Page last updated at 05:41 UTC, Wednesday, 10 December 2014 PH
I have written much about how the playing of the beautiful game, football, can inculcate the values and virtues of cooperation, perseverance, tenacity, generosity, humility, and a host of other desirable qualities among the youth, especially if we start them as early as five or four years old. I have celebrated the ongoing trend of football being played more widely in both well-to-do schools and neighbourhoods as well as in depressed communities, especially through the initiatives of NGOs, embassies (through the Ambassadors Cup), and business enterprises committed to the promotion of football in the country (e.g. Alaska, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Meralco, First Pacific, among others). I must confess, however, that I have not seriously considered the problem of the shortage of good coaches or trainers. We can talk about values formation in football until our faces are blue but if we don’t worry about producing the right kind of coaches, we can have the likes of those who poke their fingers on the eyes of other coaches, produce star players who use their teeth instead of their feet in playing, or nurture prima donnas who are obsessed with hogging the limelight instead of helping their respective teams to win.
I am glad I just got hold of a well-researched study supervised by Dr. Antonio Torralba of the University of Asia and the Pacific entitled “The Influence of Sports on the Cultivation of Virtue.” Sub-titled “a research and development project of the UA&P for the character formation of underprivileged boys through street football”, the study was undertaken in nine low-income communities in the Metro Manila area in which football clinics have been organised mainly for street children by foreign embassies in collaboration with NGOs and business enterprises. The ultimate goal of the study was “to formulate a SMART-Based (Specific, Measurable, Applicable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) workable training and education program for street football coaches—many of whom were street football players themselves—who were tasked to implement a sufficiently comprehensive character development program through sports, specifically street football, in some instances with the help of families and schools in the immediate neighbourhood.”
Some of the conclusions of this research, which was conducted with the help of university students from UA&P, are as follows:
1. The coaches were found to be the most passionate stakeholders of the Ambassadors Cup. Their passion showed in their words and deeds during training and games, and in most instances, in their concern for the chidden to develop the appropriate virtues and right conducts through football.
2. Coaches ten to teach rather than sanction. Coaches, in their desire to keep the children disciplined and docile, insisted on certain rules of conduct during training. In several cases, however, reasonable sanctions were administered to reinforce the motivation for good behaviour. This reminds me of how I personally witnessed the dramatic change in behaviour of the star players of the famous FC Barcelona during the transition from a former coach to arguably one of the best coaches in the world today, Pep Guardiola. I was residing in Barcelona during one of the worst seasons for Barca under a coach that did not know how to discipline the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel E’to. When Guardiola took over, he imposed strict disciplinary rules concerning punctuality to training and preparation for every game. Fines of 1,000 to 6,000 Euros were imposed on those who came late for training, not being in the dressing room one hour before every game and two nights partying before every game.
3. Coaches find the need to employ extrinsic motivation. Since the intrinsic benefits of football may be too abstract for children to comprehend, the coaches offered extrinsic rewards like scholarships in order to encourage the children to persevere and commit themselves to rigorous training. Several coaches dreamt with the children and not for them.
4. Coaches find the need to connect with parents to know the children better. Several coaches felt that knowing the how of football was never enough for coaching. They deliberately tried to know the children better: their motivations, their psychology, their character strengths and weaknesses. The personal experiences of the coaches as street children in their younger days served as reference point, despite the various personal problems they themselves encountered.
Several coaches realised that in order for them to know the children, they themselves should acknowledge the parents and build bridges with them. In this way, parents are made to understand what football can actually do to their children’s lives leading to a great deal of parent collaboration in the nurturing of virtues in their children through the sport
5. Coaches with a positive and optimistic outlook helped overcome the usual difficulties of lack of food, transport and pitches on which to practise. They are able to highlight the recreational value of football, thus helping the children make better use of their free time which otherwise could be spent on vices. In some cases, they take the place of the parents of those children who are orphans.
The study highlighted the great importance of training more coaches who can fit the role model described above. In the next two to three years, there will be initiatives of the Philippine Football Federation under the leadership of President Nonong Araneta to organise training programs for coaches, the demand for which will increase exponentially as the FIFA-assisted Philippine National Football League is started at the beginning of 2017. There will be some ten to twelve Philippine cities that are being considered for participation in this national football league. Football academies have been built or will be built in three sites: Valencia, Bukidnon; Carmona, Cavite; and Tacloban, Leyte. I hope that the technical aspects of coaching in football will be coupled with values-oriented education so that we can have a pool of coaches who are not only expert in the sport but also mentors like Pep Guardiola who employed the whole-person approach to training world-class football players like Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta or Xavi Hernandez. Those who are interested in reading Dr. Torralba’s study on the influence of sports on the cultivation of virtue may get in touch with him at email address firstname.lastname@example.org. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.