Airnel T. Abarra
“The idea that the harder you work, the better you’re going to be is just garbage. The greatest improvement is made by the man or woman who works most intelligently.” – Bill Bowerman
In the course of three years as the coach of Ateneo de Davao University Track and Field team and proponent of SMART Blue Knights Track League Season 3 which had its finals at the Fr. Martinez Sports Center Track Oval, Ateneo de Davao University on 25-February, we had a season full of great moments which are both heart-warming and inspiring while also reflecting on what should be done next to improve the culture of Athletics as a discipline in Mindanao. As meet manager of this event which is running for almost three years, we continuously take steps to practice self-criticism in order to raise our standards. As a coach and meet manager, it is not only important you are present in trainings and competitions but also find ways to raise the consciousness of your community towards your sport.
As the only monthly Athletics event in Mindanao and perhaps in whole of Philippines, the Blue Knights Track League give chance for athletes in our region to see and meet National Athletes who graced the humble oval of Ateneo de Davao University. SEA Games Medalist in Long Jump Katherine Khay Santos opened our season with a bang last July 2017. With him is UAAP Commissioner Atty. ReboSaguisag, and SMART Head for Mindanao Mr. Arnold Dellosa. Through this start, we want to prove that Athletics has its fair share of icons. It is important that we provide models for our athletes.
After her inspiring feat during the 2016, Rio Olympics, Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal also take the time to run with the athletes in BKTL September Leg. Through her stories of challenge and success, Joy shared her experience as former sprinter then turned long distance runner. She had her fair share of stories on how odds all went onto her especially the grueling moments during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Aside from people who grace the events in this years’ BKTL, we managed to bring the action in other communities. In partnership with the Provincial Government of Davao del Norte especially its Sports and Tourism Office, BKTL had its record-breaking participation rate of 28 teams. It covered 3 major regions in Mindanao. A
As we resume the games on January 2017, our loyal friends from Kapatagan, Digos Davao del Sur once again shine with its prime product Ms. MeageyNinura- the current PalarongPambansa and National Junior Record Holder in 3,000m run. Meagey had the chance to share her message to aspiring athletes. In terms of participation, BKTL January leg has made its reach to the athletes of Kidapawan and Cotabato City.
On the 6th leg of BKTL, UAAP Athletics Champion Michael Carlo “Mico” Del Prado raced with the athletes of Mindanao in the 200m and 400m dash. Mico had wonderful experience meeting other athletes in our region who are almost at par with his abilities. Still, it gives the local athletes to learn from the experience of Mico. Athletes as well had the experience being seen online via internet livestreaming thanks to the efforts and expertise of Ateneo de Davao iCommP group.
It may look like we did much effort this year which is the product of the entire community of BKTL. Still we are running on tight funds and limited resources but we were able to secure more people and partners this year. Still the proponents don’t rest on its simple laurels. There is still a lot of work to do especially as we move to our 4th season on July 2017. Some of the things we want to improve are as follows:
Branding- the proponents now are seeking the assistance of different individuals and groups to give BKTL a better sporting image next year. From the uniforms of the officials down to the quality of its identity, we seek new breed of individuals who want to give BKTL a fresh look.
Efficiency- Given that BKTL runs on limited resources, we hope that we can find ways to make the race more efficient and not labor-intensive. We plan to use different technologies in results encoding and other parts of the game that needs to be improved.
Partnership-. We hope to the different legs of BKTL in different cities in Mindanao. Our goal is to have at least two legs which will be held in different key locations in the region. So that we can introduce more the impact of independent Athletics meets which is the core of a genuine grassroots sport development.
Self- As the meet manager, I really reflect on what I need to improve on myself. I raise the questions if I am really a good ambassador of the sport? Am I really a good coach? Am I really living up to my ideals. This season of BKTL provided me great lessons in life as well. How to beat the odds when others are not confident on my skills as simple mover in Athletics. I had my fair share of people who try to bring me down but when I see how athletes went home happy and thankful after each BKTL, all those rejections and criticism simply fades away.
Other coaches prefer to raise their athletes on the usual cycle of being champion in the national meets and being in top universities in the capital. But did it change how athletes look on themselves? Did the athletes met their idols? Did the athletes able to express their ideals or they will be just treated as commodities for the sake of topping the points of their respective leagues? Still I believe that aside from winning it is the values and character must be develop by the athlete from their coaches.
I live up to my spirit, vocation, and my reason why I want to raise the culture of Athletics in Mindanao. I dream that the 4th season will prosper more to reach its goals that time will come, we will set the benchmark of Athletics program in the Philippines that BKTL will be the league of choice just like how my role models in world athletics build their field to let people come.
Photos by Ed Leuenberger and Jun Dionio