In our numerous talks on the sidelines of events, Rico Navarro, the late athletic director of the Sacred Heart School and columnist of The Freeman, said he always encouraged parents to let their kids try sports, any sports. Sometimes, parents also tend to forget the purpose of sports and get too focused on winning, and that can cut a kid’s desire.
A week ago, I got to chat with the new athletic director of the school, Jon Ralph Christopher Jiao Inot, a physical therapist (PT) specializing in sports rehab, strength and conditioning. After graduating from Cebu Doctors’ University in 2008, he has been involved with school sports before joining Ateneo in 2011 as the junior basketball team’s PT.
And I know Rico would have had a good laugh about this; when he talked about a kid who should try sports, I think Jon fits the bill perfectly.
“I have always been a ‘Mr.-try-it-all-kid’ growing up. I tried and played all the sports that I could get my hands and legs into. From basketball, volleyball, soccer, badminton, softball etc.,” he said.
He also tried out for the basketball team but admitted that his talents and height were a bit short, so he tried dancing. I also tried many sports as a kid—football, baseball, tennis, ping pong and basketball—but dancing was something that was just truly beyond me.
I shared my experience with Rico and he said he always believed that someone who tried multiple sports is better than someone who is good at one. I think one of his greatest achievements as an athletic director was when he told me, their athletics team—which would go on to achieve great things—was culled from the basketball, volleyball and football teams.
What I learned about Ateneo sports from Rico over the years is that they don’t really care if you can drop 30 points or score a hat trick every game, what is more important is the character.
“Yes we want to win, learn and grow as much as we want in sports but the thing that the Magis Eagles really puts pride on is building ‘Champions with Character,” said Jon, who aside from all the sports he tried as a kid, became a triathlete as an adult and is an Ironman 70.3 finisher.
Yep. The Ironman 70.3. If there’s a contest for the fittest athletic director, he’d win it comfortably.
But right now, individual goals have to give way to team goals. Ateneo is busy preparing for the football and basketball bubbles, and because of the challenges of the pandemic, he has been spearheading the safe return to practices for the school.
And what’s advantageous is that sometimes parents, especially those with sports backgrounds, might think they know more than the coach or athletic director but with a background in PT, sports conditioning and rehab, Jon is the expert on this.
I wish Jon well in his new job and I wish he can build on Rico’s legacy and expand on it. I do think that school sports will be better served if we have more athletic directors who value character more than winning.