Assistant Coach and Team Manager for Sweden’s National Womens Floorball
The first Boss Lady that I wanted to have lunch with was a fantastically energetic woman called Jenny Hedlund. I thought that it was only fitting to interview Jenny first because it was after a lunch with her that the entire concept for Eat 52 Lunches was born. I’ve explained this briefly over on the welcome page but I’m going to run through it again because it’s an important part of my story.
A couple of months ago during the warm Swedish summer, a seemingly random woman added me on LinkedIn. I saw that we had a few mutual connections and I was interested in how those people knew each other.
Not long after, Jenny messaged me and asked if I’d be up for grabbing lunch sometime in the city. It was the middle of summer in Stockholm and nobody was at the office so I was all too keen to take a lunch with someone…anyone…any human being that could give me some face-to-face contact. No but seriously, I was flattered to get the invite. We agreed to meet in a week or so at one of Stockholm’s newest, most glamorous cafe’s: Gretas.
Now on this particular day, I’d already been alone in the office for a week or two since the rest of the team were on vacation and I’d felt my motivation slipping without the team there. For me, my energy is almost entirely derived from the people around me. So you can imagine that without the regular team there I became quieter, slower. I had a sneaky suspicion that after this lunch, I was going to feel new energy. And not just because of the food.
We ate outdoors and faced Hötorget, a square that is filled with flower and fresh produce stalls. In the summer, this square almost resembles the mediterranean. Except it’s quieter and has less colorful passers by.
Over the hour, Jenny and I did as any two people that don’t know each other. We introduced ourselves and told brief snippets about our lives; what we did for a living and who we were as people. We’d had some mutual interests and had agreed to stay in touch in the near future. I just never knew how soon that would be.
As I walked back to the office I checked in with myself to see how I was feeling, energy-wise. As I mentioned, I wasn’t in the most energetic place when I had left the office. I realised that I had this enormous energy after just one hour with Jenny. I don’t even really remember the walk back to the office because the energy I’d gotten from this lunch had set off a chain of thoughts in my head and my legs were instantly switched to autopilot.
Imagine if I could have lunches like this every week
Tack För Sist
Jenny and I were to meet at Scandic Klara for an early lunch on a Monday. Anyone familiar with Stockholm knows that the Scandic hotel chain is everywhere but this one was a hundred or so meters away from the place we had first met at Hötorget. Down a side street that I always forget is there because the sole purpose of the street is to funnel traffic from a huge underground carpark.
If you’re not yet familiar with the rules of the game, the deal is that I pay for lunch so long as the Boss Lady picks the place. The reason that I like the Boss Lady to pick the place is because I think it’s a nice insight into where people choose to spend their time. After all, we often don’t have long for lunch do we? Do people choose to have it quick, amongst the hustle and bustle of the city? Or is it taken somewhere calm, with warm low lamps and relaxed lounge music? That choice gives me a peak into the person I’m meeting with. Scandic Klara was more of the latter but on the day we were there, it was buzzed with a big group of suits that were surely in some half-day conference.
Jenny wasn’t aware that the idea for Eat 52 Lunches was born after our first lunch and I was excited to share this with her and thank her. We joined the short queue to the buffet politely asking how the other was. I’d like to point out that when I say ‘buffet’, remember that we are in Stockholm and buffet just means all the regular gourmet food available all at once in as much quantity as you want.
Grabbing a scoop of delicious-looking chickpea salad, I explained to Jenny the vision for Eat 52 Lunches and that it was her I had to thank for the idea in the first place. Her giant smile was something that my eyes recorded, memorized, wrapped up in a blanket and tucked away in a pocket of my memory.
From Player To Coach
We took a seat in a low booth Jenny began to explain her current role in a little more depth.
It was in the end of 2011 that the Swedish Floorball Federation gave Jenny a call and asked if she would like to work with the Women’s Floorball team. “I had never been a trainer but I had the experience myself as a player on the women’s national team” reflects Jenny. “I have always been a person who loves challenges” she says with a slight grin. “I was thinking about whether or not (to take the role) as I had a 1 and a half year-old child at home and had suspicions that I was also pregnant with my second”.
For a lot of women in a similar situation to Jenny, I can only imagine the internal struggle that goes on inside many heads. Do you take the job and figure out how to balance that new, challenging lifestyle? Or do you pass on the opportunity and focus on a role at home instead? With so much pressure on new mothers I don’t envy women in that position – my heart merely goes out to them. But the way Jenny choose to handle it surprised me.
“I told the federation that I had a child at home and that I might be expecting the second”. Their response? “They said it was no problem. That my husband and kids could be there at the games and training as much as they needed to be. So I took the job”.
For those who are not born or raised in the nordics, it’s hard to imagine a similar kind of scenario playing out in your homelands. I don’t know if I would have the same courage to say I was expecting child number two. I was born and raised in Australia and I know that my parents always struggled with finding a balance between work and raising the kids. In every case, it always ended up with one parent working and one parent staying home. From the age of 1 to 4 years, my dad stayed home. When I turned 4 it was my mum that stayed while my dad returned to work. Perhaps it varies on industry and I’m certain it varies on location but I think the family dynamic (and as a result, society) functions better when both parents have the opportunity to work and to feel that their families are welcome in that environment.
Qualifications or attitude?
Delving deeper into the transition from player to her senior position, I was curious to know how Jenny had been sought for the role as assistant coach and whether she had ever expected to return in the first place . There’s so much dialogue about women not being visible in the same ways as men for senior positions so I wondered was it similar in this scenario?
Jenny reflects on my question answering, “I never thought that I would return. When the federation was looking to fill the role, they wanted the (coaching) team to be more gender-equal and I would be contributing to that. But I told them that I don’t have the experience as a trainer”.
This was no obstacle in their eyes because the skills she had as a player trumped anything that a trainer could offer.
“I had been a bit of a star when I was a player but I hadn’t played in 3 or 4 years. I started playing in 1995 and finished in 2005. Because I played for a long time, I knew people all over Sweden, all over the world”. I’m not entirely familiar with the lifetime of a floorball career but that seemed like a long time to me. “I think in floorball, at least in Sweden, everyone knows one another”.
Suspicions confirmed. Jenny’s evident sporting talent paired with being well-known had made her an obvious choice for the role.
So rather than having trouble getting the job, it was more so the challenge of totally owning the role. Jenny retells how she used to be intimidated by all the skilled players and that if she were to give her younger self some advice, she would tell her to trust her own knowledge enough to share it with the players – even if they were stars.
I learn something from them and they too learn something from me.
“I used to think of things that they should have done on the court but not tell them. Now I just pull them aside and tell them. It’s good for both of us because I learn something from them and they too learn something from me”.
I think this is a really crucial idea for women that are new to their field because one of the most challenging things is to find your place amongst a group of colleagues that have likely done their job for a lot longer than you have. But that doesn’t mean your ideas and perspectives aren’t valuable. You have things to contribute – you’ve just got to pluck up the courage to lay them out on the table with all the other ideas.
After two years and winning a gold medal with the team, Jenny experienced the feeling that we’re all chasing: job satisfaction. She emphasises with enthusiasm but also certainty “I felt that this is what I want to do”.
Jenny continuous “I talk with a lot of people that give me a lot of energy – like you did when we first met. And some that don’t (give me energy). But that’s ok because for me it doesn’t matter.”
It’s really encouraging to hear this because it’s something I’ve been pondering myself lately. If there are people that don’t give us the same energy that we offer them, is it worth it? To Jenny, the answer is yes.
For Women New To The Field
Getting the strong sense that Jenny loves what she does, I wanted to know what concrete advice she would give to someone new in her field.
Jenny is quick to answer. “Take the chance! Every person has what they need inside themselves. They just need to be coached to be the best version of themselves”.
On getting the role without training qualifications or experience, Jenny says “I took the chance and that’s the thing I am most proud of today. I wasn’t a trainer but I did it anyway. That was the first step. You can do it step by step too”.
On improving her own development, Jenny explains that she could have been more sure of herself. ”I should have had more confidence in myself because I had been in the same place as the players. In my first year as trainer, one of the girls took me aside and told me that I had to have more confidence because I had everything inside myself already”.
I asked whether that was a pivotal moment for her. Rather than it being pivotal, it was more like the push she needed. “That moment for me was like, oh, you’re right. I had been telling myself that I should really take a step forward and be more confident in myself and I did that with small steps over and over again. I practice my self-confidence all the time now”.
It was comforting to know that no, it wasn’t a pivotal moment but something that gave her the extra push she needed on her way to better self-confidence.
I took the chance and that's the thing I am most proud of...
I continue deeper asking for more ways that women can advance themselves in her field and I’m given some great pointers.“Get to know the other leaders. I work within a sports team but it’s the same for a company. You have to have good energy and environment to get good results and reach goals. Do things that make you take a step forward – faster than you planned. Say yes! Don’t think so much! I still do it sometimes too but when I catch myself over-thinking I say to myself, just let go. Trust in yourself and your instincts because you will always learn something new. You have nothing to lose”.
Dealing with stress
Continuing on from the idea of what advice Jenny would give to women who are new to the field, I probe about stress and how she manages it all.
“I almost have tears in my eyes when you ask because I think of my husband. He is always supporting me, all the time. He gives me time to do what I love and that’s the best gift he can give me – apart from our children. I really get a lot of support from him. And also my parents. They live 300 kilometres away but when we have tournaments they always come up and help with the children. They are there for my husband and my children when I need them to be. I really have a good network of family and friends”.
Jenny continues “But my colleagues also give me energy so it comes from everywhere. You can’t be at both places (work and home) so you need those around you to help.”
It’s clear that Jenny and her family are very tight-knit and that they are a stress-reliever for her. I want to know what values she is passing onto her two daughters, whether it’s more self-confidence as she would have given to herself 10 years ago.
“I encourage them to try everything because if you don’t try then how can you know?”. Jenny retells a funny story of her youngest learning to ride a bike and coordinate between pedalling and braking. “She was so sure that she couldn’t but I knew that she could. After 15 minutes she could do it without a problem. I have to give her the time to learn and feel. I’m practicing this patience with them all the time”.
Equality & Group Dynamic
Anybody that knows me knows that I’m a strong, proud feminist so it was only natural that I’d raise the subject in these lunches. And Jenny gives me some valuable insight into an industry I don’t have too much connection to.
“There aren’t many women in coaching roles in the highest league. But that’s not how I view things. For me this is what I really love to do and being one of the few women, that doesn’t stop me”.
I try and pick at why there aren’t more women in coaching roles. Is it because of confidence? Something Jenny herself struggled with? “Men are more confident in themselves from the beginning. I don’t know why but they are. Men can take these big leaps but women take them smaller, step by step.”
The coaching team that Jenny is currently on is split 2:1 with the head coach being male and two female assistant coaches (one being herself). It’s clear that the team is strong together and gender seemingly doesn’t play too much of a role. Or maybe it does and this is what works for them. “We have a really good dynamic. We give each other space. If before the game the head coach doesn’t have the energy himself, he asks one of us to take the pep talk. There is no hierarchy.”
Jenny emphasises the absolute importance of team dynamic. “The players have to have it. We (the coaches) have to have it. And we have to have it all together. You have to have the environment to lift each other in order for you to show your real, skilled self”.
“If you don’t have a good feeling in the group, you can’t achieve goals”. One of my best skills is to get the group to come together. I’ve always been the ‘clown’ of the group and I’ve taken that role happily because it’s good to laugh together. You can’t take yourself too seriously. I can be the one making jokes but I can also be the one that’s serious. The girls must think I’m crazy.” Jenny says with a laugh. “But I think that’s needed in a group”.
As we finish our delicious lunches and wrap up the interview, I want to get a snapshot of what’s in store for Jenny over the next 2, 5 or even 10 years.
“Everyone always has things to develop within themselves. For me, that’s working on feeling satisfied and knowing that I am good at what I do. I am with the girls’ national team for another two years where I aim to be giving people the opportunity to be the best version of themselves”.
“That feeling I have in my heart when I see these girls, not as players but as people, that’s the best feeling I can get. That I am on their journey as well as my journey”.