Global challenges and future events in focus in the International Winter School in Sport Sciences

The International Winter School in Sport Sciences was arranged for the fifth time by the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä during 11-22 January 2016.


The International Winter School in Sport Sciences was arranged for the fifth time by the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä during 11-22 January 2016. The programme was organised by Dr Hanna Vehmas and Dr Anna-Katriina Salmikangas from the Department of Sport Sciences together with the International Coordinator Maria Kotiranta from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences. This Winter School was offered completely in English and it gathered around 40 university students from altogether 14 different countries to learn and discuss the current issues in international sport management and sport marketing. The furthest students arrived from Australia, China, Oman and Ethiopia!
The Winter School consisted of three study modules: International Perspectives to Organisation and Management of Sport, Sport Marketing and Winter Sports. The last mentioned course included practical winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding and skating. The students also had the opportunity to follow an ice-hockey game as the local team JYP Jyväskylä had a match against HPK Hämeenlinna on January 20.
During the first week of the Winter School, the students compared organization and management of sport in countries which they represented. “Countries that seem quite different like e.g. Germany and Oman are in some ways dealing with similar problems concerning sport organisation and participation. On the other hand, not all European countries are the same. There are quite many differences in for example Spain, Germany and Finland that I was not aware of before” as one of the students wrote in her learning log.
For their final group work, the students chose two important topics which they wanted to promote internationally. One of them concerned the influx of millions of refugees to EU countries and the other one children’s obesity. According to the students’ proposals, refugees need to have access to local sport clubs so that the integration through sports participation can take place. This makes it possible to tackle the problem of multicultural segregation within refugee populations in EU member states and to reduce public pressure to expel refugees form those member states.
The students who chose to examine childhood obesity came to the conclusion that obesity and overweight among children is a major problem not only in Europe but all over the world. With all the technology around, junk food, and entertainment that kids can get by just by sitting down, is influencing the contemporary lifestyle to a great deal and leads to a situation where an increasing amount of kids are not being physical active and are thereby becoming overweight and obese.
The second week of the Winter School dealt with Sport Marketing. Students were introduced to the concepts and theory of sport marketing, branding, sport sponsorship, climate change and tourism, which were discussed and applied to specific cases, with a particular focus on the activities of the local Ski Resort Laajis. During the second week the Winter School also gained a lot of media attention as the local newspaper and TV and radio broadcasting companies were reporting about the activities.
The Winter School highlighted the centenary of Finland’s independence in 2017, which will be Finland’s BIG year also in sports.  Finnish Sport Confederation (Valo) and the Finnish Olympic Committee work together as partners with the Finland 100 organisation. The three main themes of this collaboration are ”A dream year” of physical activity, “Sport SUPER YEAR” and the “Excellence – project” (culture, science, sport). Among other things, the expected results of the Dream year aim at increased physical activity of three million Finns, in practice so that children would be physically active 2-3 hours per day and youth and adults at least one hour per day.
Finland will host many major international sport events during the Sport SUPER YEAR. These events include Lahti FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, Figure Skating World Championships, World Championships in Aesthetic Group Gymnastics, as well as Junior World Championships in orienteering and speed skating. All these events need volunteers. The challenge is to keep volunteers motivated to continue volunteering in sport events but also in the activities of sport clubs. One important matter is to have sufficient training for the volunteers on various issues, such as cultural differences, dealing with stressful situations and thinking by themselves.

International Students’ comments about the Winter School:

“I can say that I got very useful and interesting information during this class and I am glad I got a chance to be part of it”

“The opportunity to participate in the Winter School at Jyvaskyla University is something that was not only the chance of a lifetime but also something that was simply an amazing experience. The theory sessions throughout both weeks including sports and volunteer management, international sports events along with marketing and tourism, were subjects that gave a unique insight that we would not normally receive back in Australia. The group work and assignments also offered a varied perception of these topics and allowed a better understanding.”

As with most sports subjects- the physical sessions were definitely a crowd pleaser! By learning the basics and participating in winter sports such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and skating- again we were able to learn more about the history of the sports, the practical methods in each sport and of course try to show off our new skills. My favourite was ice hockey and enjoyed playing the game but also the chance to go to a real life match to watch the professionals at work”.                      

“The two weeks went far too fast and I enjoyed every minute of them, and that includes the -30 degree temperatures! A big thank you to all of our lecturers, guest speakers and tutors is a must along with Laajis and the staff there that allowed a truly memorable course to take place. Jyvaskyla have no doubt- I will be back!”


The text is written by Hanna Vehmas & Anna-Katriina Salmikangas & Maria Kotiranta.