Learning to exercise: the role of upper-secondary schools for elite athletes in the development of training for cross-country skiing
- Contact person:
- Daniel Svensson
- The Swedish Research Council for Sport Science
- Responsible at Malmö University:
- Daniel Svensson
- Time frame:
- 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2022
- Research subject:
This project is focused on the history and development of the Swedish upper-secondary schools for elite athletes (in Swedish: idrottsgymnasium), started in the early 1970s. Discussions about talent management in Sweden had been ongoing during the 1960s. It had become apparent that to be an elite athlete in many sports had become more time-consuming, following the accelerating sportification of sports such as skiing, football and tennis.
There were concerns in many sport associations that earlier specialization and increasing training load was needed, and that this was hard to achieve without integrating sport-specific training in the upper-secondary school system. In 1972, the first two test schools were up and running. They admitted some 80 students in seven sports, based on proven ability and on potential.
The students were evaluated both for their performance as students and as athletes, by the teachers and coaches respectively. It was, despite some minor problems during the first years, deemed a success. More schools were added and a decade later, in 1982, the test was made permanent. By then, the sport schools had gotten their own school subject, Special sport (Specialidrott), which allowed for training as part of the curriculum and graded like other subjects.
In little more than a decade, Sweden had initiated, expanded and made permanent a system of sport schools across the country. Elite sport education in 1970s Sweden was part of a broader process of specialization and scientization where the need for more and better training at an early career phase became increasingly important.