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Ohjaaja ohjaa lasta liikunnassa salissa. Image Jyväskylän Urheiluakatemia

Jyväskylä Sports Academy, in collaboration with the City of Jyväskylä and the region sports clubs, organizes the secondary school camp that mainly targets intermediate school students.
Photo: Finnish Olympic Committee

In Jyväskylä, over the past couple of years, a unique entity has been developed that supports secondary school education and the young athlete's path, and an active lifestyle. The camping model in Jyväskylä, which has been extended to three school weeks a year, arouses interest in education, along with physical activity and sports all over Finland.

Once again, in different parts of Jyväskylä, 750 secondary school students participate in the secondary School Camp week in 25 diverse sports on 21.-24.11. The week's program combines goal-oriented sports coaching, learning content focused on well-being and an active lifestyle, and school work that is different from the usual but still follows the curriculum. The day's routine consists of morning and afternoon exercises from 8 to 11 and 14 to 16. In between, there is time for lunch, lectures, and self-directed study from 11 to 14.

Goal-oriented training based on Jyväskylä's model becomes part of the school day three times a year, one week at a time. We also hope that the arrangements of the camp week provide more time for families to be together, along with variation and relief from the usual evening-focused training of the youth and the training sessions of the parents.

Camping in the hometown increases the possibility of nationally unparalleled network of experts

The secondarySchool Camp, which targets secondaryschool students, is organized by the Jyväskylä Sports Academy in cooperation with the City of Jyväskylä and the region sports clubs. There are three camp weeks. One takes place in the fall semester and two in the spring semester. The four-day camp program includes sports training, general training, and theory teaching in accordance with the Grow into an Athlete (Kasva urheilijaksi) curriculum.

Sports clubs are closely involved in planning the camp program. The camp coaches are club coaches of various sports and coaches from the Jyväskylä Sports Academy.

In addition to physical exercises, the main goal is to teach young athletes essential lessons related to life management, psychological training, and nutrition, along with physical training theories. At the same time, the construction of a unique camping concept in Finland has raised the cooperation between youth and those working in sports to a new level.

- The middle school camp has significantly promoted cooperation and interaction between the school, clubs, and the Academy. Awareness among actors has been raised, and thanks to that, both secondary school camps and other secondary school activities with morning practices run quite smoothly here in Jyväskylä, says Physical Education Teacher, Jari Linjala, who also works in Jyväskylä Sports Academy as a secondary school coordinator.

Jyväskylä's camping model supports growing as an athlete

Furthering an athlete’s dual career from secondary school to the life after a career in top sports is one of the main objectives of the work of the Finnish Olympic Committee with the Jyväskylä Sports Academy in secondary education. To support such a dual career, the Great Day for a Young Athlete scheme set up in Finland is implemented as sports camps for secondary school. Traditionally, such camps have been organized on a sport-specific basis by sports federations in cooperation with sports institutes.

In the camp model launched in Jyväskylä in 2018, athletes can participate in camps in their home cities. The camps are organized in cooperation with the Jyväskylä Sports Academy, the City of Jyväskylä, and sports clubs in the facilities of the City.

What is exceptional about these camps is that all sport-loving pupils in secondary education can sign up. This opens up the possibility for an ever-increasing number of young people to take part as can be seen in the popularity of the camp week. This autumn, there are already 750 young athletes attending, almost one of every five pupils in secondary education in Jyväskylä.

– Sports institutes have long organized secondary school camps in various parts of Finland. As the Capital of Sport, Jyväskylä has all the know-how and facilities needed right where the young participants live. There was a time when we asked ourselves why we wouldn’t organize something similar in Jyväskylä with the Sports Academy as the main driving force. In cooperation between the clubs and the basic education of the City, we are able to organize activities in a cost-effective way as far as the families are concerned and to provide more young people than before with the possibility to participate. Thanks to sports camps, we can also offer conferences and training sessions by top experts to a wider group, says Aki Karjalainen, the director of the Jyväskylä Sports Academy, by way of summing things up.

Mr Karjalainen feels that organizing these camps has significantly contributed to bringing the Academy, the clubs, and the schools together in a valuable effort for the benefit of young people.

– Cooperation in organizing camps has been rewarding. We in the Academy keep getting better at acknowledging not only the sports but also the schools’ demands and at supporting the growth and development of young people via sports too, a pleased Karjalainen tells.

The Olympic Committee too appreciates the development work of the Jyväskylä model. Antti Paananen is Director of Excellence and Environment of the Elite Sports Unit. He is fully aware of the potential of the model.

– The camp model of the Jyväskylä Sports Academy has developed well over the years, and young people attend once again in record numbers. The four-days-a-week sports camps organized three times a year already provide extensive support for an athlete’s development and work well in building a better everyday life on the local level. The model also strengthens cooperation between the Sports Academy and clubs and thus fits nicely in as part of the development of the activities in secondary education.

The number of participants in the camps increases every year

The first secondary School Camp was in 2018, with the participation of 150 sports students from the secondary school level. Soon after, the camp model started where all junior high school students in the Jyväskylä region who play sports can participate. During this time, the clubs have become a significant part of the camp and its activities.

The number of participants at the camp has increased every time. In November 2021, there were more than 400 participants. In April 2022, the number was 600 secondary school students playing sports. 750 students from 25 different sports have already signed up for the camp this year.

In 12 sports or sports groups, exercises of their own sport are organized, such as football, ice hockey, floorball, and cheerleading. On the other hand, about 100 secondary school students participate in the general coaching group, independent of the sport.

Pojat pelaavat salibandya. Image Nikke Tuhkanen

This autumn, 750 young athletes will already participate in the camp. In Jyväskylä, it is almost every fifth secondary school student.
Photo: Nikke Tuhkanen 2021

Jyväskylä, the Capital of Sport, genuinely invests in an athlete’s dual career without ignoring school

The Jyväskylä Sports Academy is one of the main movers in Jyväskylä, the Capital of Sport. Its network comprises 11 educational establishments, around 1,300 athletes, and more than 40 professional coaches. The schools, other educational establishments, and sports clubs in the city engage in close cooperation with the Sports Academy.

In Jyväskylä, young athletes have access to top-level coaching and benefit from the know-how of Finland’s only faculty of sport and health sciences and from the expertise of KIHU, the Finnish Institute of High Performance Sport. The opportunities for schooling and studying as well as the ancillary services needed by young people are taken care of in view of a dual career. The sports camps for secondary school are an ideal example of ways to further dual careers.

Their main emphasis is, naturally, on sport-specific and general training as well as on lessons about growing up into an athlete. At the same time, however, the importance of attending to scholarly duties is also stressed for the young participants. Time has been provided for schoolwork (both homework and contents learned in the course of the week) in camp days. There are two supervised timeslots during the week for tests that cannot be postponed.

Eino Leisimo is Director of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports responsible for basic education in the City of Jyväskylä. He has faith in the camp model developed in Jyväskylä and has also had a hand in developing it.

– We have created in Jyväskylä a unique and functional structure of cooperation and developed an action model as part of the implementation of the strategic Capital of Sports spearhead. I feel that basic education is to be developed in open cooperation with the network. The statutory mission and the compulsory education must be accomplished but we also aim to contribute to the development of a sporting way of life for young people and to acknowledge their individual needs as far as possible in the field of sports as well.

Leisimo welcomes his colleagues to acquaint themselves with the model because Jyväskylä has already found solutions to many practical challenges and obstacles to a sporting way of life.

– The model has been built together with basic education, the Sports Academy, and the sports clubs. We have been able to solve any eventual practical challenges in a constructive way thanks to a coordinated and regular cooperation. The concept is being developed further via the sports programmes of the Sports Academy for example.

Jari Linjala, the secondary education coordinator of the Jyväskylä Sports Academy and a sports teacher at the Viitaniemi secondary school, also sees Jyväskylä as an excellent growth environment for goal-oriented young people who pursue sports.

– Sports and exercise are a strong part of the strategy of the City of Jyväskylä. Thanks to such an emphasis, it is easy and nice to further in schools the future dual careers of athletes in secondary education, Linjala states to summarize the importance of a strong strategy in his own dual work as sports teacher and Academy coordinator.

Pojat pelaavat salibandya. Image Nikke Tuhkanen

The secondary school camp includes 25 different sports, the biggest ones are football, ice hockey, floorball, and cheerleading.
Photo: Nikke Tuhkanen 2021

More information on the Jyväskylä Sports Academy's webpage Yläkoululeiritys