Tag Archive for elite sport

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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About the Authors

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).

“Organizing for Excellence”: Stress-Recovery States in the Danish National Orienteering Team during a Training Camp and the 2015 World Championship

by Astrid Becker-LarsenKristoffer HenriksenNatalia Stambulova

Vol. 8 2017, pages 87–111
Published October 3, 2017


Energy management is a natural part of the life of elite athletes. This is particularly important during periods of high demand on their resources, such as during training camps and competitions, which are often intense and do not allow sufficient time for recovery. In the 2015 World Championships, the Danish national orienteering team was the best nation, winning four gold medals. In the present study we examined: (a) the stress-recovery states of the Danish orienteers during a three-week preparatory training camp and the following 2015 World Championships, and (b) their perceived sources of stress and recovery during the two events. The study was designed as case study with the RESTQ-sport questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and a coach’s journal as the data sources used longitudinally during the camp and the championships. Results revealed: (a) well-balanced stress-recovery states among all athletes during the entire period; and (b) perceived sources of stress and recovery classified into organizational, social, personal, and athletic. The organizational strategies played a key role in reducing athletes’ unnecessary stress and in facilitating individual recovery. We suggest that “organizing for excellence”, keeping in mind athletes’ energy management, is a special task for coaches and managers when preparing for camps and competitions.

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About the Authors

ASTRID BECKER-LARSEN is a research assistant at the Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark. Astrid’s primary research interest is applied sports psychology, and more specifically mental stress and recovery. As research assistant, Astrid is also teaching different courses both on the bachelor and master level. Beside this, Astrid is working as part of Team Denmark’s (the Danish elite sport institution) external network of associated sport psychology consultants

KRISTOFFER HENRIKSEN, PhD, is an associate professor at the Institute of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark. As a researcher, Kristoffer’s main interest lies in social-psychological and ecological approaches to talent development. Kristoffer is also a sport psychology practitioner with Team Denmark, the Danish elite sport institution, and works with top-level athletes and coaches in sports such as orienteering and Olympic sailing. Kristoffer has published several papers about his applied work focusing on professional philosophy, mindfulness and working at the Olympic Games.

NATALIA B. STAMBULOVA is a professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology at School of Health and Welfare at Halmstad University, Sweden. Her professional experiences in sport psychology refer to her work for about four decades as a teacher, researcher, and practitioner in the USSR/Russia and since 2001 in Sweden. Her research and about two hundred publications relate mainly to the athlete career/talent development topic with an emphasis on athletes’ career transitions and crises. Dr. Stambulova is a member of editorial boards of several international journals and an associate editor of Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

Learning by Joining the Rhythm: Apprenticeship Learning in Elite Double Sculls Rowing

by Ole Lund, Susanne Ravn & Mette Krogh Christensen

Vol. 3, 2012, pages 167–188
Published October 31, 2012


This article aims to explore how a joint rhythm is learned. The exploration is based on a combination of a case study of training in elite rowing and theoretical considerations concerning mutual incorporation of skills in learning. In 2009 Juliane and Anne start to row the double scull together. The two rowers’ aim is to be among the exclusive group of teams that qualify for the Olympic Games three years later. However, Anne is not a rower, and has to be apprenticed by Juliane, who is an experienced elite rower. One important learning goal in the apprenticeship is to find a good joint rhythm, which will enable the rowers to put optimal effort into the rowing. Thus the apprenticeship is about developing a sense for a good rhythm in Anne which corresponds to Juliane’s finely tuned sense of what a good rhythm should feel like. Our study suggests that apprenticeship learning has to be understood as an embodied and mutually affecting process rather than as unidirectional exchanges of information. This means that not only the inexperienced athlete is learning: the experienced athlete is also learning by compensating for the inexperienced athlete’s inadequacy.

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About the Authors

OLE LUND is PhD student at the Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark, Denmark. His research focuses on the development of expertise in sport and apprenticeship learning among elite athletes. The aim of his PhD-project is to explore the interrelated learning processes of among elite athletes in double rowing, synchronized trampoline and handball. Theoretically his research is inspired by phenomenology and theories on social learning and social and embodied cognition.

SUSANNE RAVN is an associate professor of dance and movement-communication at the Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark. Her research interests center round the sociology and phenomenology of the body, including dancing bodies, the expertise of elite athletes and the teaching and learning of dancing. She is the author of several books and articles in peer reviewed journals.

METTE KROGH CHRISTENSEN is an Associate Professor within the Centre of Medical Education at Aarhus University and Institute of Sports Science at University of Southern Denmark. Her research interests revolve around talent development in education and elite sport as well as careers, paradigmatic trajectories and the development of coaching expertise. She has published in for example the Sociology of Sport Journal, European Physical Education Review, PE and Sport Pedagogy and Sport, Education and Society.

Does Elite Sport Develop Mass Sport? A Norwegian Case Study

by Dag Vidar Hanstad & Eivind Å. Skille

Vol. 1 2010, pages 51–68
Published March 31, 2010


The notion that elite sport generates mass sport,seems to be a social fact among many and influential members of the society. The issue is, however, under-researched, and the little research which actually exists does not confirm a causal link. In this article, we take as a point of departure the case of Norwegian biathlon, and its development, both as elite sport and mass sport, to nuance the picture. We are not guided by any particular theory, but believe in a thick description of the empirical case in order to understand it. Therefore a mixture of methods is applied: document analysis, statistics and interviews. The article shows how increased income from elite performance makes it possible for a sport federation to make strategies and prioritize incentives for recruitment of mass participants. At the same time, it is evident that the relationship between elite sport and mass sport is best understood as a complexity of figurations where economic, strategic and other aspects interplay. In sum, elite sport does not generate mass sport per se, but it may contribute indirectly. In the end, it is critically reminded that mass sport is not prioritized to elite sport; apparently, the former is “prioritized” only when the latter is prioritized first.

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About the Authors

DAG VIDAR HANSTAD is PhD student at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo.

EIVIND Å. SKILLE is teacher and sport studies researcher at Hedmark University College, Elverum, Norway.