How the AFP Can Play a Significant Role in the National Sports Development Program

Last week, we discussed how we can create a comprehensive grassroots sports development program for Bohol. This week, we talk about the AFP participation, and how it holds a significant role in that endeavor.

Republic Act 6847 provides for the mandate of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). Among others, it states that the “The State shall promote physical education and encourage sports programs, league competitions and amateur sports, including training for international competitions, to foster self-discipline, teamwork, and excellence for the development of a healthy and alert citizenry.” Identified as the key weaknesses by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) in the pursuit of this mandate were: 1) the creation of a more comprehensive grassroots development program, and 2) the sustenance of athletes after college.

For the first item delving on the grassroots development program, 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 orientation to develop the potential of young kids in the far reaches of the country. Unfortunately, it is very seldom that we find DepEd teachers at the grassroots level who have the know-how and the drive to make this sustainable. The grassroots program needs more athletic-minded individuals who have the basic knowledge of the different sports and, more importantly, the passion to develop the sport. Here lies the key problem: the lack of quality trainors that can mold the kids in their formative years.

Item #2 focuses on the athlete and his/her future. 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. These athletes have to look for jobs to support their families, while at the same time, being able to pursue their passion.

To address both issues, the PSC has been striving to create partnerships with key private organizations. Huge companies like San Miguel, PLDT, the SM Group of companies, etc, have been able to absorb some of these athletes, providing them income-generating opportunities and jobs while playing under their banners. Unfortunately, most of these opportunities open to athletes are available only for so long as they play the sport. For most athletes, these income-generating sources will fade away as soon as they grow old and are no longer competitive in their sport.

The uniformed services are such potential organizations the PSC can turn to. There are detractors who are against the use of AFP soldier-athletes, but they do so for myopic, selfish reasons. The AFP has in its mandate a support role in nation-building, and they have the manpower and logistics resources, and the geographical influence, with their personnel scattered in the farthest corners of the archipelago. They can help the PSC spread the different sports in the four corners of the archipelago. The only thing it needs is the development of more know-how in sports management and the like, in order to propagate a cohesive and more-focused nation-wide sports program.

The potential to spread sports development at the grassroots level is clearly a gold mine that is for us to harness. 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, encompassing the different regions of the country, and can form part of the overall CMO effort. What I propose to do is for Bohol to be the test case for this program.

Under this envisioned plan, the AFP as well as the other uniformed services can organize training teams composed of current and former national soldier-athletes, certified by a PSC training team. These small units can be deployed to specific sports expansion areas. The AFP and the PNP 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 1 month, 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 hand-over the responsibility of sustaining it to the LGU and the local DepEd authorities. This is what will sustain the grassroots development program.

As to the sustainability of athletes after school, the AFP has been recruiting athletes and harnessing their athletic talents. The participation of the AFP in the national sports program has been proven and tested, even resulting in the Olympic gold achieved by Hidilyn Diaz, and the other medalists such as Eumir Marcial. Thus, the AFP has proven that it can be a key partner in the country’s overall sports program.

On top of all that, 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. Aside from being sports trainors, they can learn other trades such as in the IT field, or in blue-collar fields such as in mechanical and technical work, etc. They can be utilized as speakers, teachers and work in other fields of interest as well. This provides them more possibilities for the future.

The AFP 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 must ensure the professional growth of the individual soldier-athletes, making sure to monitor the career development of our soldier-athletes, be it in sports or in other fields.

To make all these sustainable, the PSC must provide guidance and training for our soldier-trainors. 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 also coordinate with the DILG and DepED for a clearer understanding and cooperation on the program objectives and crucial inter-agency linkages.

Undoubtedly, the AFP and PNP can play a big role in the two inter-related PSC concerns. First, it can provide a sustainable career path for athletes who have the passion to propagate their respective sports. But more importantly, it has the potential to significantly upgrade the country’s overall sports program through the youth, thus helping create a healthier, more disciplined, and more physically and mentally-endowed society. Through these, our soldier-athletes can make themselves even more relevant to our country and people.

For a clearer view, just click on the pics. Cover photo courtesy of US Army Journal. Other pics courtesy of Pro Sport Development, Philippine Primer, Sparta Philippines, Business Mirror, Stick Fighting Sport, Kulit on the Run, Dugout Philippines, Daily Sabah, Pinoyprosports.com, ans Nestle.com.ph.

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