Reminders for sports relevance
The audience was made up of the men and women who are the key players in the grassroots program for sports in Pangasinan. The six Department of Education district superintendents were present, four representing the cities of Alaminos, San Carlos, Urdaneta and Dagupan, one representing the first, second and third congressional districts and another representing the fourth, fifth and sixth congressional districts. Officials of the Pangasinan State University were accounted for. The school has a student population of 21,000 spread across nine campuses in Asingan, Sta. Maria, Binmaley, Lingayen, San Carlos, Alaminos, Urdaneta, Infanta and Bayambang. Then there were town mayors and vice mayors, sports coordinators and even basketball referees in attendance for what Abono Party List Rep. Conrad Estrella III called the first-ever sports summit in Pangasinan.
It was appropriate that Estrella staged the summit in Rosales where his grandfather Conrado served as Mayor to begin a legendary political career. Estrella’s grandfather later became a Congressman, Governor and Minister of Agrarian Reform. A former FEU basketball player, his grandfather was a sports enthusiast who used to watch PBA and collegiate games in the stadium. He died in 2011 at the age of 93.
Estrella, 57, was elected to the eighth, ninth, 12th, 13th, 14th and 16th Congresses and now sits in the 17th. He’s the House Chairman of the Committee on Youth and Sports Development and that’s why he’s taken a special interest in the country’s slide in the recent SEA Games. Estrella recently called for an end to fence-sitting among sports officials in the wake of the debacle in Kuala Lumpur.
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I was invited to speak at the summit and shared what I said were the 10 reminders for sports officials to be relevant in the critical task of promoting sports at the grassroots level.
• It starts with you. The responsibility is on your shoulders. There should be no buck-passing. The work is difficult and tedious. But as Estrella said, to construct a big and strong building, you need a solid foundation and that means digging deeper into the ground to establish a firm base. Going from town to town in search of young talents is a challenge in the identification stage. It requires patience and a keen eye to discover potentials. It also requires close coordination with the PSC and the Philippine Sports Institute (PSI) in searching for young athletes who fit the mold in the country’s priority sports.
• Basketball isn’t the only sport. The natural attraction for young athletes is to play basketball and volleyball which are widely popular as TV sports. But in the recent SEA Games, athletics brought in 18 medals and taekwondo, nine while basketball had only one gold and volleyball, none. Taekwondo, weightlifting, triathlon, swimming, cycling fencing, archery and athletics are potential gold mines in sports.
• Pangasinan is a hotbed for sports
heroes. It’s in the genes. Sports officials don’t need to look elsewhere for a new breed of sports heroes. Sen. Ambrosio Padilla, Danny Ildefonso, Marc Pingris, Marlou Aquino, Ana Julaton, C. J. Perez, Jacinto Sicam, Rodolfo Tan Cardoso, Santi Barnachea and Jess Garcia are among Pangasinan’s sports icons.
• The key is participation. You’ll never know how good you are or can be unless you participate. It’s not just the winning, it’s also the taking part. Participation will open doors and is the first step in the growing process.
• Don’t hesitate to reach out. There are specialists in the PSC, PSI, POC and NSAs who are ready to provide technology, advice, support and resources for you to succeed in guiding young athletes to realize their potentials.
• Share stories of inspiration. Rising to the top is never easy. Sports officials and coordinators can motivate young athletes to work and try harder by relating how Sen. Manny Pacquiao, C. J. Perez and even Michael Jordan overcame hefty odds to be overachievers. It was Estrella who discovered Perez in Pozzorrubio and brought him to Manila where he eventually found a place with the Lyceum basketball varsity in the NCAA.
• Build support systems. You can’t do it alone. Parents, the community, coaches, teachers and those who are in a position of influence are components of a support group that can assist you. Young athletes need guidance from those who are sincere and have no hidden agendas.
• Stick to the plan. There must be a blueprint to follow, a short-term program that will evolve into medium and longterm. Focus is everything. You need to prioritize so you don’t get side-tracked.
Balance is important in lining up your options. You don’t want to fail because there were too many things on your plate and you couldn’t decide where to start. The process involves training and a step-by-step approach to exposure to competition.
• Lead by example. Young athletes who are in their formative years must realize the importance of uncompromising principles and walking the right path. Discipline, work ethic and values are building blocks for the future. Sports officials must show young athletes how it’s done and that only means leading or living by example.
• Sports is the pathway to success in life. It’s a springboard to a life-long career in business or politics or education or media or sports. Young athletes must appreciate that the investment they put in today will reap dividends in the future. The examples of athletes who became prominent citizens of society beyond sports are in the millions and count on stars like Sen. Pacquiao, Sen. Padilla, Sen. Robert Jaworski and Sen. Tito Sotto.
At the summit in Rosales, PSC chairman Butch Ramirez delivered an inspiring message of hope for the future and promised to support the province in its sports development efforts. For sure, the summit will go a long way in developing future sports heroes in Pangasinan.