An online training session that will include safe coaching practices during the pandemic for student-athletes and coaches will be held on Jan. 16. 

The online training and presentation, dubbed “Return to Sport,” is provided by the Guam Department of Education Interscholastic Sports Association and the Guam National Olympic Committee.

GDOE schools are expected to return to face-to-face instruction on Jan. 19. Practice for interscholastic sports Block 1 will be allowed to start on Jan. 25.

The proposed ISA Block 1 sports include boys and girls volleyball, cross-country, softball and tennis. Block 2 coaches are also advised to take the training if they have the time. The Jan. 16 presentation, created by ISA league director Al Garrido and GNOC sports development officer Joey Miranda, is scheduled for 3 to 4:30 p.m.

“Our coaches are mandated to take COVID-19 training as part of their certification, so this mandatory training will add to their education as well,” Garrido said. “As an educational institution first, GDOE is looking into utilizing our partnership with GNOC and other community partners to bring training to our coaches.

“‘Enrichment of Education Through Sports and Extending the Classroom to the Playing Field’ is not just a slogan for our athletes, but for our coaches as well,” he added. “Our coaches at the high school level have not had organized training for years.  As an organization, we want to provide support for them to get education from the experts and GNOC is providing the support to help us reach those goals.”

The presentations will include a segment hosted by Dr. Arania Adolphson and Dr. Luis Cruz that will address safe coaching practices and changes to sports due to COVID-19. 

Physiotherapists Chris Fernandez and Ryan Claros will advise on proper athlete preparation and My Plate will cover nutrition guidelines to assure healthy eating as student-athletes get back into physical training. Nutritionists Rosae Calvo and Lenora Makela will also be on hand to share their expertise.

A long-term vision

The partnership, which started in January 2020, is part of a long-term vision for GDOE and GNOC. 

Multifaceted, the vision is far-reaching, but the overall emphasis is on educating, retaining and building knowledge to produce quality athletes. One of the aspects is a focus on coaching education.

Smarter training, injury prevention and understanding federal guidelines cover just a small portion of the knowledge coaches need to be effective, Miranda said.

Seminars aimed at building knowledge and gaining a stronger base of sanctioned coaches is crucial to the development of island athletes, Miranda said, adding the program fills a void between organized youth sports and adult sports.

“Majority of our younger athletes that compete come from the public school system,” he said. “We are working with ISA to develop a future base” of athletes who may eventually represent the island, develop lifelong healthy habits to shape a healthier community or even become coaches who can mold future athletes.

The partnership is important, Garrido said, adding GNOC's experts give coaches and athletes the opportunity "to hear firsthand the best practices and suggestions not just for this year, but for years ahead." 

The possibilities are endless, Miranda said, emphasizing the vision is a long-term, multifaceted approach that requires planning, learning and sharing knowledge. 

Garrido echoed those sentiments, adding, “It is the responsibility of the high school leagues to give our student-athletes direction.”

It’s important, he said, to give athletes purpose beyond high school.

“I don't want them to just play sports in high school with no options for continued competition at another level,” Garrido said. “Although it is OK to compete just for the existential benefits, (Superintendent Jon Fernandez) wants ISA student-athletes to have options beyond high school - and this would include competing for Guam at the national team level or college. GNOC will be our direct line in offering this.”

 Athlete Awareness program

The GNOC Medical and Anti-Doping Commission started its Athlete Awareness program last year with GDOE ISA coaches and athletes. The program began with a four-hour presentation and follow-up program at GDOE schools. The program was halted when schools were closed in March, but both GNOC and GDOE look forward to its continuation sometime in the future when guidelines allow.

 “The main goal of the program was to develop a better understanding for our student-athletes on how to effectively prepare themselves for competition while also making choices that are beneficial to them," Miranda said.