Let’s talk about sports psychology with Janica Järvenpää

I have an amazing opportunity to get an interview with Janica Järvenpää, a licensed psychologist and sports psychology student. She provided a lot of information for everyone how our mind affects us and of course what we can do.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background, how did you end up in the industry?

I’m Janica Järvenpää, a licensed psychologist and exercise and sports psychology student. I am on the road to legalized sports psychologist certificate. I offer mental coaching services for athletes and coaches, as well as sports enthusiasts. I’m happy because I have been able to combine the two subject that I love, sports and psychology. Willingness to help and understand the human mind drove me to read psychology. I worked in psychiatry after graduation, however, I felt the world of sports was strongly attracted to me.

Sports have been part of my life since childhood. I grew up following the life of a professional athlete and tried different sports myself as a child. I played ringette at the SM and national team level. Later, I went through a life crisis of injury and after quitting, and I no longer knew how and what to do. When I rediscovered the spark for movement (my mental well-being improved), I realized that I wanted to combine these two things I love, to help athletes feel better.

It is often thought that sports psychology is for international competitive athletes, but who can benefit from sports psychology?

I would say, everyone! I can, however, be biased. 😉 No, sports psychology is a subject from which everyone can draw something for themselves. It examines human behaviour in an exercise and sports environment, ranging from passive trainers to an Olympic-level athlete. Sports psychology or mental coaching is for anyone who wants to change their own behaviour in the field of exercise, improve their performance, get better understand their activities and find ways to get themselves implemented in the best possible way for the sport they love. Sports psychology is also helpful in getting moving, maintaining motivation, or getting top performance.

A sports psychologist and a mental coach are different in that, in addition to mental coaching, a sports psychologist can participate in the treatment of an athlete’s mental health if problems suggestive of anxiety, depression, and/or eating disorders occur. Or even a substance abuse problem. A mental coach is not trained for this.

The long-held belief in traditional psychology has been that there have to be some “problems” or bad things before one can go on discussing, what is happily starting to change these days. Are there similar beliefs about sports psychology?

Yes. It seems that there is still a little taboo to seek help or support the mental side of exercise. This is understandable, but I find it funny because we humans spend a lot of time and resources on physically functioning our bodies in the best possible way. It is often thought that someone is or is not mentally strong (innate). Mental skills are skills that can be practised whereas running technique or increasing endurance fitness. I’ve also heard that mental skills training, which is seen as a factor for improving the performance, has helped athletes to seek help from deeper psychological dilemmas because it has been a good reason to meet sports psychology. You can get the most help with your performance when you seek mental coaching when you are relatively well. Sooner is better than later, but it’s never too late.

At what point do people usually start seeking a sports psychologist help? Will it be among the last thing?

I am not yet a licensed sports psychologist, and I have not gained enough work experience to be able to answer that. However, we humans tend to seek help often only when we have a problem or the problem has already grown large. This is understandable. The bar for seeking help is often high even then. One can easily downplay one’s own problem. It is thought that you should be able to do it yourself or know everything. You can well apply to a sports psychologist and a mental coach before there is a problem. Together, we can consider, for example, how to prevent problems from arising and develop mental strength.

What are the biggest everyday factors that people can use to affect their training in terms of psychology?

Good question! Automating your training is one big factor. Lest cognitive capacity goes in weighting things (to do or not to do). Goal setting and planning help with automation, as does create routines that support exercise (e.g., regular sleep and food rhythms). Research has found that setting long-term goals helps maintain motivation, while short-term goals help keep the focus on the right things and improve self-confidence when goals are achieved. That is, goal setting is one good mental technique that helps the athlete. It is also important to pay attention to the fact that sport feels fun/nice because then you also want to return to it, even if there is a lot of other competing things to do in everyday life!

How much the mind impact on an athlete’s performance in sports?

The mind has a great impact. Many things start from how well we understand the movements of our minds and how well we can control our thoughts and regulate our emotions. Our minds often feed us “truths” that do not reflect the true truth at all. The mind can produce thoughts about how lazy, bad, or inadequate we are in relation to others. This can easily lower your own motivation to exercise and make it harder to start performing a sport. Even during a sports performance, a lot of thoughts move through our minds that can help or hinder the performance. One of the goals of sports psychology and mental coaching can be to learn to distance oneself from one’s own thoughts so that one is able to pursue activities that are in line with one’s own values.

If someone is interested in sports psychology services, what she/he can do next?

First, you can consider what kind of support or coaching is needed. Make contact with the person you find it suitable for you. For example, on the website of the Psychological Association, you will find a list of people with so-called psychic coaching certificate. This only considers of Finland. Google your own county regulations and association for further information.

Social media and website

Website: www.lupatuulettaa.fi (Finnish)

Instagram: @lupatuulettaa (Informative post in Finnish


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