Sports Partnership), Laura Danskin (Association of Collages) and Rachel Waterman (Sport England)

A Snowy Introduction the Norwegian Sporting World

Niall Judge (Active Gloucestershire) and John Selby Sly (Sport Nottinghamshire)

Four Girls, Three Lads and Geordie went Norway. It’s the start of a really bad joke or the beginning of our study tour? We’ll let you decide over the next 7 days as we will be sharing what we have learnt from our Norwegian sporting adventure!

Day 1-3

Three days in Norway have passed and certainly has left an impression on the group; from the friendly hospitality to sheer surprise at seeing the city fully functioning as snow falls all around us. Our first interaction with Norwegian sporting life involved us going to a volunteers conference for the Akershus region, which has been run for the last 10 years, a way of bringing together individuals from clubs all over the regions to celebrate, motivate and inspire. Certainly a novel way of inspiring the room was by raffling off a cheque for 10000 Krone (£1000) to one lucky club!

An engaging inspirational talk from Jan Fredrik Karlsen (the Simon Cowell of Norway) and a one to one discussion with Erik Thorstvedt (former Tottenham Hotspur FC keeper) helped us take away three core messages:

  • Sporting bodies need to work together in an integrated fashion for sports to be a success
  • Seems so simple but shared resources, expertise and facilities allows more funding to be devoted to grassroots development
  • Volunteers don't need to come from sport
  • Expertise is all around us and every volunteer can offer something unique and valuable - How do you seek out people to help with your club/organisation?
  • Club Development + Better Facilities = Better Public Health (One Society Delivering it all)
  • Politically driven, but fundamentally central to Norwegian sporting success and development - Volunteers sit at the centre of all of this


To couple these learnings with the fact that two thirds of the volunteers attending were female and a large proportion were young people suggests that the message is getting through from the outset of sporting lives and when comparing to the This Girl Can campaign, perceptions around sport for females is inspiring them to continue in multiple roles.

It would be too quick to think that we should adopt this as the best way to practice, the next few days involve us meeting regional councils, national sporting bodies, clubs and youth groups to get the feeling from those that are influencing volunteers. That’s when we will be able to get a full picture of the sporting landscape.

 ‘Sport is Always Adaptable no Matter What’

It’s a running joke that the UK grinds to halt with a sprinkling of snow, well that just doesn't happen here. Whilst we struggled our way up hills to the incredible Holmenkollen (the world’s most modern Ski Jump), traffic around us continued to flow as people of all ages headed up to ski, ice skate and run around us (although we did have to help a few cars get moving again!). We are constantly reminded that the norwegian culture believes in ‘Seeing the best in people’ allowing us to freely walk around the high performance facilities and happy to stop and help, even if our attempts to speak Norwegian are terrible! There is a real belief that they are all in this together and only together will things be done - not a bad ideology to adopt and clearly its working with their dominance of winter sports.

Follow our adventure and get involved by using the #NorwayVolSport or follow the members of the group on twitter (see below).

Maybe Politics and Sport Do Mix

John Selby Sly (Sport Nottinghamshire) and Niall Judge (Active Gloucestershire)

Three take-away messages: 

  • Know your members as this could be key to them becoming your volunteers – welcome them, get to know what they like and what they don’t, refer to them by name. Gjerdrum Sports Club feel that this communication is the key reason they have been so successful in recruiting 250+ volunteers into their club.
  • Get Politicians onside, but don’t take sides – in Norway the national and county bodies work very closely together to influence the political agenda, but they do it in such a way that all parties agree to the key outcomes. They say that this then removes sport from the ‘battlefield’, creating a more stable and consistent base to build from.
  • Think outside the club – Gjelleråsen Sports Club have helped build over £2.5 million worth of facilities for the local community, many of which are not located within their club and are purely for the benefit of the local residents rather than just their members. These constructions were made possible because of volunteer support, which in-turn brings more volunteers into the club.

Day 4 - Monday

We kicked the week off with a visit to Bærum Sports Club where our guide Johan gave us an introduction to the overall structure of sport in Norway, it seems a much clearer landscape then ours with one organisation (The Norwegian Olympic & Paralympic Committee) overseeing all levels of sports development, from grassroots all the way up to elite performance. We then met one of the members of the municipality’s (district to you and me) Sports Councils, a volunteer himself, who help the local sports clubs with funding. In fact, a municipality office won’t even look at a clubs funding bid unless it has first been to the local sports council. Maybe a lesson we could learn to help join up thinking and working locally?

From there we went on to meet with the Akershus County Council (the area just outside of Olso) who talked us through how they distribute their funding, interesting that the rural nature   of County Councils is factored into the funding that they are allocated, not just the population, as travel can be a major factor in sport participation over here. They also talked about the meeting that they hold with the local political parties every two years. They use this opportunity to bring all the parties onside with their sporting agendas, this is to ensure that “whoever wins sport wins”.

Our day finished off with a trip to Gjerdrum Sports Club, made up of over 1800 members (and 2 bees), that’s nearly a third of the local populous. They talked about how each sport in the club works together to ‘share’ volunteers. On the whole they seem to recruit the majority of volunteers as we do in England, from parents of the younger participants. Although they do create a very welcoming environment, finding out interests, skills etc. so that they can target individuals for roles and call them by name rather than just call them ‘you’, simple but effective. The success shows as the club will host a national Taekwondo competition in a few weeks, they haven’t had to ask for volunteers instead the club members have come to them to offer there help.

The Taekwondo group then invited us to train with them, watch the video that the club made to see how that worked out for us (the song was written and performed especially for the club).

Video -

Day 5 – Tuesday

Today focused on youth volunteering. We took a trip to Li school to look at their YouMe programme, where they train young people to lead activity sessions for other young people in their school, idea that they openly admit that they ‘stole’ from the UK 10 years ago. Following a presentation, in English, from two 15 year old Young Mentors we walked over the car park to the local sports club (Gjelleråsen Sports Club) to look how they integrate YouMe into the club. At the club the YouMe volunteers help with planning various trips and activities for the club, including a summer camp for over 250 young athletes.  From here the club’s approach changes significantly from our model, they opt to pay for the YouMe ‘volunteers’ when they are actually lead the sessions, hoping that their positive experience will then bring them back to the club as unpaid volunteers when they are older. An interesting approach, but is it something that could work, or even be possible in England?

We wrapped up the day with a team outing to the Ice Hockey, supporting the local team Frisk Asker, a victory for them would have meant a guaranteed playoff spot. After a hard fought 60 minutes (full time) they were tied 3-3, which left 5 mins of sudden death overtime to decide the outcome. After just 30 seconds the suspense was lifted, but unfortunately it wasn’t Frisk Asker that scored. 

Remember to follow our adventure and get involved by using #NorwayVolSport or follow the members of the group on twitter (see below).