A few days ago I read on social media an email from a university professor to a student athlete who had asked if the professor could possibly change the date of an exam so that the student could compete in a Spanish championship. The professor answered by saying the following, «Sorry, (student’s name). This is the official date of the exam and there are too many students for it to be possible for everyone to pick and choose exam dates. I am very happy about your success, but you will have to choose between the Championship and the subject. You can always do the exam in September. Regards».
It is truly incredible that this continues to happen in Spain, a country where we excel in so many sports at an international level and consequently project a favourable image of our country all over the world- the Spanish brand We are envied abroad for our sporting successes, and when we consider the level of investment received by our sportsmen and women to achieve these results, it is even more admirable.
Unfortunately, many athletes continue to face tremendous difficulties in balancing their personal life and sporting life. Our public institutions should intervene and try to help these athletes have a life beyond sport. Initiatives such as a willingness to change exam dates for those who study. For athletes who work, another measure could be that the government provide financial benefits to companies that employ athletes so that it is in their interest to let them participate in competitions without the athletes having to give up their vacations – for this to happen we have to stop putting obstacles in their way.
But this is not only about exam dates. With the new Bologna plan, where class attendance is compulsory, many athletes cannot combine their sporting life with their education because they compete on the international circuits and their trips prevent them from fulfilling the stipulated attendance. As well as this, it is often difficult for an athlete to keep up with the rhythm of the class which means that they sometimes fall behind and therefore, have difficulty in continuing with their university studies.
Helping sportsmen and women juggle their sporting commitments and their education as well as facilitating their transition at the end of their sporting careers into the workplace, is something that the UCAM excel at. Moreover, this academic institution, especially after the Olympic Games of London 2012, has experienced an amazing growth in both enrollment and recognition.
José Luis Mendoza, president of the UCAM, decided to support athletes, to support the person behind the medals, the records and the international rankings. To do so, he put Pablo Rosique in charge -a tireless worker and a passionate sportsman, like Jose Luis – and surrounded him with an amazing team.
In 2013, when I joined the UCAM family, Pablo told me: «The president wants 50% of the athletes who go to Rio to be from the UCAM». I think they have exceeded their expectations, after winning a very high percentage of the medals in the Spanish Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro.
But what is the secret of the success of the UCAM? For me, the secret is to stick together, to care for the athlete outside of sport, to care for the person, to work to make our lives easier, to always receive us with a smile, to worry about us and our future. In short, being there when the cameras focus on us, but especially when we need someone to help us.