MY FRIEND Roy Moore, an Englishman who runs an NGO in Payatas, had a simple answer to the grassroots debate that gripped Philippine football elections last year. Get more kids to play the game. But how can you do that under the present infrastructure?
I was reminded of that when I read a recent report saying that Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez wants quality over quantity in the staging of national meets and wants Olympic events to be prioritized. He also wants sports associations that are asking for funding to have a national tournament of their own.
At present we have the Philippine National Games, the Batang Pinoy, the Palarong Pambansa and the Prisaa national meet as our national level competitions but if you look closely, it’s basically the same set of guys who are playing in all of them. People often wonder why a tiny nation like Singapore can outperform us in the Olympics, a country of 100 million but as I pointed out almost a decade ago, it’s not just about the support athletes get but the number of athletes the country has.
I think, it would be generous to assume that we have a population base of 20,000 athletes and from this number, we trim down until we get the best of the best. We need to have that number increased and how can we do that? As Roy pointed out in his story, make sports accessible to everyone, not just kids with money.
I was lucky, growing up in front of a plaza where we had the tennis courts, basketball courts and football field. You can just pick your sport of choice. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most now. Heck, in Cebu I don’t think there’s any place here where you can just walk on and play a sport. You either have to pay, be a member of a club or know someone who knows someone.
We need places to play.
So, while I agree with the PSC’s move to focus on quality over quantity I hope we can also address the quantity part. Let’s get as many kids as possible to play.
How do we do that? Well, why do we have so many great basketball players? It’s because as kids, they can just walk a few steps and have a basketball court to play in, for free. I hope we can have that for kids now, not just for basketball, but for as many sports as possible.
We have so many sports centers in the country, maybe the PSC can encourage the LGUS that don’t have a sports program to basically let kids play for free every weekend. Get them into that habit. Nothing organized, just let them play, get them to have sports as a habit.
Quantity over quality.
Then quality over quantity.