Events in the recent past have shown a clear deterioration in the country’s stature in international sports. This is most evident in the country’s medal standings in the recent SEA Games. Among the 5 original nations in the SEA Games, we have ranked last consistently in the past SEA Games offerings. We have since been overtaken by Vietnam and on one occasion, by an underpopulated, underfunded, underfed Myanmar!
These results are not just a national embarrassment; it suggests that we have a weak society, with an uncaring and corrupt government. To say that the country’s sports development program is a tragedy is an understatement.
Today, our athletes are hopeful that the new leadership under Prez Digong and returning Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez can provide the dynamism and the new impetus to improve this otherwise moribund situation. It is therefore a good time for the uniformed services to look at the great opportunities to support it. After all, the AFP/PNP/PCG are all mandated to provide a support role in nation building.
Among the key weaknesses and thus, top priorities identified by the PSC are: 1) the creation of a more comprehensive grassroots development program, and 2) the sustenance of athletes after college.
For the first item, DepEd has been the main element in the country’s effort to propagate sports and fitness among the youth. Our education system has traditionally been tasked to initiate sports awareness and develop the potential of young kids in the far reaches of the country. However, it is very seldom that we find DepEd’s teachers at the grassroots level who have the know-how and the drive to make this sustainable. The grassroots program needs more people who have the sports abilities and, more importantly, the passion to develop the sport.
For item #2, after the sports exposure in school competitions, there lies the dilemma for the student-athletes. More often than not, the lack of continuity and support after college compel our athletes to drift away from the sport they are passionate about.
To address both, the PSC is looking to create partnerships with key organizations. The uniformed services are such potential organizations the PSC can turn to. They have the manpower and logistics resources, and they have geographical influence, with their personnel scattered in the farthest corners of the archipelago. The only thing needed now is to develop the know-how and, most importantly, the passion to propagate this nation-wide sports program.
This potential in spreading sports development at the grassroots level is clearly a gold mine left undeveloped. The uniformed services can provide a logical and comprehensive sports development implementing plan subordinate to the PSC grassroots development program. This shall cover the different service branches and encompassing the different regions of the country, and can form part of the overall CMO effort.
Under this envisioned plan, the AFP, the PNP and the PCG can organize training teams composed of current and former national athletes, augmented by soldier-trainors certified by a PSC training team. These small units can be deployed to specific sports expansion areas. The 3 units have an inherent reach that goes up to the most distant barangays of the archipelago. They can stay in a barangay for a period of 2-4 weeks, drilling the kids, teaching the basics, and organizing youth leaders to create pocket clubs to make the effort sustainable. Once the program’s targets have been accomplished and different barangay sports clubs have been organized, they can handover the responsibility of sustaining it to the LGU and the local teachers.
As to the sustainability of athletes after school, the AFP/PNP/PCG can recruit athletes and harness their athletic talents. The major services have actually been doing this, but the overall objective has been quite myopic. The objective has always been to beef up the major service athletic line-up for the AFP-PNP-PCG Olympics. This should change. The goal in recruiting athletes should go beyond the Little Olympics. It should develop the athletes for the national team, not for the major service teams alone.
The uniformed services have an advantage in that it is a multi-faceted job provider for our active athletes. Thus, athletes can learn other skills in preparation for their eventual retirement from active sports competition. This provides them more possibilities for the future. Their talents can be harnessed as sports trainors, or in other fields of interest.
The AFP-PNP-PCG must however provide dedicated officer-managers who will champion the proper development of certain sports disciplines. This is a crucial element in the program. If the Special Service leadership becomes a ‘compliance’ thing, then the program – similar to what happened to the ROTC program decades ago – will go down the drain. These designated program managers will ensure the professional development of the individual soldier-athletes, and they will be responsible for monitoring the career development of our soldier-athletes.
To make all these sustainable, the PSC will guide the 3 uniformed services, identifying specific sports where they can best contribute in, and where the country can compete in globally (ie. track, boxing, football, dragonboating, swimming, weightlifting, table tennis, badminton, etc). It can provide initial equipment for the trainors’ teams which will be deployed to areas designated jointly by the PSC and the AFP as potential growth areas. It will provide support for periodic AFP/PNP/PCG Sports programs such as the Little Olympics. It will also coordinate with the DILG and DepED for a clearer understanding and cooperation on the program objectives and crucial inter-agency linkages.
Undoubtedly, the uniformed services can be a big boost in the two related programs. First, it has the potential to significantly upgrade the country’s overall sports program through the youth, and thus creating a healthier, more disciplined, and more physically and mentally-endowed society. And second, in identifying and nurturing individuals who have the potential to become outstanding athletes. By doing these, soldiers can make themselves even more relevant to our country and people.
All we need now are the champions who will be willing to lead this initiative. Any takers?
All cartoons courtesy of Yazdi 77. 🙂