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How the K-12 Program Benefits Football in Lipa

My last high school team in 2011 was among my strongest but players had to graduate with still a year of eligibility.

I am not a fan of the K-12 program which the Department of Education is about to implement; and personally, I think it will be an utter waste of taxpayers’ money. It will, however, bring one certain benefit in an area ironically close to my heart.

I am no longer active in the game; but when I was still coaching high school football teams, there was one obstacle that I and my players ultimately found difficult to overcome. I will return to this matter in a while.

For most of the almost thirty years that I coached high school football teams in Lipa, majority of the players who joined up had not played football before high school. Sometimes, they would join up as late as third year, which essentially gave me just two years to work with them.

This was fine. I was thorough and had streamlined my training methods to include only the skills that I felt were necessary for the type of football that I wanted my teams to play. Within a year, even these latecomers would become half-decent as football players.

That was why my team development usually went in two or three year cycles. If players arrived earlier such as first or second year high school, I could have a really competitive team by the time the players were in their junior year. Most of the time, however, my teams were competitive when majority of my players were in their senior year.

The Metro Manila league where we played had member schools all of which had full football programs; i.e. their players had been playing competitive football in the same league since they were in elementary.

By the time my players were starting to mature, we could defeat most of these teams. It was typical for my more talented batches of players to reach the knockout semi-finals in their senior year. These knockout matches ultimately always turned out to be our Waterloo.

There is no substitute for experience in developing mental toughness; and this was one commodity that my teams, because most of my players did not pick the game up until they were in their teens, invariably did not have enough of.

Moreover, the schools that dominated the league were those who had K-11 programs already in place; i.e. they had Grade 7. Everyone in sport knows that, at the development stage, one year makes a world of a difference in a player’s growth and development.

At the school where I used to coach, the introduction of Grade 7 was never even in consideration at any point when I was there. It was a matter of simple economics. We would run out of students if we did.

Thus, my football teams inevitably graduated with runners-up finishes as the crowning achievements of their time as high school football players. Whenever we reached the semi-finals as we were wont to do every few years, and failed again at the same hurdle, I could not help but be filled with dread that we were so trapped in a system.

The experience in playing in the semis would have been invaluable and part of the players’ learning curve. It goes without saying that I felt that each of these teams would have gone farther the following year.

This was always a moot point, of course. Although all the players would have been eligible to play in the league for another year as per the age regulation, they would regrettably be in college already.

The introduction of the K-12 basic education program, however, levels the playing field. Now, offering additional years to the program is not anymore an option but is mandated by law. I have already made public my opinions on the program’s educational benefits in another article; but in football terms, its benefits are undeniable.

The benefit is actually not just to the teams in Lipa but also to other schools in the league for which the K-10 program was used. If the coaches do things right, they will be able to compete with the same physical and mental attributes that, regrettably, my own teams could not acquire under the K-10 system.