Cebu City presents grassroots sports blueprint to PSC

CEBU CITY, Philippines - “This book is priceless. We cannot pay for this.”

These were the words of Dagupan City Mayor Belen Fernandez as she was presented with a hard copy of the template of the Cebu City Grassroots Sports Development Program last Tuesday, March 17, at the conference room of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Administration Building in Malate, Metro Manila.

Fernandez along with members of Dagupan's newly formed sports commission was invited by PSC chairman Ricardo “Richie” Garcia to a conference wherein he also asked Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) chairman Edward Hayco to make a presentation of their grassroots template.

Last month, the Dagupan officials approached Garcia to seek help in setting up their grassroots sports development program. Initially, Garcia had planned a discussion between the two Local Government Units (LGUs) but instead he decided to make the template of the Cebu City Grassroots Sports Development Program a model to be followed by everyone else in the country who wants to put up the same development in sports.

In his opening message during the start of the conference, Garcia explained why he wants the rest of the LGUs to duplicate the Cebu City grassroots program.

“Doon ko nakita how a grassroots program should be done,” said Garcia adding that in Cebu, the needs of a grassroots program were met without having to spend so much.

The PSC chairman added that “if we could duplicate the program in other cities, we will have less problems with our youth.”

In presenting the template, Hayco had the assistance of one of CCSC's commissioners, Bernard Ricablanca, who is also the athletic director of the University of Cebu, and CCSC staff Gayle Grace H. Dico.

The presentation was well received with Fernandez remarking that what CCSC has done so far is very inspiring.

“Naka-iyak (It makes us teary-eyed), imagine, you are transforming their lives,” said the Dagupan City mayor referring to the thousands of kids who have been trained under the program without paying a single centavo.

Hayco did not hesitate in divulging everything in how CCSC set up the grassroots program even admitting how at some point they had thought of quitting or that even now, the program is still a fledgling despite being able to teach about 7,000 kids in one of its summer grassroots training programs.

Before Hayco started he commended Fernandez for her initiative in wanting to put up a grassroots program in her city.

The CCSC chairman stressed so many points and the first one was “don't focus on the gold, if we develop the kids, the gold will come.” The program may be for a sports grassroots but Hayco has always been straight forward in admitting that the gold was never the main goal. It has been and will always be about making the kids believe in themselves, teaching them more about losing so they may be able to build a good and solid character.

Maybe an odd approach but Hayco said that if they were on the wrong path then the kids who have joined the program would never have won medals in the Batang Pinoy or the Philippine National Youth Games.

In fact, Hayco has always clashed horns with coaches whose focus is on winning the gold medals such as PSC consultant Eric Lecain who was sent by Garcia to help Cebu form a team who could compete in beach volley in the Olympics.

However, Lecain has admitted that what he has learned in Cebu is that the rest of the thousands of kids who are undergoing the program is equally important as the one or two among them who will go on to win a medal.

“It is about giving them equal opportunity, giving them the chance. They may not all turn out to be great but you gave them the chance of a lifetime,” Lecain said.

Hayco alo emphasized on the linkages between the sports commission, the LGU and the Department of Education (DepEd).

Hayco said that it is through the DepEd that they were able to gather thousands of kids to train. He further added that their job is to first identify the people who will run the program before identifying the sport.

“Our role is to identify these people and how to work with them.”

Hayco, who is also the director of the bemedaled Dancesports Team Cebu City, said that they should be creative in teaching the sport to the kids. “Don't be boxed in by the standards.” As an example, Hayco cited the improvised sports equipment that they have been coming up with such as for the sports of chess and archery, wherein through the grassroots program, they were able to achieve Guinness World Records.

Instead of chess boards and chess pieces, they used chess mats, a tarpaulin printed with chess boards and bottle caps wherein printed drawings of the chess pieces were pasted. As for archery, with the help of Asian Games gold medalist Dondon Sombrio, who is an architect, the CCSC was able to come up with an improvised bow made up of PVC pipes.

“Don't let the budget adjust to you, you adjust to the budget.”

The Cebu City grassroots program also relies heavily on volunteerism and striking an ex-deal with the coaches and athletes.

The CCSC will help in sending teams to national and regional competitions as long as they volunteer to teach or cascade what they know of their respective sport. It doesn't matter if they are gold medalist, they have to be willing to help in the grassroots program.

Fernandez is candid in saying that with the template, it may not take them years to pull off their own grassroots program, that is why they are very thankful for it.

“With your help and the PSC and guided with the learnings of today, this has really been very inspiring,” Mayor Fernandez said in ending. - Rappler.com