[Address: First ADDU School Athletes General Assembly (SAGA). 7.27.12]
It is wonderful that we can all gather together like this!
Gathered with us this evening are 795 varsity athletes from our grade school, high school and colleges. All the administrators of university athletics are here, headed by Mr. Butch Ramirez, all the coaches and unit sports coordinators. All the varsity athletes are here identified with such sports as basketball, football volleyball, ping pong, swimming, track and field, arnis, and chess. Here also are their parents, their teachers, their friends.
We come together with much joy. Sports are fun. They are exciting, exhilarating, and formative.
But have you ever stepped back to reflect on what you do in this or that sport? You may find it lightly amusing. Take basketball. You have a big, bouncing, rubber or leather ball, and you have two small rings, each with a net, set on the far ends of a large court. Two groups of five players compete for hours against the opposed team to throw those balls into their respective baskets. Take ping-pong. You have a small, plastic, egg-colored, hollow-sounding ball, two hard-surfaced rackets about the size of a hand stretched open, and a large table with a small net in the middle. The ball is bounced back and forth over the net in a preset way until the opponent fails to return it properly. Reflecting on what actually happens in any sports game in our busy, serious world, one sees how ludicrous these sports are. But that’s really what sports are: they are manifestations, if not celebrations, of human freedom; they are the creation of the human freedom in celebration of the human spirit. Animals don’t engage in sports, humans do.
At the Ateneo de Davao University, where its mission and vision are understood as the soul of the university, the sports program is informed by this mission and vision. That is why I am pleased that at the outset of this SAGA, the University vision and mission was formally read. The sports program finds its meaning contributing to the implementation of that mission and vision. How?
SUBORDINATED TO THE ADDU VISION AND MISSION
The ADDU is a university. As a university it pursues truth both theoretical and practical: truth that tells us what reality is, and truth that tells us what persons ought do. The athletes are open to the truth about themselves; they discover the boundaries of their physical strength and ability to perform, and open themselves to know this truth. The athletes are open to what they ought to do to achieve the goals of his sport; what they ought do, they do, not only in the sports, but in life.
The ADDU is Catholic. As we have heard from our reading of the vision and mission, this means the university proceeds ex corde ecclesiae, from the heart of the Church. The heart of the Church, however, is Jesus who was fully committed to the Kingdom of God; who overturned the tables of the tax collectors and drove away the merchants who were decorating his Father’s place of worship; who suffered passion and death to win resurrection for us. Through various sports we are able to gauge: where is the heart of the athletes? In the game, which is but a metaphor of life, where is their heart? The steed that is alive, alert and powerful, is said to have heart. In life, where is the athletes’ heart? Do they have heart? Where is their passion, their zeal for anything? Athletics foster their zeal for the Kingdom.
The ADDU is Jesuit. This means that the university freely appropriates the mission of the Society of Jesus: the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, protection of the environment at the frontiers of human existence. In so doing, it encourages students to accept this mission as their own, no matter the cost to them. Athletics exercise students in the freedom necessary to accept this mission with alacrity and joy.
The ADDU is Filipino. The University promotes a love for things Filipino. It promotes insight into Philippine history and culture. It prepares its students to profit from and engage the world. Filipino athletes compete to display Filipino skills and mettle in sports; they are skills and mettle that can be displayed in life.
It is in this context that I am happy this evening before the assembled varsity athletes of the ADDU, before the sports administrators, the coaches and the parents, to confirm the values of the sports program as essential for living out our vision and mission. This includes:
Responsibility in behavior. Responsibility in sensitivity to the needs of others. ADDU athlete must take responsibility for their actions, no matter the type of star in sports or in academics this or that athlete may be.
Cooperation and commitment. The ADDU athlete is committed to the goals of the team. They are the goals of the team, not of the isolated athlete. Commitment to these goals demands cooperation with teammates.
Unselfishness. The ADDU athlete is not “swapang.”
Self-sacrifice. The ADDU athlete is able to sacrifice time, energy and convenience in order to advance the good of the team.
Personal discipline. One is personally exercised and trained to perform well.
All this promotes freedom and good habits of freedom for life. This happens when athletes must freely choose to get up early in the morning to come to school to practice, when athletes freely choose to repeat pivots and lay ups, and repeat them again and again, until they finally gets them right, when athletes grow in strength and skills by overcoming inconvenience and pain.
All this promotes excellence – when athletes find the heart to be the best.
All this promotes morality – when one plays hard with others but always within the rules.
In a word, all this promotes integral human formation, the formation of the healthy whole human being.
I am happy that in this context the coaches now are also encouraging students in their academic achievements. Students who do not perform well academically cannot be varsity players.
I am happy that in this context efforts are being exerted to integrate service of the community to sports formation. Students who do not help others are not worthy of varsity teams.
All sports competition at the ADDU are subordinated to these values. Sports activities which ignore or undermine these formative values have no place at the ADDU.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Much has happened over the last year. I salute the re-organization of the Ateneo Athletics Program under Mr. Butch Ramirez. This is still a work-in-progress, but what progress there is has been won through the difficult job of balancing interests, passion, and emotions.
I salute the coaches in their openness to their own further formation, and in their willingness to contribute to the formation of our students even beyond sports.
I salute the athletes in their dedication to excellence in their particular sports and well as in their academics and service to the community.
I salute the administrators for their efficiency in organizing the sports events and insisting on academic excellence.
I thank the parents for their choice of ADDU for their children. We are grateful for their support of our sports program and of our individual students. We are grateful for their trust and for their participation in this program based on the principle of subsidiarity.
I thank all of you for supporting the ADDU Athletics Program. Clearly no program is perfect. We are not interested in extreme performance of our athletes. We are not a sports university. We do not run our program to put our athletes on national teams, nor drive them to break national records. Should any party desire that kind of thing, he or she should seek another sports program in another school. Our program is clearly subordinated to our vision and mission. Sports is not an end in itself, it is a means towards the integral human development of our students. With this in mind, accepting our limitations, but also always willing to better ourselves, let us work together with respect for each other, with understanding and generous humor. Let administrators administer, coaches coach, and athletes play – for God’s greater glory!
Sports are a metaphor of life. Virtues acquired through sports enrich life and help bring life to its glorious finishing line. In the end, with St. Paul, by the power of God’s grace, we all wish to say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…” (2 Tim. 4:7).