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Ramirez: National Academy of Sports should target marginalized athletes

Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez wants the newly-established National Academy of Sports to focus on getting potential athletes with humble beginnings who may not afford proper schooling, let alone support a sports calling.

"The heart and soul of the National Academy of Sports is to identify natural-born Filipinos all over the country, and they will avail of full scholarship. Parang boarding school ito," Ramirez said Wednesday on Sports Page.

"We will include indigenous children, the marginalized so it is not about going to UP, Ateneo and La Salle," the PSC chairman added.

The NAS was formally established on June 9, 2020, when President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11470. It will serve as a government-run sports institution where budding young athletes will be trained to be future national athletes.

Having a full scholarship while maximizing the world-class facilities in the recently built New Clark City sounds like a dream for the two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Pauline Lopez.

"Imagine a young girl from the province who has no idea how they're going to reach their goals and their dreams and there's this amazing program that enables all these athletes, these aspiring athletes who don't even know that they have this potential that they can release," Lopez shared. "I can't wait for the young people coming up to experience this amazing opportunity and as an older athlete compared to the young ones, this is just like the start for them and I'm really glad that our government is doing something for us athletes."

Ramirez said he was inspired with how the sports academies were run in various countries such as China, Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Thailand.

"I would recommend the composition of the core of this institute should visit these and learn," he said.

"I would send my Filipino coaches to other countries to learn the ingredients of coaching rather than having a foreign coach," he said, "The Filipino coach will think and act like his culture is Filipino. And the best teacher is somebody who understands that the Filipino student-athlete."

However, Ramirez said he would still be open to having foreign coaches, should the event require him to.

While some parents might be hesitant in sending their children to the National Sports Academy, Ramirez said they would also push to create regional training centers in Northern and Southern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to further reach out to kids who could be Olympians in the future.

Lopez, who was a student-athlete herself in Ateneo, said having sports training and academic education in one place is a great opportunity to have.

"It's like a big bubble in one and you have everything," she gushed.

While the 23-year-old taekwondo jin may not be able to enroll in the National Academy of Sports, Lopez said that as an athlete, she could still do a lot to help.

"One: we have to be informed on how everything is happening. Two: educate, and three: inspire. How well is this academy for inspiring athletes or the youth? If you're informed, you have the baseline of all the facts and how things can be run. Then you educate yourself and then you're inspired. So as athletes right now, I think that's our goal," Lopez said, even agreeing to the possibility of being a coach in the academy in the future.

Ramirez was inspired by the idea.

"When Pauline mentioned about the desire to be inspiring the athletes, I thought of many things to bring in the athletes who have participated in the Olympics, and who have succeeded," he said.

Lopez added that while a lot would be done for the student-athletes, it would still take a lot of sacrifice to succeed.

"I didn't even have a normal childhood. I really was just training camp after training camp. I didn't really attend my prom," she shared.

"I think it's the mindset of the athlete. Listen, you have great potential, let's work on this together. If they know this, it's not just a self-sacrifice, I think it's a sacrifice of the whole family. If someone's gonna go to school, and really spend their time there to study sports, everything. It's not just your sacrifice, it's the sacrifice of your family for the dream. It's gonna be hard but I think all of that sacrifice is worth it," Lopez said.

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