The Guam Adventist Academy in Yona is a decades-old school, steeped in tradition as it was founded in Guam just five years after the end of World War II.
The Christian school offers a range of programs, including electives such as woodworking, small motors, anatomy, physiology, gardening, and music, as well as classes in Spanish, Korean and Japanese. .
But until about a year ago, organized sports weren’t part of school. There were intramural sports as well as physical education classes, and there were sometimes friendly games against other schools of basketball and volleyball. Nothing regular.
It was only when the teacher Bertha Saladier took over the management of the school and the music teacher Gina Oh decided to volunteer as the sports director of the school, that the school found a vocation in sport.
One of Oh’s first actions was to join the Interschool Sports Association, led at the time by Al Garrido, who was responsible for creating a sports infrastructure for six public high schools.
Oh had no illusions about the lineup of football, rugby, or even high school paddling teams. She started small with junior girls varsity volleyball, a sport she knew well. The school didn’t have enough students to field a mixed cross-country team, but had enough for a boys’ team.
Without experience, neither the coaches nor the athletes waited for the recognition of the participants. But his volleyball team trained hard and got better. At the end of the season, the Angels placed third.
His cross-country team has enjoyed similar success. The entire regular season was a two-month practice for the All-Island meet. The seven boys at the school were improving week by week. At the time of the meeting which counted, the Angels took the third place.
Coach Yumiko Imazu and Oh were shocked and proud, especially since they were competing against established public schools.
They carefully got into athletics, with a dozen athletes. The distance runners did well, but for most of the team the events were their first experiences. In the All-Island meet, two shining stars emerged: junior Bridgette Oh won in the javelin and Carlos Poppe won in the shot put.
Not bad for a school with a population of around 85 students, which included a high school population of around 35.
Saladier said this year’s increase in student body might have something to do with the Angels’ incorporation of the sport. Sport has created all kinds of positive impacts. School athlete grades have improved and the spirit of the school is at an all time high.
âEven though they are part of a team, they have like the school behind them, on which they are rooted,â said Saladier. “And even with Zoom, we zoomed in on people just to see how they were doing.”
Parent Scott Losongco, whose daughters play volleyball, said he was surprised to learn the school offered inter-school sports when he transferred his daughters from Jose Rios Middle.
âIt’s a plus in their life and they have a passion for the sport. They get a lot of encouragement from the coaches and the sports director, âhe said. âThere are also improvements in other areas. There is a lot of discipline, self-esteem, and self-management that you need in sports and in life. Healthy competition creates bonds and I see it happening. And I like to see them being with other children and playing sports with their friends. “
Losongco said without sports his daughters would likely be stuck in front of the TV or the phone.
âTheir lifestyles have improved since they started playing sports,â he said.
Oh said that in addition to volleyball, track and field and cross country, the school will also participate in basketball, tennis and bowling.