Editorial: A wake-up call

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

FROM a sport where the country pins its hopes for an elusive Olympic gold medal claimed a casualty recently with the death of 16-year-old Jonas Joshua Garcia who fell into a coma after a boxing match in the regional athletic meet.

The teener, who was seeking a berth in the Palarong Pambansa, may have climbed the ring in high spirits as he was not only competing for himself but for the city or province he represented.

Any amateur athlete as young and aggressive as Garcia exudes a drive that will "go for the kill" when the games begin. Just every athlete will go to a competition raring to win, to dominate.

In a qualifying event just like the Department of Education (Deped)-organized regional eliminations, the goal for each one will be to advance into the Palaro where the stakes are bigger and opportunities wider since top performers in the annual sportsfest for elementary and secondary athletes get scholarship offers from big universities in Metro Manila as others are invited to join the national training pool.

Garcia may just be one of those who dreamed to make it big in his sport. It's sobering thought that his dreams and aspirations in life also died with him.

His untimely demise elicited varied reactions, others even calling for the abolition of boxing in sports competitions. Others resort to blame shifting.

But come to think of it, the young boxer's death is a wake-up call for local, regional and national sports officials.

From the schools, officials need to identify athletes who have the make-up, talent and skill to play a particular sport.

It's dangerous to force a student to play a sport he or she doesn't even know. Any ordinary student should not be fielded just because there is a need for players to form a team. A proper selection process should be in place and experts must handle the proper identification program.

It's also worth noting that not all teachers can be a credible and efficient coach or trainer. How can one coach a chess team without even knowing the function of each piece. How can one mentor a basketball team and yet ignorant with the rules.

If it's not really your cup of tea, then, why push it? When you are assigned to coach a team of a specific sport and know nothing about it, then decline. Be honest to say that you are not up to the task.

Otherwise, you will only embarrass yourself and endanger your athletes.

Another thing to consider is the duration of the athletes' training before going into the competition. Two or three weeks will never be enough to ready them for the battle. If elite athletes going into the Olympics train for years then why give amateur athletes, including beginners, so little time for training.

A suggestion that also arose was that of a neurosurgeon who was interviewed on TV that the Department of Education must require boxers to have comprehensive scans, not just a check-up by a general practitioner, before they join a competition. The test, the doctor said, might have saved a lot of lives including that of Garcia's.

We also welcome a suggestion by Sun.Star Cebu sports editor Mike Limpag to hold boxing meets near hospitals that can deal with a major trauma. Thus, holding boxing events in the outskirts should no longer be an option even if that means staging them in Cebu or Manila.

Cebu City's Z Gorres suffered the same injury as that of Garcia but he survived because he was fighting just a few minutes away from the world's best trauma center in the world.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 20, 2013.


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