TO STUDENT-ATHLETES you have put heart and soul into your preparations for the games, poured out all your energies in the playing fields to compete with your counterparts from other schools. And, to Coaches: you have studied your team’s strengths and limitations, made your adjustments, mapped out your game plans, and scouted your competitors.
But against an unforgiving and unrelenting coronavirus, there simply was no way to continue the season that has just been cruelly upended and for a few athletes now nearing their final years in competitions, you must feel your dreams dashed. We can grieve if we must, but everything happens for a reason, and perhaps this is an opportunity to think through what sports is really about.
Sports as Part of Our Lives
Sports is all about passion, and for some athletes their commitment is unimaginable. I know for I have witnessed it from the perspective of the dugout and the training fields.
Sports plays a huge part in some of our lives, but there are other things in life to consider, some more important than others like family and relationships, our studies and our classmates, our schools and our teachers, our community and our people, our country and its concerns, and our world and the common causes people are involved in. Athletes like young people all over the world, some of whom are engaged in action dealing with the climate and now the health crisis, grapple with real-life issues. And, when you become citizens later in life they rightfully become your concerns as well.
As athletes, you are given special gifts that allow other people to look up to you and some of you, in fact, readily become models for others. Thus, perhaps, this period of self-isolation may be a good time to reflect on what your generation of athletes can share with other young people in these trying times.
Honest Hard Work
To become good in your craft and in the sport of your choice, you have had to put in much work, tremendous effort to excel, in brief, honest hard work. I do not know of any scholar-athlete worth the name, who did not put in hours of practice, hours of study, and that tenacity that allows one to be both brilliant and consistent during games. As coaches like to say: “If you can’t execute in practice, no chance you can do it on the court.”
Willingness to Work Well with Others
As athletes you learn to work effectively with others. You listen, first of all, and you talk, you ask questions, you communicate and in the process grow and become better. We have coaches and trainers, who have experience and to excel we can rely on them and our teammates. We need to learn to be a team player, to be selfless and humble – if we are to advance in whatever sport we are playing.
The Capacity to See Things Through
Championships are not won on the first bounce; they are won by the capacity to go all the way “until the final whistle blows.” Matches on the football pitch, for example, can be won during the added “injury time” or in the last seconds of play; in volleyball, stamina required for the all-important deciding fifth set. settles the eventual winner. The victory does not belong to the swift alone, but to the athlete or the team that sees it through till the end.
The Resilience to Bounce Back from Setbacks
Some of you know that one of the toughest trials in sports is to recover from an injury, to bounce back from setbacks either from a close loss or a blow-out of a setback. The character of an individual athlete or a team for that matter can be determined by one’s ability not to be crushed by defeat. The mental toughness required to overcome discouragement and near-despair is what separates good athletes from mediocre ones.
The Courage to Give One’s Best No Matter What the Odds
For any coach, the player one depends on in the critical moments of the game is the one who gives one’s best no matter what the odds, no matter what the score, no matter how one feels at that particular juncture. The team leaders are the people in the team who normally possess the heart and the fighting spirit that rallies teammates around a common purpose so the team achieves a prized goal.
The Respect Always Given to Others
In the playing fields, we are all competitors. “Kalaro, hindi kalaban,” as one wise coach put it. Sportsmanship, particularly in collegiate sports, is at times a more important outcome than victory or defeat. To develop character that is respectful and resilient, that accepts the decisions of arbiters and the wiser counsel of others is one of the more valuable aspects of sports.
The Gratitude for All the Blessings We Have Received
Student-athletes are truly blessed, with talent, with strength, some with speed and others with stamina. To be grateful for all of life’s blessings is perhaps one reflection we can ponder on during this quarantine period; perhaps, we may have forgotten how truly blessed we are.
Now, in this quarantine period, we are given time to pause and to thank the people who have helped us along in our journey and the Almighty Who has given us life and all of life’s blessings.
I must confess that my heart sunk when I read the terse three-paragraph letter from the UAAP organizers. It was inevitable perhaps but it was still painful. It will perhaps be known in years to come as akin to Season 82’s “Good Friday Message”.
But it will be up to us to respond with the right and different spirit. We can respond with Easter Hope. We can rise up from this setback and emerge as be better competitors, and who knows, better persons and citizens in a world that will irretrievably change when we finally wake up for this unprecedented nightmare. Be Brave, and Be Kind, always!