Fair Play: Coaches' headaches in DepEd meets

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's April 5 edition)
AFTER the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association meet comes the much dreaded time for coaches, dreaded because it’s a time when they know that sometimes, athletic skills don’t matter.

What is this moment? It’s that time when champion coaches receive recommendations from the Department of Education as to which player to absorb in his team for the Palarong Pambansa.

For individual events, it’s a no-brainer--the champions and runner-ups represent Region 7 in the Palarong Pambansa, but for team sports, what should have been a no-brainer is getting complicated; discouraged from “going solid” coaches are urged to pick up reinforcements from losing teams for the Palaro.

Of course, if the choice of reinforcement is perfect, there are no problems, right? But this DepEd, smooth-sailing is a rare thing and choices in reinforcements are sometimes, to put it mildly, puzzling.

“Why did they choose him over their best player? How do they make their choices?” one coach, while complaining about the practice, told me.

He also said that another coach, disappointed at how his champion team in the Cviraa would be decimated, told the Solidarity Meeting, that he won’t coach in the Palaro.

So, what’s the problem with getting reinforcements for the Palaro? Well, for one, the choice is removed from the coaches.

When it comes to team sports in step-ladder meets, the Department of Education should have a little more faith in the coaches. Let them decide whether their teams need tweaking, or they can field the same lineup in the next rung of the meet.

It’s the coaches who know their teams best, their weaknesses and strengths and of course, whether there are gaps to be filled by reinforcements. Besides, their choices and players, got them to where they are, the championship.

It’s a problem as old as the Palaro itself, with various regions adopting different measures. Some even have the 70-20-10 formula--for the Palaro team, 70 percent of the players will come from the champion team, while 20 and 10 percent will come from the losing teams.

What’s wrong with that? It’s about representation. So DepEd officials from losing teams will be represented in the Palaro, and thus, will have a reason to drag their butts--plus whoever they want to tag-along for a junket-- in the meet. An all-expense paid summer vacation courtesy of the blood and sweat of the players.

It’s such a brazen practice that a few years ago, the DepEd secretary himself released a memo discouraging these junkets. If I remember it right, the carefully-worded memo said that “Officials, and their spouses, who have no other purpose to be in the Palaro but to sight-see are no longer to be accommodated in the delegation.”

If they have no athlete in the Palaro, they can’t legitimized their trips, so in the issue of reinforcements, officials from the losing teams move heaven and earth to have their players included in the lineup, so they can join them.

Of course, everyone will deny this but it’s a practice that everyone knows is being done.

And in the meantime, coaches in team sports are left scratching their heads after downing a couple of paracetamols—they want us to win the Palaro but decimate our teams?


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