(By Eloy Jorge/Alba Barrionuevo).- Mireia Belmonte, Ona Carbonell and Gervasio Deferr. These three Catalan athletes all have in common the fact that they started their careers by entering a High Performance Centre and improving their preparation, specifically in the High Performance Centre in Sant Cugat del Vallès, el CAR, where nearly 1,000 young sports men and women train every day. But there is a first step before entering the CAR and achieving internationalisation.
This is the main objective of the ‘Joaquim Blume’ residence, one of the six Sports Technification Centres currently located in Catalonia. This multidisciplinary centre, apart from making athlete technification easier, also teaches them how to combine their sporting life with an academic education.
The procedure for entering these types of centres is through the Federations and the government. The sportsperson must be part of a Federation in order to represent their country internationally. The test for entering the CAR or the Blume Technification Centre is the projection of the athlete: if there are good results and international projection is possible, the Federation makes a proposal to the government with the objective that the athlete can enjoy the services of the centres and achieve the sporting goal that both federation and government have agreed upon.
As CAR’s director Joan Fontserè explains, “once inside the centre, exams are constant. The sporting programme is usually done for four years and from here the athlete has to keep consolidating his own objectives”. In contrast to these four-year programmes offered by the CAR, athletes are accepted at the ‘Joaquim Blume’ Residence for one year. “They have to earn their place year in year out”, explains Manuel Deiros, the residence co-ordinator. And this basically depends on their sporting results, but also on their academic results.
‘Joaquim Blume’ Residence, the Sports Technification Centre
Those young athletes who could have a future in the sports world have the possibility to go to a Sports Technification Centre, basically to improve their performance. In Catalonia there are six of these centres, and the greater part of them are specialised in one sport such as canoeing or cycling. Created in 1990, the ‘Joaquim Blume’ residence is the only centre which is multidisciplinary. This residence located in Esplugues de Llobregat, to the west of Barcelona, offers scholarships and training facilities for ten different sports: modern pentathlon, athletics, women’s basketball, athletics for blind people, ice skating, golf, handball, synchronised swimming, athletics for people with cerebral palsy and volleyball.
Centres like this residence or the CAR exist in Catalonia because they are part of the High Performance and Federated Sport of the Catalan Sports Council, co-ordinated by the Catalan Government. Nowadays, the ‘Joaquim Blume’ residence has 153 young sportspeople using its facilities. Most of them are women and “that’s because basketball and synchronised swimming modules are only offered for girls”, explains Manuel Deiros.
The young sportsmen and women have at least three coaches and different facilities such as health monitoring and psychology in order to achieve their objectives. But the residence work is not only focussed on results, but also on teaching the young residents how to take care of their health. For example, the psychology service organises food workshops to improve athletes’ diets. “We teach them that when they arrive starving to the dining room, they can’t eat a double plate of spaghetti”, exemplified the co-ordinator Deiros.
The last step: the High Performance Centre (CAR)
Once the young athletes have achieved their goals, they go from the second division to the Champions League of the High Performance Centres in Catalonia: the CAR. Having an international trajectory is the main requisite for entering the CAR. This High Performance Centre, located in Sant Cugat del Vallés, reunites top-class athletes from Spain and all around the world.
As Joan Fontserè, CAR’s director, explains “the CAR is the tool that federations and government have in order to give internationality to the sportspeople of the country”. In a system where clubs make up the junior sections and federations are in charge of the technification centres, it is in the CAR where sports programmes are designed with the purpose of searching for the internationality of the athletes. “CAR is a tool of integral formation”, says Fontserè.
There are different ways of doing things at the CAR: an athlete can enter this High Performance Centre through different scholarships depending on his or her level of excellence, the distance from their home and their need of the service. The first group is made up of sportspeople who live in the centre. Close to 180 people live in the CAR. Sportspeople who need a lot of attention, that are living far from home or achieve the best results when they are at the centre, form this first group. There is also another regime formed by nearly 400 people that have just one difference with the former group: the athletes go home to sleep.
There are three more types of scholarships. Some sportspeople go to the CAR just to train or use the sports facilities. Others go in order to use some of the services, such as the nutritionist or the psychologist. The last group uses the CAR just as a high school.
The CAR is a pioneer institution in Europe. The inclusion of a school inside a High Performance Centre was new around the world. Fontserè says that “it is essential that athletes don’t waste their time going from one place to another, for this reason it is important to have a school inside the centre”…