My email ad was hacked. As early as 4am in the morning of Wednesday, I started receiving text messages from friends asking if it was true that I was marooned in Madrid and needed 3,000 Euros to make it back home. By 9 in the morning, I was surprised to receive a call from Philippine Sports Commission chair Ritchie Garcia asking me if I was indeed in Spain. I replied that the closest I got to Mother Country was when I waded the flooded waters of Espana Ave. back in my college days in the mid-50s.
Anyway, the surprise call of the PSC Chairman gave me the opportunity to tell him that the plan of the Commission to revive the Palarong Batang Pinoy, a national games for children 14-years old and under, poses some potential risk to participants which the PSC as organizer should begin to address, especially at the grassroots provincial level.
Chairman Garcia instructed me to email him these concerns that I raised as early as 2000 in an article titled Potential Dangers of Batang Pinoy. I recall these potential risks based on Policy Statements issued on Sept 1, 1998, subsequently followed by a Statement of Reafirmation on Sept 1, 2007 by the American Academy of Pediatricians.
I argued that DepEd schools, from which majority of participants will come from, do not have the personnel, expertise, and programs to prepare young children for structured athletic competition in the context of the Palarong Batang Pinoy.
First, the AAP recommends: “Organized sports programs for pre-adolescents should complement, not replace, the regular physical activity that is a part of free play, child-organized games, recreational sports, and PE programs in the schools. Regular physical activity should be encouraged for all children whether they participate in organized sports or not. “
The 2002 Basic Education Curriculum or the Millennium Curriculum, lumps together four subjects — Social Studies, Music, Arts, Health, PE & Music, Technology & Home Economics — into one subject called Makabayan, significantly reducing the time allotted to physical education–the subject that provides the opportunity for children to acquire the basic skills and knowledge for sports participation.
Thus, the prerequisites for quality participation among participants in the PBP is anticipated to be very low.
Second, the AAP recommends that: “ Pediatricians can take an active role in youth sports organizations by educating coaches about developmental and safety issues, monitoring the health and safety of children involved in organized sports, and advising committees on rules and safety…Pediatricians are encouraged to help assess developmental readiness and medical suitability for children and pre-adolescents to participate in organized sports and assist in matching a child’s physical, social, and cognitive maturity with appropriate sports activities.”
The DepEd does not have trained coaches and medical doctors in its roster of employees who can adequately perform the requirements recommended in the above-stated policy statement.
Third, and this I am really concerned about since the target participants of the PBP are elementary school children, is the fact that of the “3.4 million pupils enrolled, some 515, 000 are afflicted with poverty-related health problems and suffer varying levels of malnutrition” posing the question whether the nutritional status of the young athletes can sustain the extra demands of vigorous athletic participation.
There are many more issues and concerns which, because of space limitation, I cannot further include in this piece. The remaining question is: What is the fundamental goal of holding the Palarong Batang Pinoy? What is it that the proponent Philippine Olympic Committee and organizer PSC hope to achieve through the staging of this sporting event for children?
The answer to this question may be gleaned from this report (PDI, June 13, 2011): “The quest for the first gold medal in the Youth Olympic games will begin once efforts to discover new talents in the Palarong Pambansa and Batang Pinoy…the main agenda when the Philippine Olympic Committee sits down with top officials of the local government department, education department and the PSC…POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. said the coordination of the Olympic body with these government agencies would fast-track the discovery of up-and-coming national athletes for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.”
Experts share with us the following views I have downloaded from the internet which may enlighten us in passing judgment on the goal of the PBP as articulated by Cojuangco.
1. There is no doubt that youth sports have become a huge force in society. Today’s forms of youth sports, which are competitive in nature, are hurting the future sports of involvement for many reasons. First, the age and nature of youth sports begins at too early. Second, children are being burned-out of sports at a young age. Third, the specialization of sports has dramatically affected participation in other numerous sports and the development of transferable skills. Finally, children are being pressured by parents to participate early to gain an advantage over their peers.
2. With these factors affecting our youth, the future of high school sports might be in jeopardy. The trend is still so young that we don’t know the long term societal effects of early competition on future participants but many are quitting. We need to remember that these are just games and should be fun and enjoyable to those who participate in.
3. Too much competition too early may cause burnout. The term “burnout” is a relatively new term with children in competitive sports. Burnout can be defined as “the athlete’s natural response to chronic, ongoing stress.” By age 13, burnouts begin to manifest, and children start quitting their given sports. Burnout in kids’ sports can be caused by a “play at all costs” attitude by the parents and coaches, overtraining, and excessive travel.
4. To avoid burnout, children should wait until high school before specializing in a sport. In the book Making Athletics a Positive Experience for Your Child: 101 Ways to be a Terrific Sports Parent, Joel Spring explains that children are not even physically capable of handling competitive sports. Most young kids are not capable of handling vigorous practices or games that are required in specializing of a sport.
If they don’t specialize in sports at a young age, they will be better suited learning how to develop a variety of motor and athletic skills that transfer from one sport to another, and can’t be developed by specializing.