Anni Kirvesniemi-Bosco: Making an impact through mentoring | 24.01.2012
|Anni Kirvesniemi-Bosco of Finland was congratulated by European Athletics
President Hansjorg Wirz and European Athletics Council Member Dr Sylvia
Barlag after being selected to represent all the winners at the European
Athletics Awards Night in Arona. (Photos by Daniel L Cetrulo)
The aim of the biennial award is to recognise the behind the scenes work and accomplishments that have helped to make the winners role models for other women in our sport. Coaching young athletes, officiating, setting up and managing clubs … their achievements are as varied as the individuals themselves.
To celebrate our winners, we’re publishing their stories to show just what makes them true leaders. This week we profile Finland’s Anni Kirvesniemi-Bosco.
Anni Kirvesniemi-Bosco is known as someone who strives to bring something new and valuable to athletics. That drive led her to start a mentoring programme for women athletes, for which she has been given the European Athletics Women’s Leadership Award.
Anni was also honoured by being selected to represent all the national winners of the award at the European Athletics Awards Night, presented by Mondo in Arona, Spain, in 2011.
|Anni Kirvesniemi-Bosco addressing the gathering in Arona.
“She is most proud of being able to make ideas happen – just suggesting them would not be enough and she is very hands-on in the implementation. This is one of the things that makes her a true role model for anyone who aspires to be a sports leader.”
Anni’s determination to start the mentoring programme came about because of the large number of women aged between 16 and 22 who were dropping out of athletics. She began in 2006 and by 2011 the programme had been extended to support female athletes of all ages and to help more women become coaches and take up leadership positions. A cultural change
The effect has been felt throughout Finnish sport: the programme has been adopted by the Finnish Olympic Committee and a number of other federations resulting in measurable change.
The number of adult athletes has increased by 14%. Around 15 former top female athletes have become mentors. Nine women are working as full-time coaches. And three women have become part-time technicians – the first time a woman has taken this role in 103 years!
As a result of the programme national training centres in Finland have mentors to support athletes and to act as personal coaches if needed. There are also gatherings organised by the mentors at the national team training camps during the winter.
Annti Pihlakoski says there has been a cultural shift, too. In the past, at least in athletics, former stars did not naturally continue to use their knowledge and experience within the sport once their career ended.
That is now changing. There is more discussion and acceptance of women’s right to practice sports seriously longer. And all educational materials relating to girls’/women’s coaching have been up-dated by experts.
The success has been recognised by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Sport which awarded funding for the programme not once but, exceptionally, twice.
“There is still much to be done”
Anni’s aim for the future is to see mentoring extended to all levels of athletics in Finland: in her words, “there is still much to be done”.
While she may be best known for the mentoring programme, Anni has been involved with athletics all her adult life, a complement to her career as a Physical Education teacher.
She has been a member of Finnish Athletics’ board and its youth committee, where she helped students face the challenges of combining study and high-performance sport. She also helped start the country’s Sports Academy system and has been a team coach.
Pihlakoski adds: “Anni often says the biggest challenge is to make people see the need for change and development. That is where she excels. We hope that others will follow her lead. ”
Sporting note: Anni is a former sprint hurdler and represented Finland in the Junior National Team in the 100m hurdles in 1972.
For more information on the European Athletics Women’s Leadership Awards click here.
— With special thanks to Liz Wilson.