New Normal for Athletes?
BLEACHER TALK - Rico Navarro (The Freeman) - May 10, 2020 - 12:00am

Here’s another interesting set of questions for these days. What are athletes to do during this pandemic? Should they continue practicing? Who will push them to train? Survey: How many athletes continue training today and how? When I was a student-athlete (way back in the day), our season would always be interrupted by a two-week Christmas break. I can vividly remember how at the last practice before the Christmas break, our coaching staff would prepare a training program that was to be done on our own and without supervision. We had to stay in shape as the tournament resumed right after the break. Did we as a team practice over the holidays? Of course not! We all went back to school with excess poundage and were out of shape. We expectedly lost our next two games when the games resumed. Yes, I exaggerate but you get the point.

Today though is something totally different. This is not a two-week Christmas break. In fact, we don’t know how long this will last and how soon our athletes will be given the chance to train as a team again. Two weeks has turned into two months and may last until two years. That’s a perfect recipe for converting a fit athlete into something or someone else. More significantly, tournaments have either been cancelled or suspended indefinitely. I don’t think we’re going to see games played in 2020, and we’ll be lucky to see tournaments take place in the first half of 2021. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see sports come back to life, but safety will have to take precedence over anything else.

And so gain I ask. Will athletes stay in shape these days, knowing that competitions are nowhere in sight in the near future? What will motivate a young stud to work out? What will motivate an athlete to get off his bed, stay away from food and keep his hands off his gadget(s), laptop, PC or TV?  The big question that has to be answered is the WHY of staying in shape. Let’s just say this is another battle to make the athletes better versions of themselves not only as athletes per se, but as human beings.

Slowly but surely picking up momentum are the various training sessions/programs that are being conducted online by different teams, clubs or clinics. Online are various clinics that one can follow. Milo Philippines, through its Facebook page, is offering free clinics online entitled “Home Court,” partnering with the BEST Center for weekly clinics for basketball and volleyball. Target here are the beginners of the sport between the age of seven and twelve. They also have clinics in gymnastics and taekwondo. Various coaches and clubs are doing the same through social media. Also seen are online clinics that are charging fees.

For the school-based teams and clubs, online training is now the new normal. At a recent webinar, La Salle’s returning basketball coach Derek Pumaren mentioned that they started online training as early as February. Dr. Rhoel Dejaño, Cebu’s resident sports doctor and strength and conditioning pioneer, conducts online training for athletes via zoom or messenger, from the comforts of his home. Other school-based sports teams are also conducting training sessions online via zoom, alternating skills and strength and conditioning drills. While all of these are individual in nature, these provide everyone a chance to improve on their own, with “online” supervision. Team meetings are also held when not conducting physical drills. Chatting and sharing stories plays a huge role in staying connected and bonded. A big help in these online practices is the assistance and support that the parents will provide for their children. They are instant production assistants who will prepare the space, laptop, PC or gadget, internet connection and even provide water and have a towel ready for use. One pleasant development is that coaches have now become “experts” in zoom and have broken out of their shells to become innovative and creative. The times have called for all to step up and innovate/adapt, and for the pro-active coaches, this is the only way to go. But not surprisingly, some coaches have decided to get stuck in the past and have done nothing at all. Sad but so true.

Looking down the road when we do get back to a semblance of the old days, the athletes who took care of themselves over ECQ and GCQ will not have problems adjusting back to practice, training and actual games. The athletes who overslept, over-ate, over “gadgeted” and over-all did nothing; well, we all know what happens to them, don’t we?

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