The Philippine sporting scene is mostly patterned after the United States model. Athletes develop from the grassroots level to the collegiate ranks. Academic institutions play a major part in honing our sporting champions, unlike the club and sport school systems in Europe. Education takes precedence over sports, since a professional sporting career is a rarity outside the Four B’s: Basketball, Bowling, Billiards and Boxing.
The Leyte Sports Academy is a unique institution. It adheres to a special sports curriculum of the Department of Education. Established in 2010, it provides secondary school education to athletically-gifted students. A feature by Jessica Soho’s “Kapuso Mo” show provides a glimpse of the LSA’s novel approach to education and sports. Student-athletes wake up before dawn to train for their respective discplines: athletics, swimming and boxing.
My high school coach, Edward Sediego, handles the athletics program of LSA.
Read: “Leyte Sports Academy, a first of its kind”
The LSA shoulders the costs of the students’ food and sporting equipment needs, as well board & lodging. In fact, the living quarters of the student-athletes are perched right on top of the classrooms. The training facilities are sufficient by Philippine standards. An Olympic-sized swimming pool, a boxing gym and an athletics stadium are easily accesible. However, as shown by Soho’s feature, some of the most vital training equipment like boxing gloves are quite worn out.
The choice of sports is a noteworthy move. The Philippines has won nine Olympic medals since its first appearance at the 1924 Paris Games. All of these medals came from boxing (2 silvers, 3 bronzes), athletics (2 bronzes) and swimming (2 bronzes). Our country came tantalizingly close to winning its first Olympic Gold medal in 1964 and 1996, where Anthony Villanueva and Onyok Velasco lost closely-fought bouts, respectively. Athletics and swimming are medal-rich events, where Filipinos have achieved some measure of success, albeit in the distant past.
The Filipino sporting potential in those three sports are huge – the prospects for much-bigger international success is astounding, considering our young population of one hundred million.
This early, LSA students have reaped success in national level competitions like the Batang Pinoy Games and the Palarong Pambansa. John Smith struck silver at the Batang Pinoy boxing competition last year. Vivencio Cabias emulated Smith’s feat, as he cleared 3.11m in the pole vault, en route to silver medal at the recently concluded Palarong Pambansa.
The LSA, with its unique, scientific, and holistic approach to grassroots sports development has taken the concept of the Filipino student-athlete several leaps forward. This no-nonsense focus on honing one’s skills, while maintaing certain academic standards, is unparalleled. It gives the LSA students a definite competitive advantage as they progress from the grassroots level to the collegiate, and ultimately the elite ranks.
The youth of today are the champions of tomorrow.