THE Philippine National Games (PNG), the last of the few national tournaments featuring the game of softball ended last week with an interesting note at the Marikina's Sto. Nino's grounds.

The Domingo Lacson National High School (DLNHS) squad consisting mainly of young secondary players, a significant number of which are entering the tertiary level of education bagged the PNG championship over the National Softball Open - Club Division champions, University of Sto. Tomas (UST).

According to Panay News, a regional newspaper, the DLNHS softball team which had not been able to field its younger players because of an age restriction (below 16 years) in the tournament supplemented their roster with their own pitching coach, Roselle Hulleza, a former Blu-Girl and Aileen Cabaybay, one of the team’s coaches. This PNG championship match was for the players of both teams a reunion of sorts. The current UST roster consists mainly of DLNHS softball alumni. Interestingly, Panay News also reports that at least five (5) of these young Negrenses will be joining the Tigers’ ranks for the UAAP’s next season while its ace pitcher, Jamaica Arribas has been recruited by the De la Salle University Green Archers.

Baguio softball, I gather from reliable sources had lost four (4) and won two (2), one against PUP and another by default. The participation as is the ongoing custom is charged to the burgeoning account of experience.

There are a few good lessons which Baguio softball may learn from being exposed to national tournaments. Yes, there is no difficulty accepting the adage that experience is the best teacher. Truly playing the game frequently sharpens one’s skills and competitiveness as iron sharpens iron.

The presumption of course in such a statement is the individuals in the team are iron-like qualities or have been moulded to possess the strength of iron. If the young athletes are otherwise and simply possess the quality of a marshmallow, these become fodder to the grinder. At times, the conduct of the games though played by sportsmen and sportswomen can be unkind. The ill-prepared and un-seasoned will wilt and melt in the heat of competition and the resulting experience could inflict deep psychological scars on both coach and player.

The local system under which the games operate silent bears the burden and awe of being better. Ultimately, the pernicious practice of fault-finding finds its way to the driver’s seat. Coaches are pressured to deliver by their administrations for the token support they put. Still, many administrators are lukewarm toward sports; lack passion and are devoid of direction. As a result, bars of sports excellence are not raised; there are no bench marks; most achievements are attributed to a personal sacrifice and institutionally, nothing notable has been accomplished.

That a high school softball team from a province in middle Philippines could win one of the few major national softball titles and best one of the country’s competitive collegiate teams truly deserves the attention of the Cordilleras. If Negrenses’ secondary softball should serve as a benchmark of the game’s success, it can be summed in the word “support” as intimated by coach Hulleza in an interview she had with one of the West Visayas’ daily.

Support is inevitably denominated in currency. Good softball equipment is necessary. A good softball composite bat costs at least P10,000 while an aluminium alloy bat costs about 40% cheaper. Training and exposure need regular funding but a good coach behind the training program will make or break the team. For this secondary school team representing Bacolod in the national spotlight and winning the championship, coach Hulleza has done one hell of job. If the stars are in DLSU’s favour, the Green Archers would be blessed to have an ace in their coaching staff.

Hopefully, the arrangement to have some time to chat with her will materialize.

In my years of being a baseball player and a softball coach, I am thoroughly convinced that there is unquantifiable value in appointing someone with a set of good and decent qualifications and skills behind the wheel at some level. A good selection is really a common sense act but what’s sad about Cordillera softball this year is what should be common sense has not been at all common.

A couple of years ago, someone once pulled me to say these words in praise, “A team is a reflection of the one who is coaching them.” He was looking at CAR’s promising team play vigorously against his pedigreed squad. Such a compliment always redounds to CAR’s motivated players.

Anyway, it was tempting to agree with the statement of spontaneous praise though in my heart, I also know that fact is only half of the story. There is really so much more.

Cheers from Melbourne!