Inspire plays it forward

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

At the height of the pandemic, Inspire Sports Academy was a safe haven for national athletes training to stay fit for international competitions. It provided a bubble setup that shielded the athletes from the virus and brought them together under one roof, taking away the distractions of the outside world to put focus on their workout regimen. Basketball, boxing, karate, taekwondo and judo were among the sports that set up camps at Inspire.

Now that the pandemic is finally at an ebb, Inspire is moving forward to make stronger waves in normal times. The Athletic Club is now open for members to avail of Inspires state-of-the-art facilities, including a high performance gym. There are collaborations with the Raya School, Go For Gold and The Medical City of South Luzon to raise Inspires level of relevance with plans to hook up with more organizations involved in sports development. Inspire managing director Benjie Uichico has met with PSC chairman Noli Eala to discuss areas of partnership and a clear pathway is to offer undergraduate options for student athletes finishing high school at the National Academy of Sports in New Clark City in a continuing program to bond education with sports.

While Inspire is situated at the NU Laguna campus, Uichico said its not exclusively for NU athletes. “The concept of our chairman Mr. Hans Sy is to develop individuals to their full potential through the art and science of health, wellness, fitness and high performance,” said Uichico. “Our doors are open to athletes and teams from beginners to advanced levels. We offer educational assistance programs that link Inspire with NU Laguna in a holistic approach.” NU Laguna has a population of nearly 5,000 students in the undergraduate and Masters levels and 600 in senior high school. In Uichicos team are sports director Vince Santos, marketing head JM Pilares, senior administrative director Ricci Ocampo, education coordinator/coach Ryan Villena, strength/conditioning coach Chris Salaveria and logistics manager Elsie Lacambra.

Pilares said Inspire is also an ideal venue for competitions, citing Chooks To Go 3x3 and NBL for staging successful events. A dormitel with a 176-bed capacity and lounge are other features. Among the athletes currently training at Inspire are 17-year-old jungolfer Jon Robert Bernis and national cyclists Yuen Verbruggen, 19 and John Javier, 20. Inspire has its own basketball club called Bravos and the Raya School girls futsal team that trains at the Academy recently won the Cainta Mayors Cup. Whats keeping Pilares even busier lately is The Athletic Club with membership packages of P30,000 for a year, P10,500 for a quarter, P3,500 for a month and P650 a day. “Were the fitness hub south of Metro Manila and just 30-45 minutes from Alabang,” he said. “Members can play basketball or badminton or tennis or football, use our indoor running track, swim, chill at our lounge and spend the whole day at Inspire with the family.”

Inspire’s facilities are off the charts. There’s a five-lane learn-to-swim pool and an eight-lane, 25-meter racing pool with a filtration system that makes the water potable and doesn’t use chemicals. In the works are a hot plunge pool with a hydraulic treadmill, cold plunge pool and stroke lab with simulated current waves. The Hoops Center has two full-sized 5x5 courts, 3x3 halfcourt and a total of 17 hoops. The Multi-Purpose Arena has lines for volleyball, futsal and badminton. Two Australian-made surface tennis courts, a football pitch and a high-performance gym with Keiser resistance machines, digital devices to measure elevation and hang time, weightlifting platform and other specialized equipment round out Inspire’s amazing facilities. A budget of over P1 billion, including land acquisition cost, was put up for Inspire and Uichico said a priority is maintaining its facilities to make sure the investment is worth every centavo.

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