MARKO Sarmiento, an accomplished golfer who now gets mentioned in these pages more often as a football dad, invited me to a sports psychology seminar at Paref-Springdale the other day but, unfortunately, I had to miss it. Marko, together with Alvin Roxas, president of the Paref Springdale football club, organized the seminar for coaches and football parents of Springdale, and based on initial reports, it’s a seminar that I hope all those involved in school sports will get to attend.

You see, the biggest problems in school sports—cheating, rough play, and bending the rules—can all be traced to one thing: attitude. The attitude of the coaches and that of the players.

For sports psychologist Lee Tajonera, being involved in school sports shouldn’t be about winning but about character-building. That is what separates the champions from the wannabes, and I’m not thinking of the teams’ rankings. I’ve seen teams who win the gold lose big time off the court and I’ve seen teams who can barely win, win big with their attitude.

A team that wins but also has character? Now that’s a true champion.

“Ngano manikas man gyud?” That’s a question I regularly encounter from coaches who catch other coaches cheat. And the reason is for these coaches, it’s winning at all costs. For them, success is measured in trophies, and that is something that I’ve been writing against ever since I started this column. Heck, playing isn’t everything even. It’s what you do before you even get on court that matters; the regular training that promotes discipline, that respect for coaches and persons of authority and the adherence to the rules.

Reading about how Tajonera espouses the same views is music to my ears.

Another thing the seminar dealt on was how the parents support their kids. For me, school sports is something that a student can use to become a successful professional, not a professional athlete. In Cebu, the only paths to becoming a pro athlete are in basketball, football, and volleyball, and these guys compete with the rest of the country so the percentage of Cebuano students becoming pro athletes is really low. So we have a lot of athletes—especially those in basketball—who are ill-equipped to become anything other than being basketball players. Unable to make the PBA, they make do with the small commercial leagues. But had they used their time as student athletes to prepare to become professionals, the story would have been different.

And this is where the Cesafi can step in, to adopt what Paref Springdale has done and perhaps expand it further? Most of the problems in Cesafi can be eliminated through positive coaching and having the right attitude.

For the student athletes, a seminar by Tajonera will remind them why they are called student-athletes not athlete-students; studies should come first. Their MVP trophies will rust and won’t do them any good when they are 10 years removed from being varsity members.

But a diploma? That’s going to be 100 times more valuable than an MVP trophy 10 years down the road.

It’s all about having the right attitude.