Freeman Cebu Sports

Student-Athletes to Start Practicing?

BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro - The Freeman

Here we go again. Harry Roque speaks before the media and announces that student-athletes may now resume practice. This gets social media active with viral-like comments/reactions of praise and hundreds of thumbs ups. “Finally! Puede na gyud ta mo practice,” one comment stated. What they miss out on is what Roque says later in his announcement, “subject to to guidelines as may be issued by the Commission on Higher Education.”

The full text of this section of IATF Resolution No. 68 reads, “Student athletes of collegiate associations as defined under R.A. 10676 or the Student-Athletes Protection Act shall be allowed to resume their preparatory trainings in areas under General Community Quarantine and Modified General Community Quarantine, subject to guidelines as may be issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).” A day later, the CHED came out with a press release that it was going “to organize a Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of CHED, Philippines Sports Commission (PSC), Department of Health (DOH), Games and Amusements Board (GAB), and representatives of collegiate leagues to craft the guidelines this week.”

In other words, college student-athletes CANNOT practice until the guidelines are released. The timing of this announcement couldn’t have been worse with the issue of the Bicol bubble of UST, the indefinite suspension handed down by the UAAP on former UST coach Aldin Ayo, and the investigation on NU for reportedly conducting training sessions on campus.

These announcements have also raised more questions than answers. Why is the government in a rush to allow student-athletes to resume practice? Why the comparison to what the pro leagues PBA, Chooks to go Pilipinas 3X3 and Philippine Football League are allowed to do? And if the government doesn’t even allow face-to-face classes, how has sports suddenly become more important than studies? It doesn’t make any sense, does it? And if guidelines are prepared, are the schools willing to shoulder the expenses for what is expected to be a long and expensive endeavor?

What do we mean? If practice is allowed, the health protocol and guidelines are expected to be similar, if not identical to the ones being practiced by the pros. This calls for massive testing, a bubble or “closed circuit” setting, round-the-clock disinfection, and other standard practices that are valid for all: as face masks, face shields, washing of hands, etc. For the big schools with big sports programs, money will not be an issue and I’m sure they can afford all this. But what about the schools that are bleeding financially in this pandemic? Another major concern is how effective this set-up is in preventing anyone from contracting the COVID 19 virus. Since some student-athletes will still be travelling to and from practice, they will be exposed to the general public once outside the confines of their homes or practice venues. This might be better if all players in this set-up live in a dorm on campus and can walk to the practice venue and back without being exposed. But if someone does contract the virus, who is to spend for the medical bills of the patient? The parents or the school?

Another major concern today is that all student-athletes are still adjusting to online or distance classes. This has taken its toll on both students and teachers physically and mentally. Believe me, sitting in front of a laptop, personal computer or tablet for even just half a day is a very draining experience. Is the CHED now assuming that all student-athletes have already adjusted to online classes and are not experiencing any problems? Pag sure mo oi!I’m also getting the strange feeling that the student-athletes are now being treated as just athletes whose sporting careers are more important than why they’re in school in the first place. Again, it doesn’t make sense that schools allow for practices to resume on campus when they don’t even allow face-to-face classes.

So why the rush to practice, ladies and gentlemen from the IATF and CHED? CHED Chairman Popoy De Vera says they are allowing practice for the student-athletes so that “their mental health and physical well-being will be enhanced.” I think he has forgotten that outdoor training is allowed for individuals in areas under GCQ and MGCQ. In fact, the more responsible student-athletes are now running, jogging, biking and working out on their own outdoors to stay in shape. Many teams have also resorted to online practice sessions via zoom or google meet, while others work out in the privacy of their homes.

At the end of the day. when these guidelines are released, the decision to resume practice will lie solely on the shoulders of each school and the parents of the student-athletes. The schools that can afford it will surely go for it and I pray that they take care of every single detail to assure the safety of all. I don’t think the Cebu schools are ready and will take the risk to go through all the hassle, stress and pressure that this entails. They’re too busy with conducting classes online. I’m also sure that parents will think twice (maybe more) before allowing their children to practice unless they’re 100% sure that nobody will contract the virus.

Safe or sorry? Schools are better off taking the safer route. Focus on online classes and the delivery of education and you’ll never go wrong.

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