by Karlo Sevilla
It all began one Saturday afternoon last summer. Toni Faye Tan was reviewing her law school notes when she was distracted by boisterous noises coming from the street outside their house. When looked out the window, she saw five children — two girls and one boy playing volleyball while two other boys watched.
That immediately caught Toni’s attention. Instead of scolding them, she made a proposal: “Bata, bata! Gusto niyo matuto mag Volleyball? Dati akong player sa UP at naglaro ako sa Superliga.
All excited by Toni’s offer, the children agreed. After a few minutes, almost 30 kids joined them as the statuesque athlete gave tips and on how to play volleyball. The former UP Maroon showed the basics of the game, and then lectured the children on finer details. When discussing about the player’s position, she was surprised to discover that the children knew about collegiate women’s volleyball athletes Alyssa Valdez, sisters Alyja Daphne and Aleona Denise Santiago, Dennise Larazo, Michele Gumabao, Gretchel Soltones, and Rachel Anne Daquis.
The dawn of a new grassroots sports movement
Realizing that her new students were really interested in the sport, the former varsity athlete herself was further motivated to hold another free volleyball session. With the support of her family, Toni started a new advocacy — teaching volleyball every Saturday. With more children, adult volunteers and supporters participating each session, Toni soon found herself leading movement, which was eventually christened as the Youth Sports Advocacy (YSA).
YSA’s mission is “to encourage Filipino athletes to share sport skills, knowledge and abilities and to impart good values for the development of the youth’s athletics skills, discipline, motivation and commitment for the betterment of our society.”
“I have always wanted to promote youth sports and build an organization not only to enhance Filipino children’s sports skills, but most especially to instill good values into their lives like motivation, discipline, determination, goal-setting, and a whole lot more that sports can offer,” shares Toni.
Toni’s ties with the academic community likewise proved helpful in her new advocacy. Her former UP Maroon volleyball teammates Michiko Castaneda and now-TV personality Jed Montero have become regular advocate-volunteers. Her former high school coach Andi Fiel and UP’s Paul Le (president of Philippine Flag Football) are also helping out as trainers.
Toni also gives credit to her background as content manager of Mental Toughness Training website of world-renowned mental toughness trainer for athletes Craig Sigl. From Sigl, Toni said she learned about the right mental attitude to succeed not just in sports but also in life. Her former job also taught her to be social-media savvy, which she now put to good use to promote YSA.
Snowballing of support
Despite being a two month-old organization, YSA gets full support from powerhouse teams like the UP Varsity Alumni, Philippine Netball Team, Philippine Flag Football Team, World Citi College Men’s Volleyball Team, and Heroes Volleyball Program. The group also received sponsorships from AUSDOM Headphones of Dubai, Titan Eight, ABS CBN, among others.
Due to effective social media promotion, YSA gained new supporters and participants. Agnes Aguinaldo read about the new organization on the Internet, and inquired if she and other mothers in her neighborhood may bring their children to Toni’s place for the free training sessions. Toni agreed, and three mothers and their four kids — have not missed a session since.
Individuals from as far as Laguna, Bataan, and Cebu have shown interest in promoting YSA in their provinces. Farmer and basketball coach Toney Rabano, who founded the Samahang Basketbol sa Isla ng Alabat and trains the young hoopsters in Quezon Province. (Read other inspiring stories of YSA volunteers.)
“A Call to Filipino Athletes: Train children in your neighborhood!”
The YSA calls on active and former athletes to voluntarily share their skills and expertise to children in respective and immediate communities. With YSA and Toni’s experience as example, athletes can maximize streets and community parks to teach and train children in different sports: volleyball, basketball, football, flag football, badminton, and netball.
“Para sa mga atleta na katulad ko,” Toni appeals, “hindi natin kailangan ng court at ng magandang bola para maibahagi natin sa iba ang ating mga natutunan noong kasagsagan ng ating pagiging atleta. Hindi natin kailangan na maging professional para maibahagi ang ating kaalaman. Nakita ko sa mga mata ng mga bata ang kagustuhan nilang matuto. Nakakainis isipin na wala silang means para sumali sa isang team o maghanap ng coach na magtuturo sa kanila. Nakaka frustrate na nasa piling mga lugar lamang ang mga summer camps or training at hindi maabot ang mga batang gipit at hirap sa buhay. Hindi lang skills sa paglalaro ang maaari nating ibahagi sa kanila. Maaari rin nating ituro ang mga bagay na makakatulong sa kanilang paglaki at pagharap sa buhay – tulad ng disiplina, pagkakaroon ng goal, pagiging determinado, at iba pa.”
Toni dared Filipino athletes: “Make a change. I personally wanted to be a coach and start an organization to promote my advocacy. But I realize that I can act now. We can act now. We wouldn’t want our skills and knowledge to go to waste. We can share it in our everyday lives. Kids look up to us. Especially now that media has become a key player in Philippine sports’ success. Kids get inspiration from watching games on TV. I truly and sincerely believe that Filipino athletes can make a change in our society. We have nothing to lose. Let’s pay it forward!”