In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the four athletes who brought home medals for the Philip-pines were all from Mindanao.
Weightlifting’s Hidilyn Diaz, who won the country’s first ever gold, and bronze medalist Eumir Marcial of boxing are both from Zamboanga City. Two silver medals from boxing came courtesy of Davao native Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam who was born in Bukidnon and grew up in Cagayan de Oro.
Mindanao has long been a rich source of athletic talent. The region is about to get a major boost with the appointment of Noli Ayo as the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Coordinator for Mindanao.
If there is someone who ticks all the prerequisite boxes for a successful sports leader, it is Ayo, a respected sportsman, coach, published author, project director of the book Winning Still, and a Mindanaoan by heart.
Originally from Naga City, Ayo has spent the past decade in Mindanao where he has played an active role in the growth of sports. He is currently the Assistant to the Pres-ident for Sports and Development of the Lyceum of the Philippines University-Davao. Be-fore that, he was the University Athletic Director of the Ateneo de Davao University for close to ten years.
But his sphere of influence and contributions go beyond the academic institutions that he has been connected with.
Ayo is the convenor of the Mindanao Peace Games which began in 2014. This ini-tiative where young athletes are taught that opposing players are Kalaro, Kaibigan, Kasama drives home a message that resonates with participants, some of whom live in conflict areas. The Mindanao Peace Games have also helped advance the cause of fe-male athletes who have been given a venue to showcase and further hone their athletic skills.
He is also a consultant of the Bangsamoro Sports Commission, the body in the Bangsamoro region that formulates policies and implements programs in sports, making it a tool for peace and transitional justice.
Now Ayo will have an even bigger responsibility as he works with various stake-holders in Mindanao in his new role as PSC Coordinator. He told Rappler “I hope that I can provide bigger and wider platforms for Mindanao coaches and sports leaders to learn and grow and help make it easier for them to pursue their passion and dreams in sports.”
PSC Chairman Dickie Bachmann’s marching order for Ayo is to ‘find the next na-tional athlete’. Ayo will be tasked to pay close attention to grassroots development. He is also expected to bolster the interplay between the PSC and private organizations in work-ing together to bring to the international stage the next Mindanaoan world champions and Olympians.
Ayo is up to the challenge and came prepared for the job. Mere days after his offi-cial appointment, he already outlined his priorities.
He will be launching Coaches Development Programs to increase the pool of mentors who will be equipped with the technical knowledge and behaviour competencies necessary to harness the deep well of talents in the region. He wants to introduce more sports and put the spotlight on emerging and less mainstream athletic disciplines that are often relegated to the sidelines. He also intends to reach more places in Mindanao where he can establish partnerships with local sports leaders.
Respected basketball coach Sandy Arespacochaga, who has worked closely with Ayo on the book Winning Still, attests to Ayo’s credibility and dedication. Arespacochaga said this of Ayo “Coach Noli is a visionary. He is a values-driven person who is able to bring people together and get them to work together. His love for the sport and Mindanao would be able to help the PSC immensely”.
Ayo believes his new role complements the projects he has started in Mindanao. “For the Mindanao Peace Games, we hope to create more opportunities to support their programs in the areas of coaches and athletes’ leadership development. By doing this, we hope to see more Grassroots Ambassadors and Champions who can help PSC Min-danao with necessary groundwork in the different regions.”
“For the Bangsamoro Sports Commission, I hope to be able to provide a stronger connection between the PSC and the Bangsamoro sports initiatives. I want to make sure that the PSC and its mandate are felt in BARMM especially in the island provinces of Ba-silan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi”, he added.
Mindanao gained an ally with the appointment of a PSC Commissioner who un-derstands the dynamics of the area. In Ayo, Mindanao also found an advocate who through the years has shown a genuine desire to grow and develop sports in the region.
Photo Credit: PSC