Using “good” as feedback – meaningless or meaningful in sports contexts? A comment on praise and feedback on the personal level

by Katarina Lundin

Vol. 12 2021, pages 113–134
Published September 23, 2021

Foto: Anders Andersson/Studentlitteratur AB


An issue in sports contexts as well as other educational contexts has been whether feedback on the personal level, often in the shape of praise, contributes to the progression of the practitioners’ skills. This article examines whether PEH teachers’ feedback on the personal level, using the word good, in specific contexts actually can contribute to crucial progress and empowerment of the pupils/practitioners. The empirical material consists of video- and audio-documentation from training sessions in athletics, jujutsu, and gymnastics, and from preparatory classes in Physical Education and Health, where the pupils were newly arrived immigrants in Sweden. As a complement, observations were made and documented in writing. In the analysis, Basil Bernstein’s superordinate concept code is used, which includes the principles classification and framing. A strong classification results in exclusion, whereas a weak classification can open up with respect to content. Correspondingly, a strong framing precludes, whereas a weak framing opens up towards a broadened and changeable concept. A strong classification and framing results in a separated code, whereas a weak classification and framing results in an integrated code. The integrated code is manifested in a shift in the balance of power and a loosened division of control between the teacher of the preparatory class and his pupils. Furthermore, the integrated code opens up for empowerment and the development of an identity, which per se contributes to a progression and development of the pupils. 

The conclusion is that, under specific circumstances, using good as feedback, in the shape of praise and on the personal level, is meaningful. It can even be considered effective, positive, and useful in certain sports contexts and aims at developing an identity rather than performance skills and at empowering practitioners. Feedback on the personal level does not primarily contribute to the progression and development of sport-specific skills of the practitioners, but its contribution to the empowerment of the practitioners, on the other hand, is obvious.

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KATARINA LUNDIN is an Associate Professor in Scandinavian Linguistics, Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, and Guest Researcher at the Department of Sport Science, Linnaeus University, Sweden. Her research is focused on language use in sport contexts inside and outside school, on the one hand, and grammar and applied linguistics, on the other. In addition, she is involved with Swedish teacher education at Lund University.

Talentutvikling via studieprogrammet idrettsfag: En retrospektiv studie av unge fotballspilleres opplevelse av å kombinere videregående skole og satsning på en fotballkarriere

by Stig Arve Sæther, Anders Nygaard, Bjørn Tore Johansen & Martin Erikstad

Vol. 12 2021, pages 85–111
Published May 10, 2021


Talent development at upper secondary school: A retrospective study of youth football players experience of combining school and football

The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how young football players experience combining sports-related upper secondary education with being a player at a high national level. More specifically, this study will look at players’ experience of the opportunity to complete a “dual career” (Stambulova & Wylleman, 2015) in the form of time and facilitation of investment in both football and school, and regulation of organized training in the form of deliberate practice (Ericsson et al., 1993) to optimize players’ opportunities for development as football players. The participants consist of eight informants who have all attended a sports study program in upper secondary school and were included in the senior squad of a club in Norwegian top football. The informants were interviewed about their experience of how it affected their development as football players. The results showed that the players’ motives for choosing a sports discipline were mainly based on sporting motives and to a lesser extent school-related, where in many ways they consider the sports program study program only as a tool to prioritize football and increase their commitment to a football career. The players also described a large degree of facilitation for sporting development with a holistic approach, although they sometimes describe large amounts of training, which they perceived as positive for their development, but also as a tough physical strain. The results showed a clear difference in favor of the best players who had a better organized everyday life compared to players with a lower skill level. Even though the school tried to facilitate the school subjects, this arrangement worked, according to the players, somewhat worse than the sporting one. An important function in this context was that the players had a contact person between the club and the school, who arranged between the two parties, to some frustration among the teachers according to the players, who perceived that the facilitation went too far. It may seem that the sports-related fields of study fulfill their purpose of facilitation, but mainly on the basis of the sporting and to a lesser extent in relation to the school subjects, with the exception of the study-specific subjects.

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About the Authors

STIG ARVE SÆTHER is an Associate Professor in sport science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Sociology and Political science. Main research interests; talent development, youth sport and sport psychology. His largest research project is a longitudinal 10-year follow-up study. Sæther is head of the research group: Skill and Performance Development in Sport and School.

ANDERS NYGAARD has a master’s degree in sport science from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Sociology and Political science. Nygaard is also a semi-professional football player in the OBOS-league club Stjørdals-Blink Sports Club.

BJØRN TORE JOHANSEN, PhD, is a Professor of sport sciences in the Faculty of Health & Sport Sciences, University of Agder. His areas of expertise are sport & exercise psychology, teaching and learning in higher education, and qualitative research methods. He is a member of the research group SEP-HEP (Sport and Exercise Psychology: Health, Education, and Performance).

MARTIN ERIKSTAD is a postdoctoral researcher at Faculty of Health & Sport Sciences at University of Agder. His research interests are centered around factors influencing athletes` development and participation, and covers topics such as expertise development, group dynamics and coaching. Martin is also a member of the research group SEP-HEP.

“I bow down in awe of them…”: Sports awards for Paralympic athletes and Olympic athletes

by Marte Bentzen & Kristin Vindhol Evensen

Vol. 12 2021, pages 59–84
Published April 19, 2021


Paralympic athletes receive less media attention than Olympic athletes. Further, Olympic athletes are honoured for athletic achievements, whereas Paralympic athletes have been described as victims, suffering or heroic. Following researchers who have approached normativity and compulsory able-bodiedness in the light of hegemony and sub-hegemony, the current study explores whether sports media are sluggish when presenting athletes with disabilities, or if the picture is a more nuanced one. The context studied was the Norwegian Sports Awards (2001–2018). All introductions to the awards of the following categories were transcribed: Best male athlete, best female athlete, best Paralympian (2002–2012)/best male Paralympian and best female Paralympian (2013–2018). A six-step reflexive inductive thematic analysis was used to analyse the data (Braun & Clarke, 2019). The results indicated that the introduction of elite athletes with disabilities had some prominent hallmarks. Athletes with disabilities (‘they’) are different from those living without disabilities (‘us’). Athletes with disabilities are inspiring. Achievements of athletes with disabilities are placed in the shade, while disabilities are placed to the fore. An overall hegemony shows when best male and best female athlete are introduced: Female athletes are, to a large degree, described as developing and joked about in sexual manners, whereas male athletes are world-leading. This study provides the opportunity to learn from examples that balance the recognition of elite athletes with disabilities experiencing challenges in daily living with recognition of their athletic achievements. Thus, we suggest that this study adds nuance to the previous research within this context.

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MARTE BENTZEN is an Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (NIH), Department of Teacher Education and Outdoor studies. She lectures in Sport and Health Psychology and Adapted Physical Activity. She currently heads the Adapted Physical Activity program at NIH, where her research and teaching focus on the facilitation of activities related to adapted physical activity and health psychology. Other common features in Bentzen’s research have been how contextual characteristics influence individuals’ motivation and endeavours in contexts likes school, sport, work, psychiatric treatment, and rehabilitation.

KRISTIN VINDHOL EVENSEN is an Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Department of Teacher Education and Outdoor studies. Her professional background is within kindergarten pedagogy and special needs education where she has specialized in intellectual disabilities. She lectures in Adapted Physical Activity and in PE teacher education. In research, Evensen has investigated subjective embodied experiences of children with severe, multiple disabilities. She has also described how recognition of the expressive body in movement can be a means when securing human rights also for persons with severe intellectual disabilities. Evensen’s work has been conducted within a phenomenological perspective as well as in a social understanding of how hierarchies emerge.

Stable Cultures in Cyberspace: A study about equestrians’ use of social media as knowledge platforms

by Lovisa Broms, Marte Bentzen, Aage Radmann & Susanna Hedenborg

Vol. 12 2021, pages 33–58
Published April 6, 2021


New media habits in the era of digitalization challenge previous understandings of who and what receives media coverage. Research shows that practitioners in self-organized lifestyle sports consistently use social media to attain and exchange information and knowledge about their sport. Is this also the case in organized sport? The Internet has become a great resource for horse-enthusiasts and the online horse world can be described as an extension of the physical horse world. Equestrian sport is particularly interesting to analyze due to the fact that there is an animal involved. Still, there is little knowledge of how horse enthusiasts use social media in relation to their interest in equestrian sports. The aim of this article is therefore to chart and analyze how equestrians use social media, how they communicate horse-related content on social media, and how social media can be seen as a source for knowledge exchange. Our investigation focuses on how equestrians use social media to acquire information about horses, and how this usage can be explained in connection to age and experience. A mixed methods design is used and data is collected from 28 focus group interviews with equestrians in Sweden and Norway and a survey with 1,628 respondents. Our study indicates that practitioners of self-organized sports are not unique in using social network sites (SNS) to exchange and attain knowledge about their sport; equestrians in general are shown to be frequent users of SNS such as Facebook and Instagram. Although our results show a few significant differences in SNS use in relation to age; the riders in the different age groups have surprisingly similar views of their SNS use in relation to attaining information about the horse. ‘Stable cultures’ and the organized structure of equestrian sports appear to create boundaries determining where a ‘good equestrian’ should seek information about horse-keeping. However, the organized structure and traditional nature of this sport do not stop equestrians from turning to SNS.

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LOVISA BROMS is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sport Sciences, Malmö University. Broms has an academic background in Sport Management and has extensive experience as project manager within national and international sport. Her thesis will focus on social media, culture, and sport with specific focus on equestrian sports, skateboard and basketball. With her contribution “Negotiating Authenticity: A study of young equestrians and social media”, she was a finalist and 3rd  prize winner of the ECSS Young Investigators Award at the annual conference in 2020.

MARTE BENTZEN is an Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, lecturing in Sport and Health Psychology and Adapted Physical Activity. Common features in Bentzen’s research have been how contextual characteristics influence individuals in terms of experienced demands and motivational support. Within the contexts of sport, work, rehabilitation and school, she finds it of importance to enhance research-based evidence in how to support individuals so they will both have the energy and desire to continue to be in the context, seek challenges, and experience meaningfulness.

SUSANNA HEDENBORG is a Professor of Sports Science and an Associate Professor in Social and Economic History. Hedenborg has her academic background in economic history, but has examined sport from historical and contemporary perspectives. Particular focus has been placed on changes in children’ and youth sports as well as sports from a gender perspective. In Hedenborg’s research, equestrian sports have received special attention. Hedenborg is the president of the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science and the Swedish Antidoping Foundation.

AAGE RADMANN is an Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. He is a sport sociologist focusing on media, youth culture, gender and violence in sports. Radmann is currently working on research projects related to Swedish and European supporter culture; women and football; sport tourism; PE and digitalization; stable cultures; Covid-19’s impact on sports; sport and poverty in Romania; and how social media affects the sports landscape.

Klassresenärer i gymnastiksalen: En analys av de studenter som tog examen från Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolans kvinnliga gymnastiklärarkurs 1972

by Hans Bolling & Leif Yttergren

Vol. 12 2021, pages 1–31
Published March 9, 2021


Social climbers in the gymnasium: An analysis of the female students who graduated from the Swedish School of Sports Science’s gymnastics teacher course in 1972

In the early summer of 1972, 69 young women graduated from the Swedish School of Sports Science and were thus given the prestigious title of Gymnastic Director. The aim of this article is to analyse the professional careers of the graduates. This is done by means of a collective biographical study of the 43 who answered a questionnaire. To widen the scope the answers have been compared with results from studies of  women who graduated from the school in 1893 and 1932. In terms of age and geographical origin the women who graduated in 1972 did not differ in any significant way from their predecessors. However, they differed from them in several other regards, including social background. Until the middle of the 20th century this education had been for the daughters of the elite, in the early 1970s it was an education for young and ambitious daughters of the Swedish welfare state with career ambitions. They were also able to sustain their careers when they started a family. In light of what we know about them, it is right to categorize them as successful social climbers, which thanks to the social broadening of higher education were given previously unseen opportunities to utilize their talent.

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HANS BOLLINS is a doctor of history and an independent researcher. His research interest touches on sport and history in the broadest sense, from local sports associations and physical education to the economic and social significance of sport´s global mega-events. Bolling has recently published books or articles on the history of one of Sweden’s leading ice hockey clubs, Sport and Sápmi, gymnastics in the city of Gothenburg, a chapter in a report for The Swedish Sports Confederation on social benefits of sport and with Leif Yttergren several articles on the professional careers and lives of Swedish female gymnastic directors from the late 19th century and onward.

LEIF YTTERGREN is an Associate Professor and senior lecturer in sport sciences at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm. His research is in the fields of Olympic history, especially the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, traditional games, as well as ski and track and field history. Yttergren is currently working on a project concerning the life stories and professional careers of physical education teachers in Sweden 1890–2020

National and Organizational Culture in Norwegian Elite Sport: The Account of National Handball Head Coaches

by Eivind Å. Skille, Per Øystein Hansen, Frank Abrahamsen & Stiliani “Ani” Chroni

Vol. 11 2020, pages 93–116
Published October 21, 2020


The present study looks at the organizational culture of Norwegian elite sport which we capture as the meeting point of the national and elite sport cultures. Two successful national teams, the women’s and men’s handball are the point of departure. The selected elite sport contexts are apparently similar but at the same time distinctive. Informed by theories of culture and high reliability organizations, we analyzed in depth semi-structured interviews with the national team coaches and found that their organizational cultures were characterized by three common elements: a process-oriented approach, an athlete-centered approach, and a value-based approach towards development. Variations between teams were noticed, such as how the athletes partake in the team’s value-anchoring processes. Overall, we learned that at the international level results can be achieved even when embracing, and performing, under humanistic and social-democratic values, which deviates significantly from the commonly embraced win-at-all-costs approach. Norwegian elite sport culture appears to exemplify this cultural approach by actively employing a value-system in the development of its athletes, teams and sport. In that respect, the study contributes to the international elite sport organization literature as it relates daily practices with the overall culture theory and the specific theory of high reliability organizations. The study provides a detailed account of how national Norwegian values (and further overarching Scandinavian values) pair up with elite sport demands, in team and backstage practices within two elite sport contexts.

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EIVIND Å. SKILLE is Dr. Scient. and professor of sport sociology with the Section for sports and physical education, Department of public health and sport sciences, Faculty of social and health sciences, Inland Norway university of applied sciences. Skille teaches and researches in sport policy and politics, sport organization and organizing, and sports participation. Recently, he has focused his research into Sámi (an Indigenous people of the North Calotte) sport. Skille serves at the advisory board of the International Sociology of Sports Association (ISSA).

PER ØYSTEIN HANSEN is Dr.Scient and associate professor of sport mangement and head of the Section for sports and physical education, Department of public health and sport sciences, Faculty of social and health sciences, Inland Norway university of applied sciences. Hansen is also associate professor II at the Department of sport and social sciences at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. He teaches and researches subjects related to organization and leadership in and of elite sports from organizational sociology perspectives.

FRANK EIRIK ABRAHAMSEN, PhD, works at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, teaching and researching sport psychology and coaching. His special interest is in elite sport and talent development. This is no surprise, as he worked 10 years for the Olympic training center in Norway, to date – delivering sport psychology services to more than 50 national teams. In 2020 he travelled with the national chefs’ teams in the Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, where for instance the senior team won the championship. Much of his latest publications have focused on talent development environments and leadership in elite performance.

STILIANI “ANI” CHRONI, Ph.D., is professor of sport psychology, pedagogy and sport coaching with the Elverum section of sports and physical education at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (iNN). Ani teaches applied sport psychology topics while her research focuses on athletes’ and coaches’ performance psychology matters. She is leading the Sport & Social Sciences Research Group for iNN and serves in the Research and Development Committee of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) as well as past-president of the global NGO WomenSport International (WSI).

Less Talk and More Action Please: Youth National Team Handball Players’ Experiences of a Mindfulness Training Program

by Line M. Nielsen, Walter StaianoUlrich Kirk & Kristoffer Henriksen

Vol. 11 2020, pages 69–91
Published September 18, 2020


Elite youth athletes are exposed to many stressors in sport and non-sport contexts and may benefit from the ability to be present in the moment and focus on the task at hand. Such skills are cultivated in mindfulness training. Guided by separate semi-structured interview guides for athletes and coaches, we interviewed eight male youth national team handball players and four of their club coaches about their subjective experiences and the effects of taking part in a Mindful Performance Enhancement Awareness and Knowledge (mPEAK) program. We used deductive and inductive thematic analyses to analyze the interviews. Barriers to engaging in the mindfulness training included non-supportive coaches and time constraints, whereas facilitators included supportive teammates and understanding its relevance. Experienced effects of the program included improved focus, concentration, and decision-making in sport; increased focus, memory, and performance in school; and increased presence in private life. The value of teaching young athletes mindfulness thus transcended contexts. Coaches saw no major effects. Athletes and coaches provided specific recommendations for setting up mindfulness training programs in youth sport, including club-integration, direct involvement of coaches, and sport-specific exercises. Based on the study, we provide specific recommendations for setting up mindfulness training programs in youth sport contexts.

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LINE MAJ NIELSEN is manager at SDU Dual Career (Syddansk Elite), helping elite athletes, coaches and referees to combine their sports career with an education program at University of Southern Denmark. Additionally, Line is working as a sport psychology consultant supporting individual athletes, teams, coaches and clubs. Line is a board member of the Danish federation for sport psychology (DIFO).

WALTER STAIANO is Chief Scientific Officer and Scientific Advisor for companies implementing cognitive training to boost performance and stress reduction. He is also a researcher at the University of Valencia (Spain). His research interest involves assessing the impact of physiological, psychological and neurophysiological factors on human tolerance and fatigue in elite sports, military personnel, and the corporate environment; and to develop innovative assessing tools, training methods, and optimal recovery strategies in support for customers’ needs.

ULRICH KIRK is an associate professor at the Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark. Ulrich Kirk is working mindfulness projects in the workplace funded by Velliv Foreningen and using HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) where he is investigating neural and cognitive effects arising from mindfulness training.

KRISTOFFER HENRIKSEN, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, and head of the research unit ‘Learning and talent in sport’ (LETS). His research mainly looks at social relations and their influence on athlete development and performance with an emphasis on successful sporting environments. For more than ten years, his employment has included a specialized function as a sport psychology practitioner in Team Denmark. In this function he has worked to develop high-performance cultures in national teams and mentally strong athletes and coaches. He has supported athletes and teams during several World and European Championships and during the London and Rio Olympic Games. Kristoffer is a board member of the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP).

Offentlig folkehelse­arbeid og idretts- og helseideologien: Folkehelsekoordinatorers erfaringer av samarbeid med frivillige idrettslag

by Anne Tjønndal

Vol. 11 2020, pages 43–67
Published June 8, 2020


Public health work and the sport-health ideology: The experiences of public health coordinators on collaborating with volunteer sport organizations

The idea that sport participation is a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle (the sport-health ideology) is one of the most socially pervasive ideas in modern western societies. The sport-health ideology presupposes that there is a linear correlation between sport and health, and that this correlation always is positive. This idea has proven to be persistent in European sport and welfare policies. The following study explores how the sport-health ideology is expressed in the narratives of public health workers in Norway as they discuss collaborative efforts with voluntary sport clubs. The material is derived from 24 interviews with employees in the public health sector at a municipality level in Norway. The analysis demonstrates how collaborations with volunteer sport clubs are perceived as a resource in public health work, particularly when the target groups are children and youth. Furthermore, the material illustrates how the informants talk of sport as something homogenous and health promoting, with  potential to contribute to reduced social inequality in health. These narratives show how the connection between sport participation and health is taken for granted, and how the sport-health ideology shapes the perception of volunteer sport clubs as potential public health agents.

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ANNE TJØNNDAL is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Nord University, Bodø – Norway. Her research interests includes studies of social innovation, technology and digitalization, gender and social inclusion in sport. Her work is published in a number of high-quality international journals, including Sociology of Sport Journal, International Review for the Sociology of Sport and European Journal for Sport and Society, among others. Tjønndal is a member of The Young Academy of Norway (AYF).

Decolonizing Sport and Exercise Psychology Within a European Context: A Critical Overview

by Sepandarmaz Mashreghi

Vol. 11 2020, pages 25–42
Published May 22, 2020


Until recently, sport and exercise psychologists have been researching acculturation and its relation with sport and exercise through a lens of universalism and (post)positivism. Using such ontological and epistemological assumptions, researchers have been preoccupied with finding linear patterns that predict the behaviours of immigrants in their new environments without much consideration to historical, sociopolitical and cultural contexts (Chirkov, 2009a). Acculturation, however, is a changing process that is extended over time and revolves within and around specific historical, political and cultural contexts. Considerations from post/anti/decolonial studies maintain that through the western eyes, race and ethnicity have become synonymous for non-white people who have been positioned as different and lesser than their white counterparts (Butryn, 2009). Western scholarship has continued to place this ‘cultural other’ in the margins of the society and in constant need of intervention. Despite a call for rethinking the epistemological understanding of the acculturation and its relation to sport and exercise (Chirkov, 2009b; Ryba & Schinke, 2009), European and Scandinavias sport and exercise psychology has remained unchallenged territory for the most part. This critical overview is a call for decolonizing the knowledge and scholarship within sport and exercise psychology by utilizing transformative approaches that centralize the voices of the cultural ‘other’ and treat them as active agents in the process of knowledge production.

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SEPANDARMAZ MASHREGHI is a Ph.D. student at Malmö University. Her research focuses on the interplay of cultural and psychosocial influences on the understanding and participation in physical activity. She uses a critical anti-/de-colonial interpretation of physical activity and its implications on individuals’ and the larger society’s well-being. In her current project, she considers the critical and transformative aspects of using decolonial and culturally relevant methodologies (i.e. visual and arts-based methods) within a participatory action research model in order to explore young refugees engagement with physical activity, movement and sport.

Fra helt til syndebukk: En studie av hvordan en landslagstrener i fotball kombinerer transformasjonsledelse og machiavellisk ledelse

by Trine Lise Andersen

Vol. 11 2020, pages 1–24
Published April 27, 2020


The rise and fall of a national coach in football: A study of how a national football coach combines transformational leadership and Machiavellian leadership

In this article the leadership style of a national football coach, in the context of the rationality of professional sport, where victory trumps everything, is being studied. The question discussed is whether the coach used his frequently communicated transformational leadership style as well as a Machiavellian leadership style, and whether the balance between these leadership styles changed when the team started to lose games. The assumption was that the Machiavellian leadership style would become more prominent when the results failed. This did not happen. The findings show that a one-sided transformational leadership style was not sufficient to maintain authority internally and externally in such a situation. An ability to balance the two leadership styles seems necessary. The study show that intellectual stimulation and involvement are two important dimensions for creating and maintaining authority related to the players, especially when results fail. Furthermore, the study shows that communication and ‘media-leadership’ influenced the dynamics between the media and the coach. As a result, this study has highlighted the importance for coaches to also master ‘multi-directional leadership’.

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TRINE LISE ANDERSEN is currently a PhD student at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Department of Sport Sciences. Andersen’s main research interest is leadership in elite sport. Her PhD dissertation is about high performing cultures in football, a case study of the Norwegian national team in football for men.