Professionals In The Making

In our school we have students that while studying are competing around the world in their own sports. Ginevra and Giulia who ski, Filippo a footballer and myself Gianluca a tennis player are examples of students that for many years have entered a sports adventure competing in Italy and overseas. These students, including myself, love the sport in which they compete, but often they need to sacrifice a lot to achieve the results they want. In this brief extract I will talk about Filippo in particular and myself, and our approach towards our sport.

What type of person do you need to be to carry out this type of activity?

ME: To carry out a sport at high level and still attend such a difficult school as ours is, is a very difficult thing to do. The main characteristics that a person needs to have are: organisation, a positive attitude at all times, self-esteem, a challenging spirit and relaxed (or not overstressed) mentality. I think these are the key characteristics that people such as us need to have in order to succeed in both our sport and studies.

FILIPPO: I think that in order to succeed, in carrying out a life where you do both sport and academics at a very high level, you need to be a person that has always the hunger to do better and is always keen on giving 110%, meaning that if you have to stay 15 minutes more at home to study, you need to be able to accept this and carry on. You need to be very disciplined and self-motivated.  You need to be able to sacrifice your social life at times and find the right balance between studies, sport and friends. Sleep is also a very important aspect for the life of a sportsman and student, therefore, you have to sleep the right amount of time. Lastly, the most important thing you have to have, is the passion and if you have that half of the job is done, because you will do everything with the joy and happiness that will make you succeed.

What are the main difficulties you face combining sport to school?

ME: The main difficulties I find are succeeding in both things and obtaining good results both in sport and school. The difficult part of doing this, is organising your time perfectly, in order to be outstanding in both activities. You also need to be mentally flexible, in order to shift your attention to one of the two activities, when more sacrifice is needed for it. It is also difficult to keep a relaxed mindset and avoid any type of stress, since results are so important to be achieved both at school and in my sport. To be relaxed you need to be organised and when you achieve this state you can then produce the 150% of your potential. This is difficult to achieve in particular during exam periods.

FILIPPO: Since I was 4 years old I had to combine school and sport. I’ve always played professional football, which has always been my passion. However, it is important to not underestimate the value of school and try to always achieve the best possible outcome in both areas. It is now my first year doing the IB Diploma and it requires a lot of study and energy. The main difficulty I face is to find the right balance between school, sport and free time, which is also very important to staying healthy and motivated.

What sacrifices do you make?

ME: Eating a couple of sandwiches on the bus, instead of eating at home at the table. Training every day, sacrificing sometimes your free time with your friends. Accepting a full life where pauses are very rare. Having weekends where you go to compete, rather than relaxing. These are all little sacrifices I make everyday, but this doesn’t mean that carrying out a sport at these levels is a torture! I love to go training to become better in what I do. I love competing during weekends and I also love the taste of the sandwiches that my mom prepares! Although, I love going out with my friends too and having a “chill-out” day once in a while. Also, carrying out these two activities at the same time, requires you to predict the future and understand how intense the upcoming period will be. For example, you know that you will have many tests in the following month and you will miss a week of school for a competition, and therefore you try to get ahead in the programme.

FILIPPO: Since I joined the “world” of football I knew I had to make many sacrifices that wouldn’t make me happy, but that in the long run would have brought many benefits. Especially now, I feel that my main sacrifice is that I’m not spending time playing or going out with friends, while all my other peers are having fun; due to the fact that I need to catch up on the hours of study that I missed while I was training.

A lot of times, friends call me or invite me to go out with them or spend the weekend in the mountains, but I always have to refuse the invitation because I either have a match, or need to do my homework and stay ahead of the programme because you never know when there will be a tournament and you will skip a week of school.

Is it difficult for you to keep your enthusiasm up while doing your sport or is it easy?

ME: Personally, I don’t see this as a big problem. I love the sport I practice and I love the feeling of working to become better at it. This becomes difficult maybe when things aren’t going well. For example, when you start to lose two or three matches in a row your self-esteem drops and there you need to be good to find the enthusiasm and new challenges again. Although, one thing I hate, which lowers my enthusiasm, is having  to still do homework in the evening after training!

FILIPPO: In my case it is not a problem to keep my enthusiasm up while doing sports, because it was my choice to do so and I’m focused on reaching the goal I set myself. Therefore, I look forward to every training session and try to give the best every time I’m on the pitch. However, I know that it is difficult to succeed in this field, therefore I must not forget about the academic aspect and I try my best to balance both of them, because I always tell myself that a healthy brain must stay in a healthy body. “Mens sana in corporem sano”

How do you motivate and find new challenges every day in your sport?

ME: I think that creating new challenges every day is very important for myself. To encourage my improvement every time I go to school or to tennis, I set short-term challenges and long-term ones. My coach and I, for example, usually create half and end of the year objectives and aims, but then we also create improvements I need to make in a month, if not in a week. I think it is also important to give yourself daily challenges, which I set for myself. These could be even: “Relax and don’t think about anything for all the day”!

FILIPPO: I find it relatively easy to motivate myself, especially because I’m a type of person that always wants to get better at something, because I think that you can always improve in certain areas, until you become unerring, and still then you can move on and improve in other areas. This applies to both school and sport, because I set myself the target to succeed in both. The reason for this is that if I, for some reason, fail in one, I can always have the other one as back up that supports me. Another reason, is that my mom is making a lot of sacrifices for me to be in the best environment possible, both for football and for school, therefore I think that the least I could do to show her respect is to give my best every time I play and every time I study,  to show her that what she is doing is not vain.