This story first appeared on Asia Rugby News
Asia Rugby Executive Committee Member and Philippine Rugby President Ada Milby could be the first woman to win a seat.
Philippine Rugby President Ada Milby is so used to blazing trails, she’s built her career on it. In high school, she was the first female to join the men’s American football team. In 2017, she became World Rugby Council’s first female member.
Now, she’s vying to be the first woman elected to the Executive Committee. If elected, she would open doors for more inclusion and bring the Executive Committee’s 10% female representation closer to its target of 40%.
She would also bring a voice and perspective from emerging markets that will connect with new and young audiences, so critical for the game’s ongoing success.
Asia Rugby today is officially announcing Milby’s candidacy. She brings with her two decades of Rugby experience --nearly half of which she has spent in governance.
As Asia Rugby’s Women’s Advisory Committee Chair, Milby champions initiatives for equitable competition pathways. Seen as a role model for her outstanding career in rugby management, she has overseen doubling the number of women on Asia Rugby’s Exco and achieving female representation across all Asia Rugby committees.
From captaining the national 15’s and 7’s teams, to building grassroots rugby as a Development Officer, Milby experienced first-hand how the hosting of world class events like RWC 2019 Japan can drive new innovations in emerging markets like Asia.
Success in her campaign could further inspire an inclusive, diverse, future-ready rugby for all.
World Rugby has aspirations to be a global leader for best practice in governance standards. “There is real strategic value in having diverse thought at the highest level to ensure rugby is the sport of choice for everyone” says Milby of the opportunity.
“The impacts of COVID on the current environment coupled with pre-existing challenges to sport such as digital and technological disruptions, highlight the need to increase participation through innovative solutions and develop strong competitions in emerging markets for the long-term sustainability of the Game”.
For our Rugby community, Fitness First will continue to play an important impact and positive role on our National Athletes during and post-pandemic.
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to pose numerous challenges and restrictions on society, and governments all around the world have taken various steps in order to mitigate the risks of the virus spreading within the community. Nonetheless, a survey of almost 4,000 fitness-loving respondents across Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand say that Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions haven’t stopped them from getting their fitness fix. They’ve been keeping up with their fitness through a hybrid approach – virtual classes and online programming when they can’t get to the gym, and at the gym when they can.
Hybrid fitness is here to stay
Commenting on the overall survey findings, Simon Flint, Chief Executive Officer, Evolution Wellness Group said, “We’re pleased with the results of the survey which show us that despite the disruptive nature of the various lockdowns and restrictions across the region specifically with regard to gyms and fitness facilities, 90% of respondents continued to find ways to stay committed to their fitness regime. 65% said they participated in online fitness programmes such as our live classes and on- demand workouts and would continue to do so post-Covid. This clearly shows that a certain demand for hybrid fitness offerings is here to stay, and fitness providers will need to think about catering to this demand as well as being able to provide quality content.”
Consumers still prefer in-gym workouts for the experience and social connection
While frequency of exercise suffered a slight dip compared to pre-lockdown restrictions, 39% of respondents say that they are still exercising between three to four times a week. Nonetheless, they report feeling less satisfied with the experience of working out at home due to the lack of the right fitness equipment (51%), lack of motivation (48%), and lack of a motivating environment (40%). Just 50% of respondents report feeling highly satisfied with their workouts at home, compared to 83% of gym-goers pre-Covid. They’ve also been forced to shift from having very specific fitness goals and motivating routines such as losing weight and gaining strength, to just aiming for overall wellbeing during this time and ‘getting some form of exercise’.
All things considered, 60% of respondents say they can’t wait to get back to working out in the gym and will do so as soon as conditions permit. A number of studies globally as well as from Evolution Wellness’s own data suggest that gyms can be safe spaces to exercise provided staff and members alike adhere to the prescribed health and hygiene protocols, including wearing a mask.
“When ‘normal’ life resumes as a result of delivered vaccines reaching a critical mass, our hypothesis is that some members will revert to the same patterns as before, with a preference for their gym community and social experience. Others will mix and match with both gym and at- home solutions for their fitness needs,” Flint continued.
Re-thinking discretionary spend
Health experts have predicted that obesity could increase the risk of Covid-19 infection by seven fold, so it’s no surprise that respondents say they will place a greater focus on their health and wellness, not just presently but also well after the threat of Covid-19 has passed. However, given the uncertainties in the short term, up to 50% say they’re looking at ways to reduce discretionary spend, including cutting down on holidays, eating out, social activities, and gym memberships.
The case for the Philippines
“The results for the Philippines mirror the regional findings very closely,” said Mark Ellis, Country Manager for Evolution Wellness Philippines which operates a network of 14 Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First clubs primarily in the Metro Manila area.
Ellis continued, “At the start of the lockdown in March last year, we began rolling out a number of initiatives which on hindsight dovetail very nicely in response to the findings. For example, we offered a free virtual fitness classes via our social media channels to encourage members and the public to stay motivated and active whilst in lockdown at home. More recently we’ve made virtual fitness classes a permanent offering accessible through our mobile apps in the form of Virtual Studio, while Fit Kit leverages our relationship with fitness equipment suppliers to curate several kits at very attractive prices for home workout use.”
Early last year prior to the pandemic Evolution Wellness Philippines introduced a game-changing membership plan for Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First available from just Php 1,990 called MyStyle and MyFit respectively. “We designed this membership type to give our members and customers greater flexibility and control over what they want from their gym membership. They can choose full access to our class-leading facilities including cardio, free weights and functional areas, changing rooms, and the member’s lounge, or opt to add other services. We’ve seen strong uptake for these membership plans in recent months, presumably because people want to prioritise their health and fitness, while still being prudent with their disposable income which may have come under strain as a result of the pandemic,” said Ellis.
For Evolution Wellness Group, besides continuing to operate Asia’s largest network of health clubs across its existing six markets, it’s committed to improving its reach and depth through attracting new customers to engage with its brands for the first time digitally, as well as seeking greater engagement with existing customers through the introduction of new tools and services, such as Virtual Studio and Virtual PT.
Unstoppable Madam President: New Philippine Rugby Chief Ada Milby Prioritises ‘Safe Return to Play’ - Asia Rugby
This article was first published on Asia Rugby
The first woman to be appointed to the World Rugby Council, in 2017, serving on the Regions Committee and Rugby Committee; member of the Asia Rugby EXCO since 2016, heading the Women Advisory Committee and serving on the Admin and Finance Committee; member of the Philippine Rugby Football Union Board since 2013, now the Union’s President: the unstoppable rugby powerhouse that is Ada Milby talks to Asia Rugby.
Whilst by no means underestimating the difficulties, restrictions and challenges facing the rugby world overall and her Union particularly as a consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic, Milby is crystal clear on her priorities, remains determined and focused, and has immediately put into place a plan of action “to work with government agencies to ensure a safe return to play for all athletes and support role personnel based in country.”
She also remains positive about the opportunities and potential advantages the current period offers: “We are also using this time to review our governance structures and how to adjust our targets as we’re halfway through our current strategic plan.
This allows us to consider new threats and opportunities for the union in how we grow and develop the game.”
Cognizant that a hard reset must take place and that under the circumstances status quo will no longer do, she asserts: “we are prioritising engagement in non-conventional ways aimed at retaining our current stakeholders since rugby is about more than sport: it’s about community.”
Returning to play, the most critical consideration, for Ada Milby, continues to be players’ welfare. As part of Asia Rugby and World Rugby governing bodies, she has remained at the forefront of rugby’s mini-revolution where it comes to players’ safety. “I’m proud to be part of seeing the changes on the player welfare front, updating the high tackle framework to better educate coaches and players on ways to reduce the risk for concussion.”
Leading from the front always, Milby has been nothing less than a trailblazer as far as advocating women’s participation in rugby “from the grassroots to the boardrooms” is concerned.
“It has been exciting and rewarding,” she says, “seeing girl’s participation numbers on the fields in Asia and across the world rising, and then also the overwhelming support from the membership to move the needle on achieving a more balanced board by electing two women on Asia Rugby’s Executive Committee.”
She insists on downplaying her own contribution, however, crediting teamwork instead: “I wouldn’t claim any achievement as solely my own because all achievements on any council or committee are a result of the collective effort of the members that sit on them.
Moreover, she adds, “one challenge I face is the perception that since I’m a woman, I only care about women’s rugby. Of course, women’s rugby is a focus area for me, but not necessarily because I’m a woman. Globally, women’s sport is a growing category and World Rugby and Asia Rugby are promoting the development of women in Rugby, recognising this is an opportunity for growing the game. “
“Fortunately,” she adds, “I’m now engaging in spaces where the focus is on other aspects of the game demonstrating my interest in developing the Game with a holistic view.”
More focused than ever on “overcoming challenges and inspiring new leaders,” Ada Milby, our Madam President, shares two key tips for young people who wish to become leaders:
“Start with leadership of self. The more you know about yourself, the way you see the world and how others see you, the better you are able to engage, interact and lead a group towards a common goal.
“Recognise that you are likely a leader already. Leadership isn’t a destination – it’s a journey. My leadership style now is very different to the leadership style of my youth.”
The lessons and learnings from successes and failures along the way continue to shape my perceptions and decision-making style. So keep practicing the art of leadership, keep reaching for uncomfortable goals. Whether you succeed or fail at something, there’s always something on offer to help you develop towards achieving the roles in leadership to which you aspire. “
The Rugby Development Manager for the Philippines, Acee San Juan, has recently been selected as an official Asia Rugby Unstoppable Ambassador for the region.
The Unstoppables Campaign is aligned with International Women’s month, celebrating and recognising the importance of women in the sport and how they have helped influence the development of Rugby across the region. A total of 84 nominees were nominated from across all countries in Asia, which was then brought down to 32, and a final nomination of 16 to represent the region.
For the last eleven years, Acee has been a dedicated member of the Rugby community. First introduced to the sport via a Touch Football program at the University of the Philippines, Acee went on to represent the National Team and became the Team Captain from 2014 to 2017, leading the national program to their first ever Bronze Medal at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.
In 2012 she was hired as a Development Officer and for the past four (4) years leads the development program as the Union’s Rugby Development Manager.
Acee has been tremendous to our Development Program, she’s a role model to all sports managers. Her passion, work ethic and expertise in her role have ensured Philippine Rugby continues to grow” shares Jake Letts, Philippine Rugby’s Chief Executive.
San Juan has been an integral representative for Philippine Rugby for the ChildFund Pass It Back Program, in charge of managing and teaching Rugby values and life skills to marginalized communities. Her dedication has enabled foreign sports development funds to be invested into the Philippines and in return, shows the positive impact sport can have on children’s lives.
She also plays a significant role within her local club, Eagles RFC, a loyal club member who continues to give back not only to the National Union, but also the local team where she represents.
"I'm deeply honoured to be named one of Asia Rugby's Unstoppable Ambassadors. I'm looking forward to encouraging more females to get involved and enjoy the sport, whether as a player, coach, match official, administrator, supporter - not just in the Philippines but across Asia as well. Rugby has given me so much in life and helped me develop to the person I am now, and I am excited to share these experiences to the wider rugby family. "
Letts added “witnessing Acee as a beginner of the game, and now a national lead educator, her advocacy covers a range of areas across the entire rugby community. She now provides direction on women’s rugby, grassroots development, safeguarding, match officiating, coaching, and training and education. To be recognised by Asia Rugby is a great achievement, and very well deserved” Letts added.
San Juan’s track record in the game and the sport ensures all participants, whether new or experienced, can have a positive impact around the country. Philippine Rugby is extremely honoured to have their Development Manager awarded and recognised as an ambassador to the sport.
The Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday 15 December. In accordance with the guidelines and protocols of the Philippine Government, the meeting was convened using Zoom technology allowing participants from across the archipelago to join.
The meeting was chaired by Jake Letts, PRFU Chief Executive Officer, and attended by representatives of 15 senior clubs and schools along with the 7 incumbent Board Trustees and PRFU staff and volunteers. The meeting was also graced with the presence of Valeriano “Bones” Floro representing the Philippine Olympic Committee, Commissioner Charles Maxey of the Philippine Sports Commission and Ghaith Jalajel from Asia Rugby – all key stakeholders and supporters of Philippine Rugby.
PRFU President Rick Santos made the opening address and thanked everyone involved in Philippine rugby for their efforts during what has been a challenging but successful year. Santos went on to confirm that his Presidency would end at the conclusion of the meeting having served the maximum term of 8 continuous years in that role. Since 2013, Santos has been at the helm of what has become one of the most successful National Sports Associations in the country. During that time, the national teams have delivered multiple medals from regional games, qualified for the Rugby World Cup 7s and the Hong Kong 7s, and dominated Division1 in the Asian 5 Nations – all of this was capped with the 2019 South East Asian Games on home soil, with the men taking gold and the women silver in one of the most successful campaigns in PRFU history. In addition to the focus on national teams, Santos has also championed rugby development, focusing on schools, grass roots and women’s programs.
Santos will continue his role as a Board member and was unanimously elected to the role of Secretary General of PRFU for the year 2021. Ada Milby was proposed for the position of President of PRFU and also unanimously elected by her fellow trustees.
Following the meeting, Milby commented: "Rick has led the PRFU through a journey of transformation to professionalize the Union and build successful national programs. It's this level of professionalism that has ensured the stability of the Union during this very challenging year of the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm thankful that Rick will continue to serve in the capacity of Sec Gen as it will truly take a team to get through these difficult times and his wisdom will continue to be an essential asset to Philippine Rugby. Rick is also now a member of the Development Committee of Asia Rugby and I look forward to working with him as we continue to build our local programs.”
Letts added: “Rick’s been tremendous for the PRFU, and serving an 8 year term as President speaks for itself. Luckily for the Union, he’s been elected to the role of Secretary General so we can continue to build on the legacy he’s created. He’s always been passionate about Philippine Rugby and, in particular, has been a strong advocate for youth rugby, sponsoring junior and grass roots programs and creating opportunities for young and underprivileged youngsters to prosper in our national programs. I look forward to continue working with Rick in building a successful organisation.”
Santos himself also shared: “A big thanks for everyone’s support over my last 8 years as President, and I look forward to building on the legacy of rugby development in my new role as Secretary General. Congratulations to Ada in her new role as PRFU President in addition to her continued roles in Asia Rugby and World Rugby. A huge thanks to all our Trustees, the organization and the entire rugby community for their help, dedication and great work. I am very excited about what the future holds for rugby at both the local and international levels.”
Ada Milby now steps up as the President of PRFU, and her current positions with Asia Rugby as an Executive Committee Member and World Rugby Council Member give her a unique perspective to drive the Union forward. Milby notes the importance of Rugby’s return in a COVID-19 environment:
“Our first priority will be to restart activities when restrictions lift with player welfare and community safety as the primary focus. We have a very robust “return to play” protocol prepared in line with global best practices and IATF guidelines. I am also hopeful that we can resume national athlete training in 2021 as both our men's and women's teams are competing at the elite level of Asia Rugby in the 7s format. From the success of the gold and silver medal performances in the 2019 SEAG, we want to ensure that we don't lose the forward momentum of those programs. It's a challenging time for all sports in the Philippines and we're very thankful for the continued support of the POC, PSC and all our sponsors and stakeholders.”
Rounding off the election Steve Payne will continue in the role of Trustee for Sponsorship, with Tim Kong Trustee for Performance, and Max Stewart as Trustee for Competitions. William Bailey was re-elected as Vice President and Treasurer, and Jaime Urquijo advising on Development, Sponsorship and Business Administration.
Stay connected with us!