In the elite sport theme week this year, our guest is Petteri Jouste, an alumnus of the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences. He has worked as a professional sprint coach for over thirty years. Jouste has been chosen twice as the Coach of the Year in Central Finland.

Originally from Oulu, Jouste was active in a range of sports already as a child. The activities within the group of friends were a spontaneous and largely self-constructed a mix of play and sport. As a young man, Jouste was a talented sprinter and coached by Esa Pieniniemi. His interest in professional coaching was kindled and inspired by Pieniniemi’s participatory approach to coaching:

“Under Esa’s supervision, I got a chance to make my own strength training programmes, for example.”

Nowadays, Jouste is working in the Finnish Athletics Federation (SUL) as a coach for sprinters of 100, 200 and 400 metres. In addition, his personal coaching team includes seven athletes: Nooralotta Neziri and Julia Enarvi (hurdles) and sprinters Anniina Kortetmaa, Aino Pulkkinen, Oskari Lehtonen, Sara Francis, and Maria Räsänen. Jouste started his coaching career in 1986. One of the first athletes he coached was sprinter Sisko Hanhijoki (nee Markkanen).

Jouste ended up in coaching through a four-month basic course for sport instructors. During the course, he realized this field appealed to his thinking. In 1983, on his fourth attempt, he was finally accepted to the sport coaching programme in the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä- Jouste has stayed on the same path ever since:

“My career is exceptional in Finland in the sense that I have had a chance to work as a professional coach throughout my working life.”

Petteri finds that the most important outcome of higher education studies is the adoption of scientific and critical thinking: “The university gave me a sound basis for professional and analytical thinking. The sport-specific skills I had to acquire in practice. The courses provided by SUL have taught me a lot about the application of skills and knowledge.”

From his study years, Jouste recalls the charismatic coaching virtuoso and University Teacher Carmelo Bosco, who was famous for his lively lectures where piles of transparencies tended to fall across tables, but the subject matter retained a sharp focus.

For any coach looking to keep themselves up to date, the value of continuous learning is self-evident: “I have educated myself all the time and also attended also training abroad. That’s what coaching is about: continuous learning.”

Jouste regrets that there was so little sport psychology in his coaching studies, when in practice the need for it is great. Coaching is education and teaching, above all, and a coach must understand human development and ways of learning. “This is why,” he explains, “I had approbatur studies in education as my minor.

“Errors and mistakes are OK; we all make those. Look at your mistakes, acknowledge them, learn and change your behaviour. It’s no use to keep stubbornly repeating the same mistakes. Coaching work is strongly based on interaction, you must be able to adjust and apply.”

Jouste sees the biggest current challenge to Finnish coaching as coaches’ lack of time. “At the highest level, coaching is a full-time job and the best achieving athletes are professionals who demand a lot from their coaches. Now most coaches have to work first in a day job and coaching is pursued as a side job in the evenings.” continues: “Working at the top level calls for time and dedication. Fortunately, we have top teams and experts in support of coaches – on the other hand, it increases the need for time spent on coordination. Somebody has to manage the whole set and ensure that it serves the top athlete in the best possible way. It is the main duty of a coach.”

“Believe what you see – not what you would like to see.”

Get latest articles from The University of Jyväskylä’s stakeholder magazine into your email. You can cancel your subscription at any time.