MANILA — The country's first school dedicated to honing future athletes will open its doors — virtually, for now — on Sept. 13, simultaneous with the opening of classes in public schools.
The National Academy of Sports' (NAS) pioneering batch comprises of 66 students selected from a "tedious admission process," said NAS Executive Director Joy Reyes.
An attached agency of the Department of Education, NAS will cater to junior to senior high school students or Grades 7 to 12.
The first batch of students for School Year 2021 to 2022 went through a series of interviews and ability tests. They also submitted documentary requirements such as recommendations from coaches and proof of participation in athletic competitions.
"Mayroon silang abilities and skills in their sports. Dapat ay umabot sila doon sa not only limited to Palarong Pambansa, but the regional and national levels competitions and are podium finishers," Reyes explained.
(They have abilities and skills in their sports. They should have competed not only in the Palarong Pambansa but also in regional and national-level competitions, and are podium finishers.)
"Ito iyong mga best athletes coming from [the] grassroots," she added.
(These are the best athletes coming from the grassroots)
The student-athletes also represent the academy's "eight initial focus sports" — athletics, aquatics, badminton, gymnastics, judo, table tennis, taekwondo and weightlifting — which are all Olympics and Southeast Asian Games sports.
"We'll build up slowly... These are just the eight sports that will be focused on in the first phase," Reyes said.
NAS students will receive full scholarship, monthly stipend, board and lodging when face-to-face classes resume, school and training uniforms, and gadgets.
For now, NAS students will study through distance learning as in-person classes remain banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first 2 weeks of classes will be dedicated to orienting the students while actual classes will start on October.
Once allowed, students will reside in the dormitory in the NAS facility at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, which is currently under construction.
Reyes said the NAS curriculum is similar to DepEd's curriculum for junior to senior high school but all subjects would be "infused with sports."
Students will also be trained in their chosen sports and given a chance to join international competitions.
"I think the uniqueness of the curriculum is that it is really intended to further enhance the abilities and skills of student athletes and they should be academically competent as well," Reyes said.
"NAS is a school, it's an academy. So mayroon siyang (it has) academic and training," she added.
After Filipino athletes brought home 4 medals in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, Reyes admitted to feeling a "deep sense of responsibility" with NAS.
"We need to sustain this and we want to thrive to really provide our student athletes the best academic experience and even exposures," she said.
Reyes, however, acknowledged that not all NAS students might pursue a career in sports.
"We will also be preparing our students to be better persons, that they have life after NAS. They have at least a career," she said.
Created through Republic Act No. 11470, the NAS was institutionalized to recognize and develop exceptionally talented students from all sectors, including indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized groups.