It doesn't matter how great your natural athletic talent is – without effort and careful coaching it is unlikely to transform into anything exceptional. The people at the Vasil Levski National Sports Academy know this well. Established in 1942 by King Boris III as a school to train physical education teachers, over the years this institution has turned into a centre of excellence in the field of sports education for Bulgarians and foreigners alike.
The great strength of the National Sports Academy is the training of coaches, the foundation for the incredible achievements of Bulgarian athletes over the years. However, the academy also offers a wide range of educational opportunities in BA, MA and PhD programmes, from physiotherapy to sports journalism to sports animation in tourism.
In 2012, the academy celebrates its 70th anniversary with a new Rector, Associate Professor Pencho Geshev PhD, and a wide range of activities, including more than 30 sporting events with an estimated 50,000 participants and spectators. The culmination of the celebrations will be on 17-19 May, when an international congress, a concert and an international meeting of rectors of sports universities are scheduled. Vice-Rector Professor Daniela Dasheva, in charge for the scientific, project and international work of the academy, explains more about the academy's strengths and future plans.
What are the academy's most remarkable achievements over the last 70 years?
The many highly qualified teachers, coaches and specialists that we have trained. We have built and maintained bases for 53 different sports activities, have accumulated precious scientific and educational resources and amassed decades of training experience. We constantly develop and reinvent our educational programmes, adapting them to the labour market. The academy began as an educational establishment for physical education teachers, and now, 70 years later, it has three faculties and co-operates with Bulgarian institutions and foreign universities.
What makes you different?
We don't try to artificially enlarge our expertise in the hunt for more students. We have enough applicants and the competition for the entrance exams is relatively high. We know what we're good at – sports, that is – and we do it in the best possible way. Our faculties educate physical education teachers, coaches and physiotherapists. The Scientific Institute is doing valuable research to boost sporting achievements and develop mass sports activities. We are one of the smaller universities in Europe that puts the emphasis on training top-level coaches, and we are adamant that we are going to keep our leading position.
However, we do try to keep up with the labour market; that was how our innovative programmes like Sports Animation; Sports, Health and Fitness; Sport Journalism and Sports Management were established. And I believe that physical education teachers will always be needed, as they play a vital role in education.
The academy has a long tradition of teaching foreign students. Where do they come from?
We work mainly with students from the Balkans and from Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, and most of them opt for MA or PhD programmes in physiotherapy or coaching. The academy also has students from North Africa and the Near East, and participates in the Erasmus educational programme of the EU. Every year we send about 30 students to European universities and accept about the same number from other EU countries. We have contacts with 42 universities from all over the EU, mainly in Spain, Portugal, Germany, France and Finland.
We are aware that we need to boost our international profile. Our main goals are to increase the intake of foreign students, the translation of scientific literature and the participation in more international events. We also need more English language programmes.
What makes the National Sports Academy attractive?
Our campus is great and the facilities are very good. During their education, students in BA programmes participate in three sports camps – in water sports, winter sports and mountaineering in Nesebar and Vitosha. We also have bases in Borovets and the Pirin, and put a lot of effort into our sports clubs.