Researching the Athlete's Culture and Experiences

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       Researching the
     Athlete’s Culture and
The master’s degree programme in                        ow do competitive Finnish swim-     develop alongside that of competitors with-
                                                        mers adjust to the training envi-   out disabilities? What factors make an envi-
sports psychology, coordinated by the                   ronment at a camp in Australia?     ronment motivating for athletes or fitness
University of Jyväskylä’s Department                    And to Australia’s culture?         exercisers?
of Sport Sciences, has received                And is a woman who goes in for judo             Dr Tatiana Ryba, senior lecturer in the
                                             in Greece a cause for wonder? And what         Jyväskylä sports psychology programme,
coveted Erasmus Mundus status.               sort of opportunities do Malaysian Muslim      states that, for sports psychologists, science
                                             women have for exercising? How does the        can actually act as a means of improving
                                             self-esteem of exercisers with disabilities    the world.

  “Internationalization has meant that the sports psychology field also has reason to react sensitively to the impact of cultures,”
  says Dr Tatiana Ryba, senior lecturer in the Jyväskylä sports psychology programme.
  Kwog Ng is in his second year of study in the Jyväskylä programme. The possibility of incorporating a practicum into his
  course of study was a big reason for his desire to study in Finland specifically.

   ”Social impact is an important element               Commission to enhance the attractiveness
of our work,” says the native of Latvia. ”The           of European education globally and pro-

scientific field helps us to understand the             mote intercultural dialogue.
sports and exercise activity of various                    ”Erasmus Mundus is a funding programme
groups, and doesn’t adhere to the stereo-               much sought after and much competed
type of the white male American as a basic
   ”In England, China or Russia, for instance,
                                                        for,” says Prof. Taru Lintunen, international
                                                        programme coordinator at the University
                                                        of Jyväskylä’s Department of Sport Science.
the cultures are different and people pre-
sumably have different experiences with
exercise and sports. Internationalization
                                                        ”Only a few master’s programmes in Europe
                                                        gain admission to it. The European Com-
                                                        mission selects high-quality, pan-European
– the advent of the EU, for example – has
meant that the sports psychology field also
has reason to react sensitively to the impact
                                                        master’s programmes for funding, and those
                                                        programmes are awarded five years of sup-
                                                        port for administrative expenses and for sti-
                                                                                                           in Sports
of cultures.”
   Ryba’s field research project concerns
Finnish swimmers. Greek judoka Anna Ka-
                                                        pends to be given to visiting teachers and
                                                        top students from both Europe and coun-
                                                        tries outside Europe.”
voura is studying Greek judo practitioners.
England’s Kwog Ng, whose family is from                                                                    • Part of Erasmus Mundus
China, is studying sitting volleyball. An In-                      A fine opportunity
dian, Anaurene Roy, is researching exercise                                                                  programme, which guarantees
among Muslim women. Finland’s Heidi Pasi                Ng is in his second year of study in the             students excellent instruction
is studying motivation. Kavoura, Ng and Roy             Jyväskylä programme. His final term will             as international researchers and
are in the master’s programme; Pasi has pro-            come in the spring of 2010, when he will
gressed to doctoral studies.                            study in Trikala, Greece, at the University of       guarantees staff plenty of working
                                                        Thessaly.                                            trips to lecture on the topics of
                                                           Ng represents one of the programme’s              their research at other universities
    A growing field internationally                     exceptional cases, since he has a degree in
                                                        the field of mathematics and statistics, and         in Europe.
In December 2008, the University of Jyväs-              has studied sports science less.
kylä’s Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences                ”My working life has however been in            • Students from Finland, Germany,
signed an agreement whereby students in                 sports and exercise since 2002, the year
the master’s programme can study at, and                I graduated,” the former volleyball com-             Greece, Latvia, South Korea,
receive degrees from, universities in two               petitor says. ”I’ve worked for example as            England, India, Belarus, Estonia,
countries. The agreement was concluded                  a coach and biomechanics expert, and in              Canada and the United States.
with the Department of Psychology at the                various tasks, such as personal trainer, at fit-
University of Lund, Sweden; the Faculty of              ness centres.”                                       In addition to background
Sports Science at the University of Leipzig,               The possibility of incorporating a practi-        studies, the selection of students
Germany; and the Department of Physical                 cum into his master’s programme repre-               emphasizes motivation, as well as
Education and Sport Science at the Uni-                 sented a big reason behind his desire to
versity of Thessaly, Greece. The language of            come specifically to Finland to study sports         work experience or engagement
study is English.                                       psychology.                                          in sports and exercise.
   Because those entering the programme                    ”For me it’s important to get to apply
have already completed a bachelor’s degree              theory and knowledge to practical activity,”
in sports science, psychology or social psy-            he continues. ”It’s good to get to be part of      • The consortium chooses 24 new
chology, their studies leading to the master’s          the ’real world’ while you’re still a student.       students yearly. The students are
degree last about two years. If the degree              If and when you make mistakes, you can               placed at three home universities,
is being completed as a double degree, the              benefit from them in your own learning
student travels to the second university to             process.”                                            i.e. in Jyväskylä, Lund and Trikala.
study for one term.                                        The practicum consists of 240 hours. Ng
   In the summer of 2009, Ryba received the             completed it by teaching children volley-          • The programme is research-
International Society of Sport Psychology’s             ball, and now he’s doing his diploma project
Developing Scholar Award. The honour is                 with the national sitting volleyball team. Sit-      based, so that students acquire
accorded annually to a sports psychology                ting volleyball demands coordination and             a strong research foundation and
researcher for his or her contribution to               strength from the central and upper torso,           can continue for example with
superior research and scientific activity.              and is equally suited to athletes with and
   ”The prize was a great honour to me,                 without disabilities.                                doctoral studies. The practicum,
although I don’t have a lot of time to think               ”It’s also nice in general to get to be part      which provides qualifications for
about it,” she smiles. ”It’s nice that the rec-         of this programme and get to know stu-               sports psychology practice, does
ognition was given this time to a researcher            dents from different parts of the world,” he
who’s at such an early stage. It encourages             continues. ”It creates a forum that will ben-        however constitute a key element
one to study diligently.”                               efit everyone a lot in their future working          of the studies.
                                                        lives, whether as researchers or practical
          Incorporated into                                                                                • In their practicums, the students
     Erasmus Mundus programme                                                                                work, under guidance, with
                                                                                                             athletes or fitness exercisers.
Those working and studying in the master’s
programme had cause to raise their glasses                                                                   For example, they arrange
again in August 2009: the programme was                                                                      interventions and teach
accepted into the Erasmus Mundus pro-                                                                        psychological skills.
gramme, which is funded by the European

M o t i o n   –   S p o r t   i n   F i n l a n d   2 / 2 0 0 9

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