The simple secret of Swedish sporting success

Moon- and floodlit padel by lake Storgösken in Hofors.

I sometimes use a quote from President Obama saying that the Nordic countries punch above their weight. He said that referring to many areas were our countries outperform what can be expected based on size and population. When I borrow the quote I am, of course, talking about sports.

Becoming among the best in the world at something is usually linked with having the chance to do that something more than anybody else. But not too much as that is often linked to burn out, over use injuries and drop out due to boredom. Those that manage to reach their true potential seem to have mastered to keep the fun and playful approach while at the same time, doing almost nothing else. This equation is likely to be true in music, business, academia and, perhaps above all, in sports.

I come to think about this again when visiting my home grounds in Hofors, Sweden. Next to the golf course, where I spent most of my awake summer hours as a youngster, now lie two padel courts. Having played a bit in Stockholm where finding court time can be quite a challenge, this is a different world. The kids and I can turn up and play just about any time of the day, and we are on our own.

When I go to pick up a lost ball outside the court I realise what playing sports is supposed to be about.

Come on, let’s play while he gets that other ball.

There is no stopping play…

The kids would not even wait the few seconds it took me to collect the ball. They were way to eager to play. And if the lights had not gone out at 23.10 I reckon we would have been playing all night. Nobody stopped and looked at their phone while we were playing. Let alone did anybody think about the latest postings on social media. We were too occupied by playing.

Today very few children grow up with these kind of opportunities in their immediate surroundings. I am not saying that Sweden’s next padel superstar will come from Hofors. But, I am convinced that with these kind of facilities available, there is a possibility that this could happen. There is, however, one catch. Had the sport been football the pitch would have probably been built and paid for by the local council. With it being padel the courts are privately developed and there is therefore an hourly cost to playing. And unless there is a way around that for my aspiring super athlete in the making, there goes my dream of a Hoforsian world class padel player!

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