Better Sports Education for Future World-Class Filipino Athletes

By Dean Philip Ella Juico, De La Salle University Manila

Back in 1995, former Philippine Sports Commission chairman Dean Philip Ella Juico discussed the crucial role of physical education and sports development in the country in order to successfully compete globally. Sport Management Council updates and republishes his presentation, showing its substantial relevance even almost two decades after.

More than the debate on the level of support in the upper-tier amateur and professional ranks, the first thing that ought to be done in talking about a productive and constant Philippine participation in international competitions is to discuss the Philippine physical education and sports development framework. This is an essential step in any discussion of high-level or elite sports, since this level of competition generally draws its existence and strength from sports development at lower levels.

For starters, sports development at the lower levels are strengthened and supported by a number of laws and executive issuances that, together, make up the framework of a Philippine physical education and sports system. These laws and issuances, include among others, the law creating the Philippines Sports Commission (PSC), the Executive Orders creating the National Physical Fitness and Sports Development Council (NPFSDC) and its counterpart in the Regional, Provincial, City, Municipal, and Barangay levels. In addition is the PSC strategic plan that was crafted in 1995 and updated thereafter up to 1998.

sports dev pyramid infographic

The pyramid structure of sports development (see image above) starting from the schools, going up to the barangays, clubs, regions, national programs, National Sports Associations (NSAs), National Athletes Pool, Philsports (the “hub” of the national network), and the physical location of the majority of the national athlete/coaches pool and culminating in the highest level of elite/high performance sports, the Olympics (including Olympic-type, multi-sport competitions such as the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian or SEA Games).

integrated program of sports development

The Integrated Programs of Sports Development framework shows the role and positioning of international/high performance/elite sports. The left part of the diagram makes up the mass base or “amateurs”/weekend athletes who take up sports for recreation and occasionally for short competitions. The situation becomes more competitive as you move to the right side of the diagram.

5 stages of devt in ph sports

The Five Stages of Development of Philippine sports:

  1. Mass Sports – the foundation
  2. Philippine National Games (PNG) – three PSC administrations have shelved
  3. Sports Talent Reserve and Athletes Pool – the source of athletes for high level sports
  4. High Level Sports – Olympics or Asian Games, for example
  5. Sports Entertainment and Amusement – generally professional sports, such as the National Basketball Association, the Philippine Basketball Association, or the World Cup of Soccer

Such framework is essentially in place, but what needs to happen is to ensure that the framework becomes a working/operational framework rather than just a theoretical one.

Using the Assets

It is important that the major resource that the Philippines has in abundant numbers, its population, is used more effectively. These include the physical education and school sports coordinators in the Department of Education and sports coordinators in the DILG.

1. Educator Enablement

To ensure the efficient use of these resources, the system of Physical Education and school sport training needs to be restructured to ensure that all teachers have an adequate level of knowledge of physical education and school sport.

2. Welfare and Passion Preservation

As well as focusing on elite/high-performance sport, the school sport system needs to target the children who are not talented, so that these children continue to be involved in sport because of enjoyment either as a participant or coach or official or administrator. Programs which are concerned more about kids enjoyment of sport and instilling the importance of fair play and camaraderie could be introduced into the Philippines and help to achieve these goals. A key to the success of mass based sports programs is people empowerment. This will occur if the training programs are in place and the recipients can see that their involvement will benefit the local community. The benefit of further government involve in this training comes through a reduction in the national health bill.

System Troubleshoot and Upgrade

1. Division of Responsibilities

At the elite sports level there are a range of issues that need to be sorted out. The first concerns the relationship between the PSC and the NSAs. The dilemma centers round the autonomy of the NSAs and the degree to which they sacrifice that autonomy if they agree to use taxpayers’ money. The PSC must encourage the NSAs to be more responsible and more accountable for the money they manage and to ensure that they are aware of their broader commitment to mass sports in the wider community.

For its part, the PSC must seek to place itself in a position where the NSAs view the PSC as a technical provider and a source of advice. This will only be achieved by having competent and well-trained staff dealing directly with the NSAs.

2. Fund Reallocation

A further dilemma is that with limited funds – the PSC is currently funding too many sports (around 40). It may be more effective in terms of results, to target a smaller number of sports and provide them with extra funding required to achieve results. It may also be wise for PSC to target women’s sports that currently receive a smaller percentage of total funding, as this would increase the chance of success at international competitions.

3. Priority and Funding for Continuous Education and Development

An upgrading of sports science (physiology, psychology, motor control, biomechanics, nutrition and diet and sports technology.

The current gaps and challenges of high performance sports are generally the same in most societies with the Canadian experience probably one of those hewing very closely to the Philippine situation.

a. Information Sharing, Knowledge and Learning – there continues to be a view within some NSAs that “our sport is unique,” which has led to some resistance in learning from the experiences of other sports. There is still a tendency to focus on the business of their own sport, and as a result, opportunities to share experiences and knowledge are often not considered.

There continues to be an approach within many NSAs that does not reflect change and innovation. They need to do more introspection, critical reflection and serious analysis regarding their programs, and the development of athletes. Managing knowledge and information (knowledge economy) is currently viewed as an important strategic direction for many sectors and sports should be no different.

b. Research, Sports Science and Special Projects – the means to use whatever little research facilities the Philippines has (universities, private groups, military) to create advantages for Filipino athletes must become a future priority.

c. Funding High-Performance Sport – Across all sports there is a lack of a long-term resource commitment required to consistently be a top-performing nation. Filipino athletes are talented but do not receive levels of support comparable to other top sporting nations that allows full-time commitment to training and competitions.

d. Investment in Coaching – There has to be long-term commitment to full-time coaches. Many NSAs support coach salaries through multiple sources, leaving coaches vulnerable to funding support fluctuations from funding agencies or political shifts within the sport. There must also be an acceptance of the fact that some sports require specialized technical instruction such as synchronized swimming, which needs specialized instruction in acrobatics, ballet and probably, choreography.

e. Centralization, Training Centers and clubs: Cultures of Excellence – Some successful NSAs abroad owe their success to the ability to establish longer term centralized training and/or a network of training centers and groups. Ideally, the strength of the system should depend on the strength of the local club (provincial association). The training center should create a culture of excellence that includes access to world-class coaching, facilities, medical/regeneration support services, opportunity for cross-training, etc. The PHILSPORTS, created during Chairman Philip Ella Juico’s time, should be the “hub” of all these training centers or network of training centers.

f. International Competition – There is no doubt that athletes need more foreign exposure to become better. International competition is a particular concern for sports that have a strong European (fencing, soccer, volleyball, cycling, equestrian, wrestling, rowing, et al) and/or Asian (judo, karate, taekwondo, badminton, et al) concentration of world-class athletes, teams, and competitions. There needs to be greater understanding that International Federations are seeking to have more of these competitions or World Cup events, to determine athlete rankings and Olympic.

g. Collegiate and Professional Sports – Athletic commitments to the collegiate, club, and professional leagues is a factor that limits the ability to centralize or participate in national team activities (basketball, soccer, volleyball, et al). Coordinating the scheduling of national team activities around professional club and collegiate leagues is a challenge.

h. Women’s Sport – Some countries do not provide equal opportunities for women in sports, thus, giving advantage to countries that promote gender equity in sports.

i. Talent Identification – This is done on a sport-by-sport basis. The PNG plays a crucial role in this respect.

j. Leadership – There is a need for more professional staff and technical experts who are responsible and accountable for high performance and decision-making – part of good governance.

k. Athlete Involvement – They should be involved in shaping the high-performance program. They can provide tremendous support to establishing future priorities for the sport.