The World Championships of underwater rugby is coming up. Peter tells us what drives him, if he’s in good shape, and his thoughts about this very physical sport, where men and women compete together.
Peter Aronsson has worked at ÅF for three years but he’s been with the same company for 3½ years, since he was already with Bygganalys when it was acquired by ÅF. When Peter started with ÅF he came in contact with Jennie Johansson, who was then project manager for Akalla/Häggvik in the Stockholm Bypass project. New challenges opened up for Jennie in the East Link project, so Peter stepped into the role of project manager and is now getting up to speed with managing the project for ÅF and working with the Swedish Transport Administration during the construction of the Stockholm Bypass.
Peter is also a top-level athlete and will be going to Colombia in late July to bring home a World Championship gold in underwater rugby. I met with Peter to ask him about what drives him, if he’s in good shape for the World Championship, and his thoughts about the physical sport of underwater rugby, where men and women compete together.
What are you like as a colleague?
My colleagues would probably describe me as calm, good at getting things going, keeping everyone enthusiastic, and meeting customers, and that I have a good sense of humour.
What motivates you at work?
The job is a bit like a competition, since there are deadlines to meet, there’s a lot to do, limited resources at times, but you just make sure that everyone pulls together and gets the job done. That’s what makes it fun and keeps me enthusiastic. The job is challenging.
You’ve managed to have a sporting career alongside your work career. The Underwater Rugby World Championship is next on your schedule. When is it and how psyched are you on a scale of one to ten?
It takes place the last week of July and the first weekend in August in Colombia. I’ll probably be as psyched as I can possibly be by then. It’ll be my most exciting sporting experience ever, so I can’t be much more psyched than I am now.
It’s your first World Championship. How are you preparing for it?
We’ve had national team selection camps and training camps pretty much since last autumn but mainly this past spring. I made the first cut when they selected 9 out of 15 people on the team and now I just have to train as much as possible, mostly physical fitness. That’s where the most impact can be made this close to the competition.
What are your strengths as a player?
I’m a good team player because I always cheer the others on, even if things are going bad. I don’t sulk during a match and I’m good at getting others to give that final push. I also cheer my teammates on when things go well. I’m a good goalkeeper, too, one of the very best of all the teams, as well as being physically strong.
What are you aiming for at the World Championships?
Sweden has taken five golds at the last seven World Championships. We aim to win! Norway is a favourite, Colombia has home field advantage and is used to playing at high altitudes. Germany is also in a good position.
What kind of shape are you in?
Very good! Training has gone as I’d hoped it would. Right now it feels like I’m in the shape I expected to be in. There are two more weeks of training, working as hard as I can, and then it will be what it will be. I’ll take a little break the last week before the competitions start.
How do you communicate with your teammates? Do you have a clear tactic beforehand or does it change a lot once you’re in the water? And how are changes communicated?
It’s very important that everyone on the team understands each other well, that we’ve talked a lot during practice so players don’t need to communicate as much during matches. I recognise all the players underwater and I know where to go when a certain person has the ball. I know what that player wants me to do. If you’re not really connecting you can rap your hands underwater and that can be heard everywhere. Then you can find each other and make contact. But mostly it’s all about playing well together and knowing what the others expect.
Underwater rugby is an extremely physical sport, but still one of the few sports where men and women compete on equal terms (but separately at the World Championships). How do you think it affects the sport, mixing men and women on the same team? Do you notice any difference in the team when it’s mixed vs. not mixed?
I think it’s good for the sport. Our team has some girls that are on the regular team (not the national team), including Sweden’s best girl, and she’s with us when we play in the European League. The girls are often weaker physically but extremely well trained fitness wise. The best girls are incredibly good.
Equality is far from a given in other sports. How is it in underwater rugby?
It’s a given that it’s mixed so there is no issue. I’ve never thought about it. All girls don’t play in the European League, but neither do all guys. Everyone has to earn their spot.
What do you think that other sports can learn from underwater rugby, if we only look at it from a gender perspective?
That you shouldn’t have preconceived notions before you try playing together. Once you try playing together you’ll see that different conditions make you good at different things.
How do you manage your day-to-day life?
I try to stick to normal working hours, to not work too much overtime. Then I do some form of training every day. When my wife has some activity planned, I make sure to do my training then so I’m not doing it when we planned to be together. You have to fit together all the pieces of the puzzle.
What are the benefits of combining sport and career?
Being with your team at work and with your sports team is pretty much the same. Especially things that have to do with the people around you. You learn both on the job and the team how people react in different situations and how to respond in the best way possible. You learn how and when people are receptive to feedback and when to try to avoid it. There are many advantageous similarities.
Thank you Peter and good luck in Colombia!