This article on The Online Sports Leadership Program was written by Coach Noli Ayo and was first published in the January 2022 article of Arete, the official publication of the Philippine Olympians Association.
Around the middle of 2020, I had the opportunity to share with the Philippine Olympians Association (POA) president, Ms. Akiko Thomson-Guevara, the idea of gathering sports leaders and coaches in an organized and intentional Zoom learning experience. At the center of this learning experience will be the stories of our Philippine Olympians.
Imagine a sports culture guided and shaped by Olympic values of Excellence, Respect and Friendship? I find the imagination hopeful and worth pursuing. With this, the Online Sports Leadership Program (OSLP) was born.
In every batch of the OSLP, we are mindful to have a diverse group of participants. We want to make sure that the opportunity to network is rich and impactful. In every batch, we want to make sure that Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are represented. To ensure stronger connections, we decided that one of the strategies is to make it a small group only.
There are just 12 to 16 members per batch. Participants are coaches, sports directors and coordinators of schools, LGUs and organizations. We also have participants who are not directly involved in sports but are in the program because of their interest and passion for sports.
A constant question we ask to our participants before we end our program is “how can you work together even beyond their OSLP batch?” We want to create stronger linkages of passionate sports stakeholders in the country. We want to help shape a network that truly works in helping enrich and grow the culture of Philippine sports.
The OSLP runs for 15 hours. More than half of it, a total of 4 sessions via Zoom, is spent meeting invited Olympians from different generations who share their stories about their journey in sports. The guide for the sharing of our Olympians were the same – 1) How did you start your journey in Philippine sports? Who were the people who influenced you to pursue your dreams in sports?; 2) What were the challenges and obstacles you encountered? How did you manage to overcome them?; and 3) What is your advice to our OSLP participants so that they can be better sports leaders and influencers in their schools and communities?
The stories of our Olympians is the tie that binds our participants together. Listening to these narratives in sports allows our participants to embrace more and appreciate these talented men and women who have reached the pinnacle of sports experience. More importantly, we want to embed to our participants the Olympic values and encourage them to integrate it to what they do in their schools and communities.
What can we learn from what we do? How can we apply the lesson of one to what the other is doing in his or her field? These are questions that we ask our participants throughout the 3 sessions we call E-Nights.
E-Night is an integral part of the OSLP experience. Engagement Night. Participants are mixed in groups of 3 or 4 and are asked to meet for an hour in one of the evenings in the week between our Saturday sessions. The goal is for them to learn from each other too.
We hope to guide our participants in a systems thinking experience. Systems thinking is about seeing what works in one area and applying it to what you do. We guide our OSLP participants to learn from each other through their own stories and experiences in sports.
Last December 16, 2021 we had our first meeting to discuss the OSLP National Summit to be held in Palawan State University in Puerto Princesa City. It is set for November of 2022. Present in the Zoom call were representatives of the key organizations that will play a big role in making this gathering successful – Mr. Vince Esguerra (OSLP batch 2 and Sports Director of Palawan State University), Coach Noli Ayo (University Athletics Director of Ateneo de Davao), Ms. Eureka Quinto (OSLP batch 4 and Operations Director of Adrenaline Solutions) and Ms. Akiko Thomson-Guevara (President of the Philippine Olympians Association).
The face to face summit will invite all those who participated in the virtual OSLP to a 3 day gathering where we will once again emphasize the objectives of the OSLP – create a strong network of sports stakeholders, appreciate and share from each others’ stories and enrich our systems thinking mindset and learn to apply it in what we do in our schools and communities.
As the OSLP grows both in the virtual and face to face world, we remain focused on its main purpose – to enrich and nurture the culture of Philippine sports through one inspiring story at a time.
About the Contributor
Coach Noli Ayo is the Founder and Convener of the Mindanao Peace Games. He is currently based in Davao City and works as University Athletics Director for Ateneo de Davao. Aside from helping start the OSLP during the pandemic, Coach Noli was appointed as Consultant of the newly formed Bangsamoro Sports Commission (August 2020) and was also the project director of the bestselling book, Winning Still (June 2021). He recently co-founded Adrenaline Solutions, a Canada-based company that provides support, partnership and mentorship to individuals, teams and sports organizations. He was recognized as one of the Pandemic Sports Heroes by New Balance Philippines for his outstanding contributions to sports during these difficult times brought by the COVID pandemic.