The UCAM is one of the few universities in Europe that works with elite athletes, offering them the chance to compete and learn at the same time. Based on a philosophy similar to the American method, where education and sport are combined, its programme is proving to be very successful as there are already more than 90 Olympic athletes studying there.
Sport, whether professional or not, has been negatively affected by the economic crisis. We are not referring to football, which is a different case, but to athletes who work very hard each day at sports that are not regularly in the media. These athletes have suffered the consequences of the disappearance of the few sponsors that used to exist and, in spite of competing with the elite, they need an alternative plan when their sporting careers end.
This system is in line with the PROAD, a programme set out by the Higher Council of Sports – the body governing Spanish sport -, that seeks to enable athletes to study and compete at the same time. This is not an easy task in Spain, since the universities, in general, do not adapt to this type of student. What is more, they require students to attend classes in person.
There is one exception in Spain and possibly in Europe: the UCAM. The Catholic University of Murcia is based on the American model that combines education and sport; successful formula on the other side of the Atlantic, which requires athletes to study if they want to compete.
The UCAM introduced this model a decade or so ago. After verifying the benefits of attracting elite Spanish athletes, the result is that there are almost 90 Olympians studying there today. “We see the university as a non-profit organization, which it is. At the beginning we simply wanted to help athletes, but it has now also become a fundamental brand image element for the UCAM“, commented Paul Rosique, President of the university, to El Confidential.
Obviously, all this investment in sponsorship and support for athletes comes at a high cost, but the UCAM has its own way of funding its activities: “Each club is managed in a different way. For example, the basketball team has its own sponsors, money from ticket sales, companies supporting it… The football team has about 60 sponsors… Then, the rest is contributed by the UCAM. In the case of individual athletes, the money comes from what the university generates itself and it chooses to invest in them“.
Two of the latest athletes that have joined the UCAM are Javier Fernández and Carolina Marín; the latter is one of our athletes who supported the International Campaign for the Proclamation of a Youth Employment Decade. Both shared a desk at the Blumé Residence years ago and are now back together thanks to their studies.
They are fully aware that their sporting life has a limit and that one day they are going to have to join the labour market. The two times world Badminton champion wants to study physiotherapy and the skater, Javier Fernández, prefers Business Administration. Two more examples of the hundreds of athletes who want to train and compete in a context of high youth unemployment rates around the world.