Welcome to my page. I am Noora Ronkainen (MTh, MSc, PhD) and I hope to be part of your explorations – personal or academic – of meaningful sport. I believe that we all share the basic human quality of asking questions about the meaning of our lives and life projects. This page is dedicated to these questions in the sport context.
While work is what we have to do, sport and physical activity is what we choose to do. Through my research I have explored what makes it worthwhile to commit ourselves to life projects in sport and hope that sharing these findings can inspire you and others to find more meaningful ways of engaging in sport. Or find out that you find more meaning in other life projects. That is fine, too.
I studied Master’s degrees in theology and sport sciences in Finland before completing my PhD thesis titled ‘An Existential-narrative Perspective on Career, Identity and Spirituality in Sport’ in Denmark. I’ve since held researcher positions at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Liverpool John Moores University, and University of Jyväskylä. Over 120 sport participants, from amateur to elite levels and from youth to Masters athletes, have shared their stories about the meaning and value of sport in their lives in my research.
Meaningful sport is not, and could not be, simply an academic exercise for me. I became a serious runner as an exchange student in Prague in 2007 and have written about those runs by the river Vltava that I experienced as a form of ‘everyday spirituality’ (see resources). Running, especially on fells and trails, is my way of connecting with the world. I’ve experienced highs and lows of a runner’s life from winning the Finnish university student championship in marathon running to suffering stress fractures. The fragility of my running body has led me to search for other forms of movement and in the past years I’ve increasingly moved to practising muay thai while never abandoning running. I have also been spotted mountain biking, hiking, practising shaolin kung fu, and doing unorthodox parkour. I compete in some sports, sometimes, but ultimately I am doing these activities for their own sake.
I have published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and co-authored the book Meaning and Spirituality in Sport and Exercise: Psychological Perspectives with Dr Mark Nesti. You can find out more about my research at the Projects page.
In addition to researching, writing, drinking coffee and experimenting with meaning in sports and movement culture practices, I co-host the physical activity researcher podcast (paresearcher.podbean.com).