• December 08, 2021

HJK Helsinki - How Valamis Helps Develop People in Sport

This blog is written in cooperation with HJK Helsinki, Finland’s leading football club.

Better Players Through Data

Written by Hans Lahti, HJK Helsinki, Academy Director

At HJK our goal is to improve our development operations and train players and coaches to be better. This goal has remained the same for decades and is probably an objective for many sports societies.

Sport and society operations have taken steps over generations to reach their goal of training coaches and players to be the best by using methods appropriate for learners of each era. More than ever before, the past year has proven that digital solutions were not just a pandemic phenomenon in sports and for young people. Instead, they are the solution to take our operations to the next level.

In football, as with any sport, the most important job is on the pitch. The work must be done correctly, but also at the right time. To enable this, we need data about the athlete's performance level, state of recovery and capacity for practice both on and off the field.

Data tells us a great deal, but only if we can read it correctly. We need well-trained and highly competent coaches who can use research and their own experience to turn the information they receive into knowledge, understanding and finally wisdom to do the right things to promote the success and well-being of athletes. By sharing this knowledge and understanding, we can also achieve better mutual understanding and deeper cooperation on all levels of operation.

Collected and processed data helps individuals

It is important that children and young people understand their physical stress levels as well as their mental agility. Data is an excellent tool for this. In its simplicity, players and coaches should have long-term information on what has been done and how much. The important part is to understand how it has affected the current performance level and to know the current level of mental agility. This information can then be used to create the right kind of exercise that produces the stimulus needed to achieve next performance levels.

It is also important to monitor absences and injuries. If several players exhibit a similar, non-contact related injury, the potential root causes should be reviewed more carefully. Players and their parents should then be given the necessary information for preventing injuries during private exercise.

From the perspective of an individual player, valuable data also includes comparisons of their current performance level with that of the goal levels of other players of similar age or skill level. It is good for a player to see at what stage of their journey they are on and what direction they should take to reach their next goal level.

To transform this fragmented data into a resource, we needed a centralised location, method and – first and foremost – the competence to collect, store and analyse the information received. Sports for children and young people have taken great steps forward in collecting and analysing data, but plenty more remains to be done. Ensuring coaches competence is one of the key components in development of the data.

HJK has a long history of tracking the development of players and coaches. HJK began working together with Valamis, a digital learning solution provider, to deliver a clear coaching strategy and personal development paths for the HJK coaches. This allows coaches easy access to the training materials and enables them to develop their competences any time or place either independently or with guidance.

HJK coach is cheering the children.

Competent and motivated coaches are a prerequisite for sports society operations

Written by: Timo Muurinen, HJK Helsinki, Executive Director

HJK is a large Finnish sports organisation with many employees, of which nearly 350 are football coaches.

As a major employer, we ask the same questions as many companies in any industry. How can we look after our top talents? How can we remain an attractive employer for new professionals?

However, as a sports club, we are different from many other organisations because of our size. Many of our coaches consider this work their passion. Football and coaching are not just part of their life during office hours. Instead, football is also central in their leisure time and family life. Practices and matches take place every day of the week, at almost all hours, across the whole country.

As a club, we want to provide children and young people a place where they can enjoy their interests and chase after their dreams. We would not be able to do this without our highly competent and motivated coaches.

As an employer, one of our greatest challenges is to figure out how to maintain motivation of our top talent. How can we continuously keep offering further training for those with a passion for evolving? How can we facilitate learning in a way that takes into consideration the learners’ changing daily rhythms and locations? In the middle of all this, how can we maintain team spirit, which is so central to our sport?

The selection of tools to accomplish our goals must be wide and varied. The most recent method introduced by the club is the partnership with the Valamis learning environment, which began during the pandemic. The digital learning environment allows the club coaches to work on their customised training paths at a time that best suits them. The training courses can fit into one’s daily schedule as desired, regardless of location. The responsibility for developing competencies needed in coaching assignments naturally lies with the sports club itself, but each coach is also responsible for developing their own professional competencies and keeping them up to date. We are happy to be able to provide the tools needed for this.

The first digital steps have been taken for systematic coaching competence development. I look forward to seeing what further opportunities await us as our partnership with Valamis continues.

HJK coach is cheering the players.

Strengthening the community remotely

Written by: Emma Järvinen, Head of Coaching, HJK Helsinki

One of the central duties of HJK is to provide its community members with a sense of meaning and belonging. We want to be a community where everyone can feel at home, find likeminded colleagues and even make friends.

The nearly 350 coaches employed by HJK represent the different areas of coaching. There are city district coaches, academy coaches, challenge team coaches, physical coaches, and the list goes on. Coaches just starting in their careers learn the basics of coaching in Valmentaja-Akatemia, while more experienced coaches receive training through UEFA’s highest-level courses. While one coach is thinking about how to help a six-year-old develop their basic skills, another may be helping with the stress levels of an 18-year-old national team player.

Despite these different everyday challenges, or maybe thanks to them, our coaches form an invaluable peer network. Working together creates a sense of meaning for a coach and gives them positive experiences. The sense of being part of a community can be motivating.

The experienced sense of community also corresponds directly with the coaches’ learning results. Before the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the day-to-day life of coaches consisted of various in-person training events and informal meetings. At their best, these encounters led to great conversations and offered peer support, inspiration and new social relationships. These encounters reminded us of the fact that we are all, ultimately, working with the same themes and questions for the same goals.

Multi-channel approach adds more options

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we moved our coach training operations to a digital learning environment with Valamis. The significance of this platform will not diminish despite the gradual return to the world of face-to-face training and meetings. To ensure optimal learning results, clear roles and goals must be set for both face-to-face and remote training events and interactions. They both have their place.;

In-person encounters still offer that warmth and sincerity that many of us have missed during the pandemic. The digital environment built in Valamis, on the other hand, is the backbone of everything, almost like a home base for us. It features the club’s coaching strategy and all training courses.

We determine our shared rules, language and goals through this home base. It is always safe to return there to find out more information and to bounce ideas back and forth with other coaches. In fact, facilitating dialogue between coaches who may never even see each other on the side of the field is one of our major trump cards.

We will return to field training with shouts of joy, but will continue to develop our online learning environment with just as much enthusiasm. Together, these allow us to offer even more to our coaches. The plan is that our volunteer workers will also soon be able to enjoy our new training practices.

Read the Case Story.

About The Author

Emma Järvinen

Emma Järvinen

Head of Coaching, HJK Helsinki

About The Author

Hans Lahti

Hans Lahti

Academy director, HJK Helsinki

About The Author

Timo Muurinen

Timo Muurinen

Executive Director, HJK Helsinki

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