Freeman Cebu Sports

Win the Wait

BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro - The Freeman

We all love a great quotation, don’t we? “Win the Wait” was one of those that stood out at Friday’s online forum of the Sport Management Council of the Philippines, “PH Collegiate Sports Moving Forward,” a Huddle Up with guest sports directors, athletes, coaches and more. Among the panelists included CESAFI Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy Jr. The forum tackled the major issues that college sports faced in this time of the pandemic. The major question revolved around what will happen to college sports this year with the cancellation of tournaments in 2020 and maybe even for a large part of 2021.

The answers were a mix, considering that everyone came from different contexts and situations. For the schools whose resources for sports are not an issue, it’s business as usual. Coaches are still on board, scholarships of student-athletes are preserved and all teams remain active but online instead the usual practices. The same is true for the state universities where education is for free for all students. But for other schools, things don’t look that rosy. Some are either slashing their coaching staff, or not renewing the contracts of coaches. Some are cutting down on some sports programs and re-focusing on only a few. Consequently, some student-athletes may lose their scholarships and other perks such as provisions for meals, accommodations and allowances. Sad, but this is reality. With enrollment numbers projected to drop, schools are expectedly focusing on the basic essentials of education. Unfortunately, sports will not be up there in the priority list, at least for now. But one thing is certain. Sports will not be deleted totally and thrown to the trash bin for good. It’s just taking a break and will make a comeback soon (sports drama at its best).

So what do we do? Allow me then to quote the convenor of the Mindanao Peace Games and Ateneo de Davao Athletic Director Noli Ayo at yesterday‘s forum. He was in turn quoting LA Clippers coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers who said “We win the wait,” when asked about what the Clippers are doing these days. Simply put, instead of worrying about the situation or dreaming in a wishful thinking manner, the sports world must be doing something to “win this wait.” Ayo goes on to say that this pandemic is a period to switch gears from looking for competitions to “how to remain significant by finding their relevance online. If you can’t meet them (student-athletes) online, you’ll drown,” comparing the pandemic to a Noah’s ark situation. The sports programs that have accepted and adapted have moved on to practicing online. These occasions have also been used to simply sit down, chat and say hello to all members of the team in a “kumustahan” manner. On the other hand, the sports programs that haven’t adjusted to the pandemic and have done nothing are in bad shape. But it’s not too late at all.

In a Philippine Star story written by Anthony Suntay, Doc Rivers shared what he meant by winning the wait. “I am trying to get my guys to understand two things: that our goals haven’t changed and that we cannot use whatever happens when we come out of this, as the reason that we don’t win. We have to mentally prepare for something different, some strange, NCAA Tournament style, a three-game series, and those are just dangerous series — anyone can win those things — or a five-game series so you just have to be prepared for it and you are in the same mode.”

Another one of my favorites of this pandemic is what SHS-Ateneo de Cebu SBP coach Gigi Catolico told his student-athletes on the need to stay fit. “We are preparing for nothing; but will ready for something.” The pandemic has also brought out an unlimited array of webinars and online clinics for free. It’s a free market of webinars from local organizers all the way to Europe and the U.S. Just check out Facebook and you’ll see what I mean. For some diligent coaches who are serious with their craft, they have made it a daily habit to attend at least one webinar a day. For his part, CESAFI Commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy indicated in the forum his plan to establish a course for basketball coaches that will be required before one can coach in the league. This is another good way to use the current period to re-boot and refresh. My personal wish is that this shouldn’t focus on the Xs and Os, and should dwell more on the important role that coaches have in shaping the lives of the people who they handle. We need coaches with character; coaches for life. Coaches with character will produce student-athletes with character as well. Leagues and tournaments should also use this time to reflect, recharge and review why they exist. What is “the why” of our leagues?

See? This pandemic isn’t too bad after all, di ba? Win the wait.

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