Why NOT supporting our elite athletes is a waste of resources

Philippine Dragon Boat Team (in blue) and Thailand Dragon Boat Team (in red) during training at the 26th SEA Games, Jakarta
Philippine Dragon Boat Team (in blue) and Thailand Dragon Boat Team (in red) during training at the 26th SEA Games, Jakarta

The training is not the only thing that’s tough in being a national athlete. For many athletes, it is a full-time job that comes with its share of sacrifices. Some of them are uprooted from their hometowns to train in Manila, others have to put their education on hold, and some opt to pursue their dreams despite the challenges of being a Philippine athlete. Athletes under national sports associations that have managed to get their acts together are much luckier than their peers. They are mostly spared from issues that undermine their goals and efforts.

Anyone who has experienced being a national athlete or paid close enough attention to their plight would know that the problems they face today are practically the same ones that have plagued the sports community for years, even decades. One would wonder what our sports leaders have learned from the past and how they used it to effect changes, no matter how small.

Pia Cayetano mulls zero budget for PSC for 2014 for lack of support for Philippine athletes

“In conscience, I have a difficulty recommending a zero budget because at the end of the day, it’s the athletes who will suffer.” ~ Senator Pia Cayetano

Senator Pia Cayetano is one of the staunchest allies athletes have had in the senate. She is also one of the most vocal. This is a boon to athletes who need someone to champion their cause.

Often, elite athletes who try to question the status quo or those brave enough to stand up for what they believe is right are at the mercy of their respective NSAs. Many athletes have long learned to keep their discontent to themselves to avoid being booted out from their teams. Some fear for the backlash that might affect their teammates. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why not much has changed over the years. Why the same problems resurface time and time again, which always leave athletes at the losing end.

While it is true that NSAs are autonomous, the PSC is not entirely helpless against them. PSC provides the funding for the elite athletes. And the agency is armed with the following legislation that somehow should have given teeth to their mandate:

Section 11 Republic Act No. 6847:

(j)To exercise supervisory and visitorial powers over the national sports associations in connection with their sports promotion and development programs with respect to which financial assistance is extended by the Commission;

To use the Philippine Dragon Boat Team’s current issue with some of their NSA leaders as example, PSC’s failure to step in to assist in resolving the problem only led to wasteful use of resources. Imagine the cost of investment poured into athletes’ training, allowances, and other expenses over the past months or years going down the drain when the team was disbanded. It is money off the PSC’s budget. It is taxpayers’ money allocated in the agency’s programs to develop and promote sports in the country. PSC has all the right to monitor and question how this money is optimized to support their objectives.

Removing athletes from the national pool should involve due process. More importantly, the PSC needs to be on board in making these decisions. They also have to be more proactive in ensuring that athletes will have the opportunities they need to train, compete, and reach or surpass their potentials. Because at the end of the day, every athlete represents the country’s investment. Even the autonomous NSAs know this.

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