High-performance centres in Spain have always been a hot topic of conversation in sporting circles, especially when the Olympic games approach. Pages and pages of words have been written and many hours of conversation dedicated to this subject by many people who have opinions but who have never actually lived inside one of these amazing centres.
This week, focusing on this theme, I’d like to introduce you to one of the largest of these centres, along with José Ramón Díaz-Flor, director of La Blume, and a figure that is very familiar to many of the athletes who have lived in La Blume in Madrid – Ángel Vico.
Vico has spent his entire life – more than thirty-five years in La Blume – at the service of sportsman. Through his office have passed many people in the recent history of Spanish sport – from the Olympic multi medallist Lydia Valentín to Carolina Marín. His office is always open to athletes for them to get advice, have a laugh and at times, to be given a wake-up call when necessary. He and José Ramón make a great team and are both loved and respected by all athletes.
Talking about the role they play in the daily life of sportsmen, Vico mentions several of them, some extremely successful athletes who entered the residence at a very early age, highlighting the importance of the emotional element in competitive sport. On the one hand, they emphasise that the family is able to understand the sheer effort that an athlete must make, the sacrifice involved at a physical and psychological level to compete at a high level and the difficulty of high performance sports in order to be able to support him in difficult times from a distance. On the other hand, La Blume makes it a priority to promote a good, friendly relationship between the workers of the residence – receptionists, cleaners, office workers- and the athletes. The directors of the centre do everything to understand the individual personal circumstances of each athlete so as to help them in their sporting life and their personal life. In the final years at the centre, athletes try to combine their sporting ambitions along with formal education. The centre strives to ensure that every student athlete will have an opportunity to have a fulfilling job at the end of their sporting career. Indeed, the centre even has a secondary school to help the athletes achieve this.
In high level sport another important element are political and sporting institutions – the CSD, national federations, committees etc , and also the mass media. The media is especially important in situations that may generate controversy or when major competitions are approaching. La Blume tries to handle the media during these times therefore allowing the athlete to concentrate on his performance rather than being harangued. La Blume effectively frees the athletes from these stressful situations which can be harmful to his training.
In my opinion, life in a high performance centre – I received a scholarship for three seasons – is something routine. It could be sometimes hard psychologically. Talking with Vico on the subject, we believe that the management of these centres should always be in the hands of people who have a direct relationship with high level sport and there must always be a separation of sport and politics. Because only someone who has been involved in this world understands the complexity of an athlete’s life and this understanding is something vital to properly manage a high performance centre. Vico concludes that, for him, the secret of success is that all workers in these centres are willing to sacrifice even their family and personal life to help athletes. This show of dedication by the staff conveys to the athlete that they are being supported every step of the way. That they are not alone on this journey. This is what truly make them feel at home.