Sports To Spur A Culture

Sports To Spur A Culture

A five-minute jeepney ride and a short walk later I’m in the lobby of the Lispher Inn in Juna subdivision. It’s eight thirty in the morning on my second Saturday in Davao and I’m ready to talk sports.

I’ve been invited to join a forum meeting for coaches of Ateneo de Davao University to learn about sports culture in Mindanao. Initiator and host is Noli Ayo, Ateneo’s Athletics Director.

Beyond coaching

ateneo-sports-culture-noli-ayo-mindanao
Noli Ayo is the Athetlics Director of Ateneo de Davao University. He is one of the founders of the Mindanao Peace Games that were first held in 2015.

I dig into the breakfast buffet and poor myself a cup of coffee. Chatting with some of the coaches I find out which sports are represented: basketball, football, archery, badminton and track and field. Today, I’m told, is about sharing coaching experiences and talking about what Ayo calls “going beyond coaching.”

After a joint opening prayer, Ayo kicks things off with an ostensibly blunt statement: “Coaching is a thankless job.” What he means, as he explains later, is that ‘we’ are coaches nobody writes about. We are the “faceless and the nameless”, but that’s okay.

Coaching is a thankless job, but that’s okay

It’s okay because that’s not what coaching is about. Ayo’s philosophy is that coaches are leaders. That insight inspired him and other sports leaders to organize the first ever Mindanao Peace Games, held in 2015. An annual event since its conception, the Mindanao Peace Games are not just about tournaments in which teams compete for medals. They also feature coaches’ forums, community outreach programs and inspirational TED Talks-like presentations.

Ayo drives his message home by likening the coaches to “game changers.” That starts, he explains, with changing yourself, then your team and, lastly, your environment. “If you build the culture well, good people will come.”

It’s really his key message. To change Mindanao’s sports culture – and in the process contribute to lasting peace – “we have to show we are worth to be taken seriously.”

Empty cup

Ateneo’s Athletics Director really knows his stuff and he impresses me with his almost preacher-like eloquent style of speaking. Talking about mentorship and how a mentee’s progress reflects on the mentor, he finds positive parallels with Jesus and his apostle Peter who’s considered the first pope of the Catholic Church.

“We should be an empty cup, always ready to learn,” one coach professes during the final tour de table. Another argues for “changing the perspective on winning.” Other coaches agree: winning doesn’t matter; the process does.

We have to show we are worth to be taken seriously

As people are starting to head out I get to talking to a couple of football coaches. Two of them, Will Gonzales and Ivan Caiña, are not with Ateneo de Davao but both will soon join its team of football coaches. We all agree that F.C. Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world with Lionel Messi the uncrowned king of football.

Will and Ivan proudly inform me that long before ‘Leo’, Barça had a Filipino-Spanish star by the name of Paulino Alcántara. His record of 369 goals stood for eighty seven years until it was broken by, you guessed it, Messi.

If it were up to these two young coaches a new Alcántara will rise soon. They are doing their part in creating the right sports culture to make that happen.


Click the play button to watch a great twenty-minute Barça TV documentary on the life of Alcántara.

I took the picture below this blog’s headline during a match between Ateneo de Davao and the University of Southeastern Philippines. Ateneo clinched the victory in a goal-packed game by 7-4.

7 Responses
  1. Thanks for the mention Patrick! I hope you can join us in more games and see the change that we are working to achieve first hand and as it happens, and then hopefully be present when we discover that “new” Paulino Alcántara.

  2. Inspirerend! Meer sporten zouden hier een voorbeeld aan moeten nemen.

    1. Zeker! Ik vond het vooral ook bijzonder om te merken hoe universeel sport is. Je hoeft geen vreemde talen te kennen om een potje te voetballen, bijvoorbeeld. Ik denk dat ik meer over dit onderwerp ga schrijven, spreekt me wel aan.

  3. And again, beautifully written (please become my ghostwriter 😉).
    One of my favourite topics, sports and peace:
    “It’s really his key message. To change Mindanao’s sports culture – and in the process contribute to lasting peace – “we have to show we are worth to be taken seriously.””

    1. Salámat Karin! You picked the essential quote out of the article, well done 😉 Let’s have that coffee soon and I’ll ghostwrite whatever you want.

      1. Oooh nooo I see this answer only now… sayang! you could have ghost written my year end report or the proposal we’ve been working on – charrrrr 😄

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