OPINION: Streamline and re-organize PH sports

Rick Olivares

Posted at Nov 06 2016 06:48 PM

When Peping Cojuangco opened his re-election bid for the Philippine Olympic Committee’s (POC) top spot, he promised that the country will win two medals in the next Summer Games.

I honestly think, and with all due respect to the incumbent POC president, that is what is wrong with Philippine sports – an obsession with something that is extremely difficult to achieve and that the Olympics is the end all of sports. I am not suggesting that the Olympics is small fry and that we ditch any Olympic aspirations. Keep that. 

Sometimes, I feel we are trying to leapfrog the process. We haven’t even conquered our own corner of the world when we are looking to become world champions or gold medalists. Parang pa-sungkit sungkit lang tayo ng medalya rito at roon then everyone happy. When we bomb out, then raise hell. That has been a vicious cycle of excuses, mediocrity, and incompetence.

The problem of sports goes far beyond the POC leadership. It’s an entire culture. 

I do know that in decades past, several sports were chosen to be the focus sports as they are deemed to have better chances for medal hauls. That’s good. However, everything needs to be evaluated constantly with other sports being promoted as well. 

What is sorely lacking is a coherent and long-term plan to develop sports excellence in the grassroots level. As it is, funding for teams and athletes is mostly for the elite level.

As for the grassroots level? Everyone talks about this. But what about this?

Grassroots programs are left to the national sports associations, schools, corporate sponsors, and local government units. However, there is no seamless organizational chart. Everyone is just trying to do something with no coherent goal. Too often they are at odds with one another because so many people have their own agendas. And that is understandable because some people in charge make use of certain programs as feeder programs for their own school or own benefit. So why help a person or organization that doesn’t have the most noble of intentions?

Many grassroots programs are just adopted as official programs of this and that NSA with not much guidance. Even worse, we have all sorts of characters who think they alone have what it takes to elevate their sport to the next level. They should be held accountable, graded for performance, and given only a certain number of years. They should not perpetuate themselves especially with mediocre performances. 

When you have a very good program, for example, making it to the semi-finals of an international tourney once doesn’t mean it’s successful. Making it consistently and pushing towards the next level means it is successful. Providing a steady stream of talent means a program is successful.

I should point out that not every NSA is a mess. There are model ones. They should be identified and the best practices cascaded to others that aren’t organized at all. 

Part and parcel of grassroots is a multi-level system for sports where a club system is promoted. I recall how in football, youth teams would win international tournaments but as the kids got older, they began losing because the focus turns to other matters. 

Really. How many pro leagues do we have?

Only in basketball. You cannot say the same for volleyball and football. The latter two are semi-pro. A club system must be promoted with corporate sponsors given incentives to help out.

It should also be pointed out that there is this unhealthy obsession with basketball. Sure it’s the national sport but it shouldn’t follow that there cannot be anything else. Why are we expecting medal hauls from other sports when the disparity between funding, attention, and opportunities between basketball and everything else is an ocean or two of a difference?

There is something definitely wrong with the current system that cannot be perpetuated. It’s widespread. Change has to happen wholesale and across the board. 

Or else, we’ll be having this never-ending diatribe of the ills of Philippine sports.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.