(Editor’s note: The Norwegian language contains the word â€œildsjelâ€ which has no direct translation. Some potential translations would be enthusiast, fanatic or zealot — but those all miss the mark. Ildsjelene are those who give selflessly of themselves as leaders and support personnel in community activities and are quite simply the backbone of the Norwegian sport club system. I have chose to use the phrase â€œdedicated soulâ€ in this chapter’s translation.)
Behind most all elite athletes and many, many others are often the dedicated souls: these countless women and men who devote enormous amounts of their free time to sports teams without receiving either money or honor. Some are unpaid coaches, some sit on steering committees, some make waffles and some clean up the sport facilities. Athletes come and then disappear, generation after generation. The dedicated souls are there, the whole time. They represent the base of the mountain and the spirit of community work in Norwegian sport. Without them, sport in this country would fall apart. Sport-Norway would be far poorer than it is today, even at the top level.
In addition to the impressive practical job that these dedicated souls do, they also serve as important adult role models for many. Especially in a time as confused as ours is now, it is very important to meet adults who have time to be with and talk to youngsters. For some these dedicated souls become something near a reserve father or mother.
Without dedicated souls, many children would quickly disappear from sports teams. It is bad enough to think that we could be loosing some one who could become a top-level athlete. It is worse to think that that child would become more or less idle, and some might fall into drug use and crime. There can be no doubt that society saves lots of money due to the efforts of these dedicated souls.
That is just one of the reasons that those who do this fantastic work in the local communities in all parts of Norway should be paid for what they are doing. A society as wealthy as our own should come up with the means to pay activity leaders in the local communities. Then the dedicated souls could maybe combine activities in the clubs and the schools, so that their engagement benefits even more children.
I cry hurray for the dedicated souls. At the same time I wish that I could do more for them than to give them a tribute on paper.