The Guam Department of Education provided a glimpse into its future plans for the development of interscholastic sports during a four-hour session Saturday that involved more than 120 coaches and athletes from the middle and high-school levels.

In partnership with the Guam National Olympic Committee, GDOE rolled out a series of classes aimed at embracing the whole athlete and helping coaches develop an understanding of a balanced student-athlete.

Saturday's session was the first, reiterated the presenters in every session, adding they expected the learning to be part of a year-round effort as GNOC and GDOE continue to collaborate.

"The presentation was a preview of the program we will be working with our student athletes in-school," said GNOC sport development and compliance officer Joey Miranda III. "Our intention is to deliver the program to all students in the middle and high schools competing in the ISA programs."

There were a total of 10 presenters. Dr. Arania Adolphson and Dr. Mark Anderson covered concussion protocol and awareness. Dr. Chris Fernandez and Dr. Ryan Claros presented on Youth Development and Load Management for the adolescent. Dr. Jordan Tingson and Dr. Julienne Duenas hit a hot topic for the island – Prevention of ACL Injury. Lenora Makela and Rosae Calvo offered valuable information on hydration and nutrition during competition and training. The student component, which focused on the anti-doping message and the Olympic Values program, was covered by Dr. Luis Cruz and Miranda.

"The main goal of the program is to develop a better understanding for our student athletes and their entourage of how to effectively prepare themselves for competition on and off the field of play and to make the choices that are beneficial to them," Miranda said.

"I hope the attendees left with a stronger understanding of the importance of athlete health in sport and strategies to optimize their health and performance," said Tingson, who conducted the ACL injury prevention component of the program. 

The road to GDOE's inaugural Interscholastic Sports Association was anything but easy. But, GDOE has stood firm in its commitment to its athletes despite the controversy. Saturday's sessions were lively as athletes and coaches moved from seminar to seminar. Break sessions offered coaches the opportunity to network and share information.

Astumbo Middle School soccer coach Nap Finch said he was initially wary about spending Saturday at GDOE when there were so many other things he needed to do.

"I didn't want to go, and I was trying to get out of it," he said, laughing. "But, I liked it ... The ACL one, for me, was really the most informational."

The pace of the sessions and the presenters did a good job sharing information that was useful for coaches, he said.

"It was really good," he said, adding he would attend future presentations if they prove as useful as the first one did.

Astumbo eighth graders Candance Mansapit and Sophia Gonzalez said they enjoyed the day.

"My favorite part of the program was the second session I went to," said Gonzalez, referencing the nutrition and hydration component. "It was interesting ... I learned a lot from when to hydrate to concussions."

Fellow Dragon Manasapit agreed with her soccer teammate.

"(It was) an eye opener for me to watch and be careful of the food I intake," said Mansapit. "I learned a lot of new things that I had no knowledge of ... it's a great opportunity to pass along to my teammates."

Both agreed that more athletes should participate in the program, adding athletes need to be more aware of their training and nutritional needs if they want to continue competing.

According to GDOE acting sports coordinator Al Garrido, raising awareness was a key objective for the program.

"Sometimes, coaches get caught up in the wins and losses that they forget they are completely responsible for the care of their athletes," he said.

Garrido said it's important that coaches recognize their student-athletes as "human beings."

"What they learned at the presentation was that there is more to putting together a practice plan," he said. "Coaches should consider the overall welfare of the athlete."

Moving forward, Garrido said, GDOE will ensure they extend the education from the classroom into the playing field to enhance the experience for all.

"The superintendent understands that interscholastic sports is just a tool toward a bigger picture," he said. "We are educators first and foremost ... we are very fortunate that we have GNOC helping us achieve those goals."