South-Karelia Sport Academy, called EKLU, is a regional sports organization in Finland operating in four main areas: adult fitness, club development, youth sports development, and sports academy activities. Elina Sinisalo serves as the coordinator of EKLU's sports academy, highlighting the collaboration between clubs and the academy, the network of the Finnish Olympic Committee with academies, and the utilization of Qridi Sport in EKLU's operations.
EKLU works extensively for the benefit of its region. Coordinator Elina Sinisalo emphasizes the strong connection with local clubs and the natural collaboration that arises when clubs are members of the regional organization. Collaboration with clubs is therefore essential to EKLU's operations, especially in sports academy activities, as the region does not have its own training center.
Elina Sinisalo's daily tasks include facilitating the smooth running of everyday affairs, managing facility bookings, supporting coaches, and engaging in dual career and networking activities. In sports academy operations, promoting the athlete pathway with quality courses and content is also crucial. The academic year serves as a rhythm for activities: for example, there is a lot of momentum in August-September as operations kick off, followed by a review of the previous academic year in spring and preparation for the next.
Coordinator Elina Sinisalo shares her journey to the EKLU regional organization: "In fact, this year marks my ten-year anniversary with EKLU. I initially studied sports science in Jyväskylä and graduated in 2009. Then, I came to Southern Karelia to play floorball. After living here for a few years, I applied for a job in my field. That's how I ended up at the EKLU regional organization." This job has provided her with the opportunity to influence the region's sports and fitness activities extensively.
Sinisalo explains that the collaboration with academies is well-directed from the Finnish Olympic Committee. Guidelines, objectives, and criterias for operations originate from there. The role of academies is to implement these directives into their daily routines. This is natural because locally, people are best informed about how activities can be carried out effectively. Regular meetings according to the annual calendar, with academies, the Olympic Committee, and sports federation representatives, support these efforts. Sinisalo describes this as a beneficial structure for national networking.
A key aspect of the collaboration between the Finnish Olympic Committee and academies is the implementation of high-quality 'Grow and Develop into an Elite Athlete' content for athletes. In EKLU, Qridi Sport service has been utilized to advance this initiative. Sinisalo views Qridi Sport as a valuable tool because it enables the practical application of these comprehensive athlete-centered themes. Sinisalo elaborates, "We have structured our themes around the 'Grow and Develop into an Elite Athlete' material, focusing on life management skills, dual career considerations, psychological abilities, and now we're moving towards physical training and sports analysis themes. In spring, we'll cover nutrition, athlete branding, and social media communication."
The 'Develop into an Elite Athlete' course for secondary education is where Qridi Sport has particularly served as a learning platform. EKLU has utilized the surveys available in Qridi Sport or created content from the Finnish Olympic Committee's 'Grow and Develop into an Elite Athlete' material. In practice, at EKLU, this has been implemented by providing an introduction to the topic according to high school periods, followed by independent tasks for athletes.
As the discussion shifts towards development opportunities, Sinisalo further emphasizes network-oriented activities. Through collaboration and efficient resource sharing, young athletes can be supported in the best possible way, as Sinisalo articulates: "Resources are probably not increasing significantly from any aspect, not from the state, municipalities, or even families' budgets, so it's important to find and strengthen common practices where existing resources can be utilized most effectively through shared discussion and insight."
Sinisalo shares an example of network-oriented approach in career guidance. "For instance, in career guidance, it would be advisable to collaborate between schools and sports academies, avoiding overlapping work. It's important to make people understand that we are all working towards the same goal and striving to promote common visions among athletes, each in our own role." Sinisalo's perspective is encouraging as it focuses on improving practices with existing skills and resources.
Elina Sinisalo finds her successes in athletes achieving their goals, coaches receiving necessary support, and coaching processes evolving. However, she emphasizes that it's equally important for athletes to gain valuable life skills through sports, not solely measured by competitive success. "Successful athlete stories are important, but I don't believe success in competition is the only measure or even the sole pursuit. I firmly believe that along the way, learning occurs, and young people gain valuable life skills through sports," Sinisalo aptly summarizes.
Sinisalo's insights highlight EKLU's diverse activities, close collaboration with clubs, and a clear vision for developing operations, leveraging digital tools as well.
Photos: Essi Kultanen
Interviewer: Toni Eskola
For more information about the sports academy EKLU's activities, you can visit their website: EKLU - South Karelia Sports Academy (in English)