Monday, March 10, 2014

Fair Play: An ingenious solution from CCSC

(Here's my Fair Play column for Sun.Star  Cebu's March 10 issue)
HERE’s the reality in age group sports. Sometimes the best players don’t get to represent the Philippines, but only those who have the money to go to trips abroad.

I’ve seen that happen a lot in football, when teams from rich schools form a Team Philippines to compete in tournaments in Europe or Asia. Is that wrong?



Not really, because if not for them, there would be no representatives of the Philippines.

These teams, too, have the blessings of the association. However, it’s a different story when you’re talking about the top three players in tennis and only the players ranked No. 2 to No. 4 get to represent the country because the top-ranked kid doesn’t have the money to spend for his trip.

That’s what happened to Cebuano Arthur Craig Pantino, the No. 1 player in the Boys 14-Under division, who was forced to skip the qualifiers for the ITF World Junior Tennis Competition Asiana/Oceania pre-qualifying tournament in Malaysia.

Pantino, 11, learned the hard way the reality in Philippine sports. You may be good enough to top your division, but sometimes, money, not skills, determines if you get to represent the country abroad.

You could say that it should be the responsibility of Philta to send Pantino abroad, but if Philta’s broke, what can it do?

But the great thing about this is that the Cebu City Sports Commission saw an opportunity.

A win-win situation that I suggest to the folks at the Philippine Tennis Association, they should try and copy for other deserving players from poor families.

CCSC will support Pantino’s trips abroad in exchange for the player’s help in teaching tennis in the grassroots.

Perfect.

You support the player, you also help spread the love of the sport, hence and perhaps even discover the next Pantino.

If only the other sports commissions in the rest of the country were this proactive in looking for solutions, our sports landscape would be very different.

Because the Pantino situation is a problem I hear often, not just for national team trips abroad.

“We can’t go to the nationals because we don’t have money.” “We can’t send our champions because we don’t have money.”

And here’s the classic problems too.

“We can’t reach the grassroots because we don’t have personnel.” “We can’t train kids because we don’t have coaches. That’s why we just fund inter-barangay basketball tournaments.”

The solution, the CCSC taught us, is all in front of us all along. The players need money and have talent, the sports commissions have money and need talent.

Connect the dots.

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