European Lessons for Philippine Athletics
Text and Photos: Prof. Airnel T. Abarra- Head Coach Ateneo de Davao University Athletics Team
With Photos From Mr. Ed Leuenberger Jr.
Through our consistent effort to connect and learn with countries with strong culture in Athletics, we got finally invited by two leading clubs in Czech Republic and Germany. SSK Vitkovice Athletics Club of Ostrava, Czech Republic given us the chance to watch and experience world-class Athletics action of the 55th Golden Spike Ostrava at the newly refurbished Městský stadion, Vitkovice, Ostrava, Czech Republic on 20-May-2016, while MTG Mannheim Leichathletik provided us the time and facility to do a 3-day training camp in Michael Hoffman Stadion, Mannheim, Germany on 22-26-May. Selected Ateneo de Davao University Athletics Team members and their parents seen live Olympic and World Record holder Usain Bolt in one of the major events of IAAF World Challenge.
Few days after Golden Spike Ostrava, Ateneo de Davao Athletics team went to MTG Mannheim Leichathletik (MTG Mannheim Athletics) in Mannheim, Germany and spent 3 days of training and coaching with one of the leading athletics clubs in Germany. MTG Mannheim is the home of most German National Athletes in Sprints and Field Events. One of them is the star of Team Germany on 100m dash Alexandra Burghardt. Headed by its director and our host Mr. Michael Germann, provided hands-on information on training sequence and drills especially for young athletes.
We know the fact the and difference between European Union and Philippine Athletics in terms of facilities and other aspects, what thing can we learn from them? We observed the following culture:
Culture of excellence- upon watching Golden Spike Ostrava, they make sure that all things needed for an athletic competition is provided. Upon arriving at the train station, we met a carpool service using high-end cars. Because the organizers of Golden Spike Ostrava has been doing this for 55 times, no wonder they had the support not only of the government but also private entities because they kept on improving the event. I remember last year, the media center is at a temporary room near the lower level of the stadium, now that the media center at a new and better place at the stadium. If only our meets will keep up this character of excellence, it is sure that Athletics will draw more crowd.
Culture of openness- I’ve seen how accommodating MTG Mannheim community during our training camp inside their facility. Even there is language barrier, German National Sprint Coach Valerij Bauer shared his training techniques. Meanwhile, Alexandra Burghardt even the fact she is preparing for Olympic qualifiers, took time to meet us and lead the warm-up and drills of our athletes. On top of this, Michael Germann even he is the head of the MTG Mannheim take care of everything we need to make our stay in the city more comfortable. The hands-on attitude of sport leaders in Germany should be emulated by those leaders who never go down from their “ivory towers”.
Culture of integrity- In Golden Spike Ostrava, all were given chance to have the official results as soon as possible. In our previous posts, we noted that social media and official websites bearing the real lists, season bests and progression of athletes in the German Athletics Federation website shows that all athletes in the national team including their results are properly documented. Coach Valerij Bauer and other national coaches are properly distributed in different athletics clubs and results and performances are strictly monitored. Compared with the current system that most national coaches were centered in the capital city, National coaches in Germany are training in their respective sport clubs where their athletes were and helping the regional growth of other aspiring coaches in their respective communities. This kind of decentralization of national coaches eliminates the possibility of “poaching” and will harness homegrown talents.
To sum up, we went to Europe self-funded and we worked on establishing contacts to our Czech and German counterparts for the past year. The initiative of Blue Knights Track League is our primary basis on how we convince them to link their clubs to the Athletics community of Ateneo de Davao. Besides, during our stay, we integrate, home-stayed, and “CouchSurf” with our host communities. Through this we established good faith with our colleagues and Europe and we look forward to build better relationships so that people will come and be convinced that exposing athletes to excellence is a way for them not only to learn new techniques but also proving that raising culture of Athletics in the Philippines is imperative.