Monday, December 22, 2014

Fair Play: Here's to Naga hosting more sports events

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Dec. 22 edition)
THE City of Naga got controversial this year because it dared to cut trees for a sports oval. I won’t go to the pros and cons of that move as guys more knowledgeable than I have offered their take, in a highly-publicized way.

But I think Naga City’s plan to put up an oval with a football pitch on it can contribute to the environment.

How so? Take Cebu City for example.

The first Road Revolution—a roaring success to some and a blatant failure to others—helped raised awareness for road sharing and you can blame or credit one group for it: the runners.

Running in Cebu got to a point where it’s no longer about the 5Ks and the weekend fun runs but a lifestyle; choosing to be healthy and adopting practices that are also healthy for the environment.

But how did it get to that point?

The Cebu City Sports Center oval and its P10 entrance fee played a role. From a handful in the early 2000s, the patrons of the oval became a deluge in the middle of the previous decade because Cebuanos suddenly started running.

And from running in the oval, folks transitioned to trail running, triathlon, and biking and the community grew and got more united too. The first concrete action it did was to convince the Cebu City Government to undergo a multi-million peso overhaul of the track oval, resulting to more people running, who then transitioned into other sports.

Color me biased for sports, but I see the City of Naga treading that same path, once its sports center is established. Before you get your community to adopt a healthy lifestyle, you give them a place where they can actually start having that lifestyle.

Why am I saying these things two months removed after a famous priest ran all the way to Naga City? Tennis.

I didn’t know Naga had such a vibrant tennis community and skilled players like Zethley Alferez and Shyne Villareal but growing up in front of a tennis court, I know one thing – our tennis players bloomed once a tennis court was put up in the plaza of our subdivision.

What’s the next step for a tennis community? Hosting sports events, of course, and the Palawan Pawnshop age group tournament, a Group 2 tournament in Naga, can help show the residents the benefits of tennis.

It’s not just about watching gifted youngsters play, it’s about watching what the sport has done to them—taking them places, giving them scholarships and the like.

That’s what sports does and I hope the City of Naga holds more events like the Palawan tennis pawnshops. Of course, I’m not saying it bids for the Palarong Pambansa next year, big events like that tend to overwhelm a host but pocket tournaments like tennis can boost it.

So I hope, the City of Naga’s dalliance with sports won’t end with the Palawan Pawnshop tennis tournament. It can even copy what Lapu-Lapu City did before, hold weekly fun runs for its residents and without charging any fee.

And of course, for the opening of its sports center, it can even host a major run to launch it and even invite a famous running priest to join their initial salvo.


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