Athletics Grassroots Program in the Philippines

European Lessons for a Successful Athletics Grassroots Program in the Philippines

First Published 31 May, 2017

European Lessons for a Successful Athletics Grassroots Program in the Philippines

Airnel T. Abarra, MSc

Head Coach- Ateneo de Davao University

Meet Director- Blue Knights Track League, Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, Philippines

Auestadion of the University of Kassel in Kassel, Germany. Besides the venue of the 2017 Germany University Athletics Championships. Primary qualifying meet for Team Germany for the 2017 Universiade in Taipei, Taiwan

It’s always my belief that

“you can’t give what you don’t have”.

In addition that’s why to learn a different perspective in Athletics from countries and communities with successful sports programs. Above all, I took the risk of contacting different Athletics communities in Europe especially in the Czech Republic and Germany. It was such a humbling and totally enlightening experience.

In addition, we may think that they are successful in sports because they are a first-world country. In conclusion, still, there are common values that these countries possessed that we might emulate here in the Philippines

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1. Integrity – Grassroots Program in the Philippines

All records of both German and Czech Athletics Federations can be viewed publicly and anyone can scrutinize them. All standards are totally transparent, especially for international competitions. Therefore all coaches and athletes know what they need to reach in order to make it to the final cut.

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At the German University Athletics Championships in Kassel, Germany. Results, and records are open to the public as soon as possible both in print and online. No guessing game. All transparent. You run in the morning, results posted before lunchtime.

2. Decentralization – Grassroots Program in the Philippines

Coaches and Athletes in both countries train in their respective clubs and communities. National coaches are the ones going to the local clubs to “scout” and train athletes. And supported by their national federation on the premise that they should meet the standards.

If standards are not met, coaches or trainers are not included in the roster. And will settle to focus more on the local and regional levels. Hence information exchange is possible and local coaches. On the other hand, they will have a chance to be a national coach if their athlete will reach the standards needed for an international competition.

The coach or trainer with the recommendation of the national federation has the discretion if they want to train in the national training center in Kienbaum, Brandenburg, Germany. Where all of their needs for final training are supported to prepare them for an international event.

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Former German National Champion in sprints Catherine Tschirch. Train athletes in the state of Baden-Wurtemburg. And part of the roster of regional or state coaches that composes the German Athletics youth Athletics system.

3. Engagement

I noticed that as well that most officials and trainers are very young. Certification programs are available to different regions and communities on a regular basis. In addition even students especially taking sports science and physical education are involved in training, officiating and sport management.

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Athletes of Ateneo de Davao University training together with German National Sprinter  Alexandra Burghardt.

4. Openness

As we noted earlier, the programs are freely discussed and shared in different forms of media, and any criticism is considered fair. In addition, those aspiring coaches and volunteers are given equal opportunity to contribute to different events. Above all the dynamism of their communities is seen in the youth involvement in organizing and managing the events.

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Fatima Kostkova (Second Seated from the left) is the young coach of this promising athlete of SSK Vitkovice Athletics Club in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

5. Process

Dr. Norbert Stein of German Sport University cited that coaches should treat grassroots programs especially for children as long process which means young athletes are not young adults. At a young age, form and movement patterns are the ones that should be focused and not just for the sake of medals or prestige.

Grassroots programs include training camps that are set way ahead of their respective competitions. And its content mostly is the familiarization of technique and not grueling workouts. Also, young athletes have a chance to try most of the events in Athletics.

Only around 16 or 17 years old when the athlete is ready to specialize based on their performance. Schools or universities are utilized as venues. And the sports coordinator of the university has no word on the training programs. But maintains a close contact as the earlier is responsibility is given to the coach which is liable during the training period.

During the 2017 German University Athletics Championships in Kassel, Germany. It is the primary basis of student-athletes if they want to be considered as delegated in the upcoming Universiade or World University Games. They must hit certain standards raised by the German Sports University Federation. Which is the lone governing body for University Sports in the said country?

6. Culture

In every event, there is a chance for athletes to bond and know each other. During the 2016 European Athletics Championships. The last days of the competition are for the Young Leaders Congress where all delegates including volunteers must attend.

Here, they decide the next host city of the championships and offer venues for information exchange and volunteerism. Athletes, officials, and volunteers work hand in hand. And in my personal experience, Mr. Thorsten Hütsch director of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Hochschulsportverband (adh) (German University Athletics Federation went the extra mile. By personally hosting a  visitor like me in their house and joining their travel to the venue. I saw as well that top-ranked officials are truly hands-on in different tasks. And not just sitting at the comforts of their office.

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It might be said that these examples are not applicable in the Philippine setting. Therefore we can adopt some of this in our way and perhaps this might help how we improve our programs.

Grassroots Program in the Philippines
Mr. Michael Germann- the director of MTG Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany one of the leading Athletics clubs in Germany. And the base of at least 3 national athletes of Germany. Local clubs are the backbone of the German Athletics System.

Also, every experience should serve as a lesson learned and must be properly considered even it won’t be pleasing for other people’s mindsets. Above all as a coach and former street parliamentarian, I see the value of continuous self-assessment and criticism as part of personal development. In conclusion, I think it’s about time we can adopt this in the sport we love which is Athletics.

Comments and suggestions? Email me at [email protected]

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