Professional footballer and MCS ambassador Jan Busuttil on the skills and support student-athletes need to handle the unique challenges they face in their development
Jan Busuttil knows a thing or two about the challenges of balancing academia and sports, having established himself as a professional footballer with Floriana FC and the Malta national team, while also graduating with a BComm in Accounts and Management from the University of Malta.
Now, Busuttil is proud to be an ambassador for the Mediterranean College of Sport, which he describes as a highly professional project which will make a world of difference to the next generation of student-athletes.
“It was always a dream of mine to attend a school like this, but unfortunately nothing like it existed in my time,” Busuttil says. “So I think it’s going to be a great help to its students. Where before, in the schools I attended, we didn’t have access to doctors, sports science experts, physiotherapists, and psychological assistance, these students are going to find all that available to them at MCS, which will be a major benefit for their development.”
Reflecting on his sporting career so far, Busuttil highlights achievements that include playing for the national team, winning the Maltese Premier League and FA Trophy with Floriana FC, as well as individual honours like the award for best under-19 and best under-23 player.
“My goal for the future is to win as much as possible with my club and with the national team,” he says. “We narrowly missed out on promotion in the Nations League this year, but in the years to come, I believe we have a chance.”
However, his journey has not been without its challenges. “I think all student-athletes understand the difficulty of finding the right balance in their life,” he says. “One of the most important skills to develop is time management. At school, I would speak to counsellors to help me divide my time throughout the day, and I would spend a lot of time at the library in breaks and free lessons to finish my homework early and give myself more time to train, eat and sleep well later in the day.”
Busuttil says these time management skills are particularly valuable because, as important as it is for an athlete to always keep themselves in peak physical condition, even more crucial is their mental and psychological well-being.
“You always have to be mentally prepared,” he explains. “A large part of that is ensuring you’re well rested and giving yourself the breaks you need to then be able to give that little bit more when you’re playing, training, or working out in the gym.”
Busuttil believes educational institutions can make a huge difference in how student-athletes cope with the challenges they face. In his university years, he recalls, he found the support of a dedicated student-athlete programme, which helped him navigate issues such as clashes between lectures and training sessions. At post-secondary level, by contrast, he was on his own, having to make personal arrangements with his coaches.
“Schools should give greater consideration to the fact that many students are also athletes and communicate better with these students to help them balance their studies and their training,” he says.
This communication, according to Busuttil, must also be present between the different stakeholders in the student-athlete’s life, from parents to teachers and coaches.
“At the end of the day they all have the same goal, which is the student’s development, learning and improvement. So it’s important for them to talk regularly and keep themselves on the same page to help the student reach their full potential.”
The Mediterranean College of Sport is set to be one of the most pioneering educational and sporting facilities in the Maltese islands, aiming to develop future athletes of international calibre. The co-educational college is set to open its doors to students in September 2024 and will be housed adjacent to St Aloysius College in Birkirkara. For further information please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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