With three UAAP General Championships in just four years, it can be said that La Salle has entered an era of consistency and potential dominance in the realm of sports. While it is obviously the result of the athletes’ sheer hard work and determination, there are other factors at work that deserve credit as well.
One such factor is the tremendous job done by the likes of La Salle’s own Alex Depante Jr., who currently serves as the Athletic Services Coordinator for the Office of Sports Development (OSD). From sponsorships all the way down to supplying water bottles, Depante’s job revolves around handling the basic needs of the student-athletes.
Depante’s path to La Salle began whilst playing volleyball for Lourdes School of Quezon City. A competition was being held and his team was trying to impress recruiters from DLSU. His team ultimately won the championship, but Depante mentions that as much as he wanted to play for the Green-and-White, the opportunity to study there was his main ambition.
Depante spent five years in La Salle, and played the same number of UAAP seasons while juggling the demands of his chosen degree, BS Legal Management. “During my time it wasn’t called Green Spikers. So just guess na lang the year. I played for 95-99 [1995-1999]. I played for five UAAP seasons. I never won the championship”, he adds.
After his stint with La Salle, Depante immediately worked after graduating in 2000, landing a job in the advertising industry. “Pagathlete ka kasi, if seryosong athlete, hindi ka sanay sa bisyo. Sa industry lalo na sa advertising, kadalasan you need to do all those things just to close a deal. Parang ang hirap, hindi ko kinaaya,” Depante says on his departure from the industry.
As the saying goes, when one door closes another opens, and this was definitely the door Depante had been eager to knock on. Looking back, he says, “Nung 2001 nagcoach ako for [La Salle Green Hills. Si Sir Nong [Calanog] yung boss ko nun. President na si Br. Bernie [Oca] nun. Mas winorkout ko yung craft ko sa coaching, nagcoach ako sa GH and Benilde at the same time. Best years of my life.”
Having once played for the varsity squad, the OSD official couldn’t help but compare this generation’s athletes with his. He recalled how little publicity their team’s games received from the general public, with the spectators mostly consisting of the players’ family and friends. In addition to this, Depante also observed how different the motivations were between today’s players and the players of the past.
“We never asked and we never even demanded for perks. Ngayon may jacket, may training shirt ka. Noon basta mahal mo yung ginagawa mo,” Depante says, adding that some players tend to take for granted the privileges they are given by the OSD.
Depante does concede that current student-athletes are probably undergoing even bigger stresses than they ever did during their collegiate careers. Not only do they have to deal with their studies and trainings, but they also have to maintain a good image since they have now turned into media figures due to extensive media coverage.
Being in charge of providing the athlete’s equipment and other needs is no easy task. It’s not enough that the players are given their athletic wears, but their preferences must also be met. This can be troubling for Depante and his department, as not all varsity players can be accommodated when it comes to specific demands.
“Yung challenge siguro mameet mo yung requirement nila. At the same time, satisfied sila. Not actually satisfied but happy sila. Para hindi nila masabi na kaya kami natalo dahil pangit sapatos,” he remarks.
La Salle’s sponsorship contract with Nike enables the OSD to give the student-athletes basic equipment of arguably the highest quality. But problems can arise when certain sports require even more specific things, which may not be covered by the Nike contract. Even worse is when certain players demand more than what can be given to them.
“I think mas challenging minsan or mas irritating when you encounter student-athletes who are not appreciative of what they’re actually getting,” said Coach Alex, whose department consists of just a few members.
Leaving a legacy
Besides his ultimate personal goal of someday winning the lottery, Depante hopes that by the time he finishes his work with the OSD, he would’ve made a big difference in the way things are being done in the office. He wants to set the bar for the future members of the OSD, hoping that they would try to emulate the successful model that he and his contemporaries have been doing over the past few years.
“Siguro generations from now, kung ano man yung nabigay namin. Or kung paano kami to be of service to the teams. Sana yung kultura na yun ma-carry on kahit retired na kami. Kasi sa tingin ko, mahirap higitan yung standards na sinet namin,” Depante proudly says.