Philippine Sailing Association president Ernesto “Judes” Echauz recently called for the creation of a sports high school for the country’s outstanding junior athletes.
Echauz, who is also the group chairman of Standard Insurance Company Inc., is pushing for a sports educational system that can provide a sound academic program coupled with a promising sports development plan for its student-athletes.
According to the former Philippine Olympic Committee board member who was named Executive of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association, the sports high school should provide free tuition fees, boarding and allowances for potential athletes in majors sports mostly selected from the Palarong Pambansa and Batang Pinoy Games.
Here is the copy of the speech that Echauz was supposed to deliver during the PSA Awards Night on Feb. 27 at the Manila Hotel:
When we talk about a Sports Executive, there are two kinds. One is a sports team owner who has the enthusiasm or passion for the sports even if he is not a practitioner.
Such is the case in the Philippine Basketball Association teams, the team owner must be a multi-billionaire or the group of companies he represents must be such for the sports team to be successful.
The other one is a sports manager who understands the sports, a practitioner and himself knows how to win in the sports. Definitely, it would help if he himself or the company that he represents is in the billion categories.
Setting aside financial resources, perhaps the feeling of winning, whether as an individual or a team player, is what drives an athlete and a sports executive.
In the China Cup held in Shenzhen, China last year where there were more than 200 teams from all over the world, we were competing in the IRC 1 class, the top racing yacht division against those from other countries and crewed by top hired professionals.
Going to the last race, we were tied with a new high-tech Ker designed racing yacht and crewed by almost all hired professionals against our all Filipino team composed of national team sailors.
A few seconds before the starting gun, our helmsman who is the Asian champion in match racing, Ridgely Balladares, was able to cause the other yacht to make a mistake that delayed its crossing the start line by a few seconds behind us.
That won us the championship in the top IRC 1 Division. On the other hand, our junior team composed of the younger national team sailors did extremely well in the Asian Sailing Federation Far East 28R Class Championship, scoring all firsts in the seven races beating handily the national teams from New Zealand and Singapore which placed 2 nd and 3 rd to them.
Yet, the best feeling after winning the championship is when the team goes on stage, displays the Philippine Flag and shouts its battle-cry “Philippines Fight”. It is not only winning for us but more so winning for our country that becomes quitean achievement.
No matter what, this is also what drives all of us when we are already competing on an international level that is to fight for the Philippines.
Our teams in sailing, cycling and duathlon are composed of elite athletes where some are already members of the national teams.
They are not commercial teams and they compete also with the purpose that our athletes represent the country in the games such as the Sea Games, Asian Games and hopefully the Olympics.
On the other hand, running the teams is like managing an enterprise the foremost requirement of which is the regular income of the athletes, that these should sustain them and their families comfortably.
We are able to achieve this by having those athletes already enlisted or having new ones enlisted with the Philippine Navy. For those who are not enlisted and including the retired athletes from the Philippine Navy, we hire them as regular employees of our Company with health and retirement benefits.
This is as part of our advocacy in sports. In addition to their regular salaries, these athletes are provided regular monthly training allowances as well as meal allowances during training itself and whatever some of them receive from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) as being part of the national pool or being medalists become supplementary to their regular income and allowances.
In terms of equipment, we see to it that they have the best equipment. I have been into biking since my high school days when Patria first came out with the four-speed gear. We have standardized our bikes to Giant carbon fiber TCRs with Zipp wheel sets and Shimano Duraace 10 speed gears.
I also choose the latest head gear used in the Tour de France, the Giro Synthe.
As for sailing, we have to justify with the PSC why we should have the same top brand for the 470 and 420 dinghy classes like Mackay of New Zealand similar to those being used by the other sailing teams in Asia.
Our Company also donated to the Philippine Sailing Association six of the Far East 28R sailboats so that our national sailors become excellent on keelboat sailing and match racing.
Nevertheless, there are a hundred things for training and competition, from vitamins and energy supplements which we import from the US, to sports watches, specialized eyewear, cross training shoes and so on. Whether locally or internationally, we make sure our teams have the best equipment, gears and support and they are respected not only as members of the team but more so as Filipinos.
As for coaching, we have former national champions in cycling and running while for sailing our head coach is the gold medalist in the Seagames for match racing. We have converted some of our elite sailors in the top classes and who have undergone foreign training to become assistant coaches to the older coaches for the lower dinghy classes.
These athletes and coaches have undergone coach training here in our sailing center from a notable Singaporean sailing coach who is now the national head coach of Thailand. He recommended the pooling of our own talents to teach each other. It would only be after and before the games that we would hire specialize foreign coaches for the particular classes competing.
We are also very supportive of women athletes. I got introduced to triathlon by my daughter Magali who was WNCAA Most Outstanding Swimmer in her 7 th grade and Batang Pinoy champion in Triathlon in her senior high school year. Her cycling coach Bernie Lentada introduced the Philippine Navy’s cycling team to us.
We have supported Monica Torres for some years now and she has been consistently the top long-distance triathlete in the Philippines and is now the current Asian Champion in duathlon. She is now part of the national team and hopefully she could compete in the Seagames next year here in the Philippines for duathlon.
We have as part of our cycling team a lone female cyclist from the Philippine Navy, Jarmyn Prado, who won the recent national PruLife Philippines Cycling Championships for road racing and criterium.
And the most inspirational triathlete is Pawie Fornia, a former national triathlete, who joined the Philippine Navy and became a member of our duathlon team. She was encouraged by the cycling team’s commanding officer Col. Cuison to join the Philippine Military Academy which she did after setting a female PMA record in the3-km. run as well as being top three in her plebe year.
She was accepted at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and now top midshipman of her junior year aside from being ranked as top 10 women collegiate triathlete in the United States.
Our athletes come from poor families and it is only when they become part of our program that they could be considered as middle income and eventually excel beyond national level. Similar to many of the sports in the country, those who excel are not the younger athletes but those beyond their teens
and come from the military.
However, in developing potential athletes even before their teens, providing allowances and free meals alone are not sufficient since the families are so poor that whatever money is given to them, including allowances from PSC later as they become members of the national pool, these are turned over
to their families.
When an athlete gets enlisted to the Navy, the first thing he or she would do is to take out a loan either to build or repair their family’s house.
Perhaps what our government can do is to follow what Thailand has done by putting up a sports high school complete with the sports facilities and providing a good academic and sports development program with free tuition fees, boarding and allowances for potential athletes in major sports and who are mostly selected from the Palarong Pambansa winners.
If our former first lady Imelda Marcos has put up the Philippine School of the Arts in Mount Makiling funded by the Department of Education and which still produces the best young artists in the country, the same could be done for sports.
This sports high school will develop the young athletes prior to their reaching their peak beyond their teens and when programs similar to ours, in partnership with the military and supported by PSC’s financial assistance, can take over.
My father must be proud of me now. He was an Ateneo Blue Eagles Hall of Famer in basketball and he gave up teaching me basketball when I still very young. To the Philippine Sportswriter Association, thank you for this Sports Executive of the Year Award, the highest award which I have received in my life.
To all the Philippine sports officials, executives, managers and specially the Filipino athletes, Philippines Fight!