IN the eyes of National Academy of Sports (NAS) Executive Director Josephine Joy Reyes, the country can produce more world-class athletes in the mold of Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz by focusing on two important things: sports and education.
Speaking at the 121st edition of the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) last Sept. 23, Reyes said the establishment of NAS last year will fill the needs of young student-athletes to continue to pursue athletic excellence while getting quality education.
“I think the establishment of NAS by virtue of Republic Act 11470 signed by President Duterte last July 9, 2020 is one of the best things to happen in Philippine sports,” said Reyes during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
Reyes was joined in the forum by NAS Deputy Executive Director Emil “Bong”Arroyo.
“NAS is mandated to provide quality secondary education with a special curriculum in sports. The government wanted to have a balance between academics and sports,” added Reyes,who was appointed as head of the NAS last October 2020.
“By giving full scholarship to deserving student-athletes, we are also helping them develop their sporting skills. We want them to also excel in academics and not just sports. We want our athletes to have a good future even when their playing days are over.”
A former athlete herself, Reyes said her long experience in the field fuels her desire and commitment to work hard to improve the performance of the national athletes.
“The reason why my heart is in this field and in the PSC is because my passion belongs to the athletes. Naging atleta rin ako. I was a former member of the national team. I’m really on the side of their development, looking at their progress and performance.”
Reyes, who spearheaded the testing manual creation of the Sports Mapping Action Research Talent Identification (SMART ID), said the main campus of the NAS is located at the newly-constructed New Clark City Sports Complex in Capas, Tarlac.
“This is not just about having a training facility, but at the same time, since it is an academy, it is a school in itself. Ang NAS ay isang eskwelahan, na kung saan dito mananatili ang ating mga piling estudyante,” explained Reyes, who also served in the Medical Scientific Athletes Services (MSAS) of the PSC for 27 years.
“Based on RA 11470, NAS will provide full scholarship upon entry at Grade 7 or in junior high schools up to Grade 12. They will also be given reasonable monthly stipend, free board and lodging, as well as school and training uniforms.”
“They will also be provided with the necessary exposure in international competitions. They could also bevome exchange students for them to be able to further hone their talents.”
Presently, NAS has accepted 65 student-athletes from different regions all over the country and divided them into four sections for a ratio of one teacher per 16 or 17 students.
“As a school, we also started it in line with the DepEd’s opening of classes. And very recently, we just also signed an agreement with Region 3 kasi nga secondary education ito and we were welcomed by Region 3 teachers. We will also have eight Region 3 teachers who.will assist us in the general subjects like English, Science, Math.”
Both Reyes and Arroyo assured that only the best secondary student-athletes will be selected to NAS.
“The NAS board itself is led by respectable personalities in the sports and education, like DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones as Chairperson and PSC Chairman William Ramirez as Vice Chairperson,” said Arroyo.
“We are closely coordinating with the PSC, POC (Philippine Olympic Committee), and the different NSAs. With their advices, we came up with the National NAS Annual Search for Competent, Exceptional, Notable and Talented Student Athlete Scholars (NNASCEPTSAS). Doon pa lang sa pangalan, makikita na natin that we are really looking for the cream of the crop. World-class facility for world-class athletes.”
Arroyo said the NAS is providing equal opportunity for all as instructed by Presifent Duterte himself.
“Meron tayong inclusivity in accepting as many applicants as possible, again with qualifying standards. Meron pong equity system upon the advice of the board of trustees. We are providing opportunity for people from different regional clusters in eight focal sports, namely aquatics, athletics, badminton, gymnastics, judo, table tennis, taekwondo and weightlifting.”
“Equal opportunity also for male and female athletes. We are also looking for those who come from indigenous people. We also have NSA partnerships and collaborations so that we can go back as far as two or three years in terms of our search in the competition scene.”
Asked about the decision to include only eight sports in Phase 1 of the NAS program, Reyes and Arroyo said there are also plans to expand to other sports depending on the budget.
“As much as we want to accomodate all sports, we have a very limited space in the campus and the facilities. So right now we are limited only to the Olympic sports. We felt these are the sports which can give us medals in the international competitions. But looking forward, we’re hoping to add some more sports.”
“We’re also not disregarding the team sports, like basketball. Personally, ako galing din ako sa team sport na volleyball. But we regularly talk to the different NSAS to find out their own national development program. Then we try to find our niche and know kung saan kami makatutulong.”
“First, we need the help of the NSAs in providing us good coaches. We’re talking about highly-specialized skills, so the NSAs can help us a lot.”
The two high-ranking NAS officials admitted the pandemic has also affected their program.
“We are just restricted for the face-to-face classes (because of the pandemic) for now. That’s why everything will be done virtually, “ said Reyes
“But even if lahat virtually and remotely done right now, even the training, the academy has prepared a lot of program and support services to allow us to deliver our services to our scholars.”
Budget will be another concern.
“Actually, this is the budget period at yung sinusulong naming natitirang recalibrated budget. Our budget has been recalibrated because of the pandemic situation. Some items in the proposed budget were not considered because of the pandemic. But we are not stopping our program kaya we opened our classes simultaneously with the opening of classes last week. Tuloy lang kami sa NAS.”
For Reyes and NAS, it’s still “Dream Big, Aim High.” with reports from Gab Ferreras