What has Iceland got that we don’t have?

Iceland has scenery with grandeur, challenge and accessibility and so does New Zealand. We too can walk (with care) in high places. But so often we find visitors frequenting our great outdoors more than we New Zealanders do.

What has Iceland got that we don’t have?

We don’t have:

  • A team in the world cup
  • A curfew for youngsters (8pm for under twelve-year-olds and 10 pm for 13-16-year-olds in winter)
  • A plan for our youth that replaces drugs with common sense activities including plenty of sport.

The World Cup this year prompted me to review the changes experienced by Iceland over the last twenty years. In the World Cup Iceland frustrated Argentina the previous cup winners, to a 1-1 draw but both have not made it to the finals.

In Euro 2016, Iceland defeated England who (as I write this) may well win this tournament. Iceland has a population of only 330,000. What has been going on? Few will know its success story.

Iceland has managed a change from a society in which 25% teenagers were smoking every day and 40% had gotten drunk in the last month. Quote.

Between 2006 and 2014, the number of 15- and 16-year-olds in Kaunas who reported getting drunk in the past 30 days fell by about a quarter, and daily smoking fell by more than 30 per cent. End quote.

In New Zealand we have reports of youngsters binge drinking and failing to stop smoking to the point where dairy owners get bashed and robbed for cigarettes. We are also at the point of legalising marijuana due to various pressures but for what? What might young folk be looking for when they begin such health-damaging practices?

A fairly comprehensive account written just last year (Jan 2017) shows how Iceland adopted measures proposed by psychologist Harvey Milkman.

A 4-minute video by the BBC on Dec 2017 explains how Iceland saved its teenagers.

The rest of the world is catching on. An example comes from an Oregon US website. Posted in June this year, this comment it explains some of Iceland’s soccer successes.Quote:

As youth development programs expanded throughout Iceland, the Icelandic soccer association, KSÍ, began to increase the country’s sports facility infrastructure. Prior to 2000, playing soccer in Iceland was primarily a summer pursuit as indoor fields were in short supply and frigid winter weather made outdoor play impossible. Outdoor fields were far from ideal with many players practicing on gravel fields that made slide-tackling a feat for only the bravest of heart. Today, Iceland offers indoor soccer centers, outdoor turf mini-pitches, and full-size undersoil-heated turf fields throughout the country.

KSÍ also laid the foundation for improved coaching. In the 1990s, Icelandic youth soccer coaches were similar to many U.S. coaches. They were primarily parent volunteers, with little to no training in game tactics or coaching techniques.

Today, with over 770 coaches holding a UEFA A or B coaching license, Iceland boasts one UEFA-qualified coach for every 500 citizens. To compare, the United States has 70,000 registered coaches, many of whom have not received training on par with a UEFA A or B license. Even assuming all U.S. coaches had received high-level training, the U.S. still has just one coach for every 4,600 citizens. By lowering the costs to obtain a coaching license and increasing access to training opportunities, KSÍ saw a massive increase in the number of trained coaches at all levels of Icelandic soccer. end quote.

Iceland’s captain Aron Gunnarsson celebrates at the end of the World Cup Group I qualifying soccer match between Iceland and Kosovo in Reykjavik, Iceland, Monday Oct. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Brynjar Gunnarsson).

Here is the Iceland soccer team celebrating qualification for the World Cup 2018 by beating Kosovo. They are doing the Viking thunder clap which is Iceland’s signature celebration.

What is New Zealand doing?

Not mentioned anywhere is a tax on sugar. My guess is that Iceland youth have BMI’s that do not warrant any sugar restrictions at all.

For anybody who reckons that sport is not for them, the Iceland youth have many other activities but first and foremost is the time that parents spend with them doing things.

New Zealand is blessed with some of the greatest scenery of the world which is just waiting for our young and old to walk around in.


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.

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