GAIN Insights. SEEK Wisdom. CREATE a Plan of Action
BLEACHER TALK - Rico Navarro (The Freeman) - April 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Meet like-minded individuals…online. “Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures/actions,” Noli Ayo of Ateneo de Davao said. With COVID-19 stepping up, the affable Athletics Director of ADDU looked for ways to keep in touch with his staff while on ECQ. He then thought of a small online class with guest speakers coming on board to discuss pre-assigned topics. After this bleacher bum was invited to give a talk, we discussed if this could be expanded where all the speakers can be part of the “class.” Coach Noli said he would work on it, citing that FB Messenger can accommodate only six persons in a video chat. A day after this exchange, Coach Noli excitedly sent an invitation to sports friends for an online forum via Zoom. Welcome to the new norm.

Having coffee (or a beer) with colleagues and friends in sports is one of the best ways to exchange notes and learn from each other. This was a norm each time we get together at meetings, seminars or conferences. These conversations were always cherished moments where stories flowed and ideas were swapped. In Cebu, we’ve had coffee at Bo’s, The Coffee Beanery or Starbucks, barbecue+puso at Matias and beer at a gig of 40 The Band. These conversations are so precious we wish we could have these more often.

Today, sports people from all over have jumpstarted an activity that could just be the new normal. At 10AM every MWF since March 27, a Zoom meeting/webinar takes place. It’s appropriately entitled, “GAIN Insights. SEEK Wisdom. CREATE a Plan of Action. MEET like-minded individuals.” The big idea of the forum was to replicate those conversations over coffee or beer. No “thanks” to COVID-19 and technology, we are now in touch with sports officials, school heads, league officers, student-athletes, NSA officers and coaches from all over, in a forum where we are all students all over again. This has turned out to be our new “coffee shop.”

The forum kicked off with the talk of Geraldine Go Bernardo of the Sports Management Council of the Philippines as she talked about the impact of COVID-19 on the sports landscape of the country. On Day 2, Marc Dagenais, a Professor at the Champlain College St-Lambert, Canada, talked about “How to Facilitate Team Learning and Continue Your Growth as a Coach during this time of COVID 19.” Day 3’s speaker was Paul Supan, Athletic Director of Jose Rizal University and SBP board member (How can Athletic Directors and Sports Coordinators best respond to the impact of COVID 19 to schools and its sports programs). Day 4’s guest speaker was Pearl Managuelod, Secretary General of the Muay Thai Association of the Philippines (EMPATHY: The Forgotten Skill in Successful Leadership). It was UAAP Executive Director and Makati City Councilor Rebo Saguisag on Day 5 (On Leadership: In Sports and in Life). This bleacher bum spoke on Day 6 and touched on the Culture of Preparation as practiced by the mighty All Blacks Rugby team.

The talks resume this week with Dr. Marissa Guinto talking about the ECQ and Mental Health in Sports tomorrow. Belay Fernando talks on Wednesday about Women in Sports: where we go from here. Coach Jong Uichico takes over on Friday as he talks about the culture of coaching and the SBP Coaches Academy.

All talks have been enlightening and fun. The key trait of the forum is that it’s not a one-way teacher-student lecture. The forum includes two breakout sessions where participants are divided into four to five sub-groups for an exchange of thoughts based on the talk given. After the first part of the talk is delivered, the first breakout session is convened. The forum re-groups for the second part of the talk before a second breakout session is called. The forum then re-groups for one last time. At the breakout groups, all are asked to share their thoughts, and this is where everyone has been ecstatic and grateful. Meeting and hearing from different people in the world of sports gives everyone a different perspective yet one that is both assuring and refreshing.

When sports advocate Atty. Vic Africa reminds us to always look at the “why” we do things, our philosophy, we’re all locked-in, eyes and ears. When Naga College Foundation President Atty. Mario Villanueva says that he admires the culture of his rival Ateneo de Naga, eyebrows rise with surprise, looking for ex-ADNU sports chief Noli Ayo’s reaction. Oliver Almadro is a feisty volleyball coach of the Ateneo Lady Eagles, but when he says he’s a father first before a coach, you’re pleasantly surprised to hear that he sent his players home asap before the ECQ. Rebo Saguisag stressed the call for all to be responsible leaders at this time, highlighting that this pandemic was bigger than sports. And then there are eye-opening insights from the young student-athletes and coaches who speak at a level well beyond their wet ears. The learning points and quotable quotes are a tonful and how we wish we could write all of these here.

Ayo gladly says that he has been overwhelmed with the outcome. “This fills me with so much pride seeing so much talent in this forum. But here we are all co-equals,” he bares. It isn’t surprising that the feedback from participants has been a unanimous thumbs up. When COVID-19 is all over, things will never be the same again, and we’ll all have to be ready and vigilant for the new normal. A bunch of sports people is on it already.

Happy Easter! Let us continue to pray as one and heal as one. Kaya nato kini Cebu. Kaya nato kini Pilipinas. Señor Sto. Niño, have mercy on us.

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