Lorenzo Bonoan SA 21 – M
In Ateneo CODE (Consultants for Organization Development and Empowerment), we provide our services to any youth-oriented organization which can be within the Loyola Schools or even as far as nearby provinces. Our services mainly revolve around organization development and earlier this year, Sir Zab Jimenez invited us to engage with ACSAT (Asian College of Science and Technology) which was located in San Fernando, Pampanga. We accepted his invitation and our team prepared for the engagement. Although for the most part of the day of the engagement, the students of ACSAT Pampanga were our participants for our activities and lectures, they were still able to find time to show us Manila kids how Pampanga kids can have fun through the game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Even though I regularly play Ultimate, playing with these kids was truly a different experience. When I heard that we would be playing Ultimate with the kids after the event, the first thing that went to my mind was that they were all athleticism but no skill (in throwing). I also thought that these kids were playing only because Sir Zab taught them how to play and that we were guests to the school. They sure proved me wrong when it came down to it.
When the engagement has ended, some of the students already seemed excited to play and this actually surprised me. When we got to the field, Sir Zab explained to us that the school hosts an afternoon of Ultimate every week and this really impressed me since Ultimate, to be frank, is usually played by those of class A/B (and the school catered to the class C/D). I also thought that I might have underestimated the students because they get to play somewhat regularly. When we got dressed, I really got to see their enthusiasm for playing the sport because they ran straight to the field to toss. I immediately followed so that I could join the action and I got to toss with them. I already knew that I underestimated them the moment I saw one of them throw a forehand (a throw that usually differentiates the experienced from the starters). I also got the vibe that the students really wanted to impress us. When we started setting up, we realized that there were a group of small kids who were on the field. I tried to ask them to move out of the playing field but all they did was make fun of my obviously-Atenean accent. The students asked the kids to move elsewhere so that we could play and it worked. Sir Zab told us that the kids there were stubborn and that the students knew some of them which was why they left.
As soon as the field was set, we picked teams and I suggested that the students play together against us CODErs + Sir Zab. I suggested this because I wanted to see the teamwork and coordination the students have with one another. Everyone agreed to this idea and we started playing. All throughout the game, I noticed that they really did have some chemistry with one another because they knew the capabilities of each. For example, they let the guy who threw the best among them control the plays while they let the more athletic guys do the running and catching. I also noticed that they knew how to sky for the disc (vertically reach for the disc at the highest possible altitude). There was even an instance when one of the shorter students almost caught a high disc over me because his vertical leap was that good (He’s about 5’4. I’m 5’11.). Even during the game, I had to commend them for how they played because I really underestimated them. After the game, Sir Zab explained to the kids that I regularly play in the league. Upon knowing this, some of them were asking me how to improve with their technique in throwing, catching, and gameplay.
1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
All in all, I’m glad that we were able to play with the students instead of just watching them play. I guess that if I watched from the sidelines, I wouldn’t have seen how well they played as much as actually getting to play with them. I also think that I was able to witness their skills more since they faced a new set of players and that they wanted to impress us.
2. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
Having a key informant like Sir Zab made things easier to understand. For example, I probably would not have understood why the students are able to play with such skill and coordination if Sir Zab did not explain to me the weekly Ultimate afternoons sponsored by the school. Sir Zab was actually able to answer most of our questions as he did the most of the talking as compared with the students. He could easily relate to us CODErs and he handles the Ultimate training of the students which was why we were able to understand them much easily.
3. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
I also realized that being able to participate in this event made me see things that normal observation cannot spot because I was able to experience playing with the students first hand. As aforementioned, I was able to experience their skill especially when a much shorter kid almost “out-skied” me by a few inches.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
Although participant observation has its advantages, perhaps a questionnaire or interview would be better in terms of being able to make people reflect on the questions. I don’t always actively reflect on my experiences right away and guide questions (similar to the ones I am answering now) are able to make me think deeper. The questions may even make me reflect on things that I wouldn’t thought of by myself. I guess it is safe to say that learning through experience can be half-baked if it were not supported by questions from an interview/questionnaire from another person.