Within the buzzing gym of the Enrique Razon Sports Complex, Marlon Celis checks his watch intently as the DLSU Green Archers undergo their bleep test on a Wednesday afternoon.
Whistle in hand, he asserts words of encouragement to the players dashing to the baseline, panting heavily as the speaker system perpetually signals the succeeding intervals which measure an individual’s level of fitness. As soon as the last player standing decelerates to a stop, Celis gathers his worn-out men to discuss their aptitudes. Afterwards, he immediately rushes to the equipment room to take note of the team’s progress, while simultaneously peering through the development of volleyball, baseball, and football athletes as they do their weight training. This seemingly meandering plethora of tasks often constitutes a regular day for the Office of Sports Development (OSD) overall consultant-trainee.
In any field of competitive sports, conditioning and fitness are tantamount to success. For insofar as athletes go head-to-head with equal skill and talent, conditioning may very well spell the difference in determining who comes out on top. Following the recent successes of DLSU’s athletes in the UAAP, Celis takes pride in ensuring that they are in top form whenever they compete in their respective sports.
Finding fulfillment in sports
After finishing his degree in physical therapy from the Fatima Medical Science Foundation (now Our Lady of Fatima University), Celis started his professional life as most graduates in his track would do, which was making rounds in the hospital. However, unable to find fulfilment in that environment, he quickly realized that he had a different calling. Trying to look into different fields where he could enjoy and use his abilities to its full potential, he would eventually find his niche in sports.
He humble started as an apprentice coach in the Philippine Sports Commission in 1997, where he would get his formal training. The following year, he struck gold as he was part of the coaching staff of the San Juan Knights who won four championships in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association. After the league dissolved, Celis jumped around various basketball leagues in the metro, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU), semi-professional tournaments, and even the high school ranks. However, he would find his crowning achievement working as the strength and conditioning coach of the national basketball team with then-head coach Yeng Guiao in 2009. Prior to that, he also won a championship with Guiao in the PBA as a member of his coaching staff of the 2005 Red Bull Barakos team in his first year.
“I don’t know if I’m the one who’s lucky, but most of the teams I went to [were] able to get the championship,” Celis recalls of his impressive track record with different teams. Perhaps this winning culture was contagious, as he would eventually carry it with him upon making his way to La Salle in 2013.
Thriving under pressure
The main objective of a strength and conditioning coach is more silent than what the title explicitly means. More so than strength and conditioning, lessening the risk of injury and keeping the athletes healthy are key for Celis. “What other people don’t see [is] we are more concerned about injury prevention, because no matter how good your athlete is, no matter how competitive or in good shape or in tough condition they are, if they are injured, [they] definitely they won’t be able to play.”
Likewise, Celis is adamant on educating his athletes on maintaining their form. “Every after practice, we tell our players to take care of their bodies. That’s their investment and in their career, they should really have the discipline with their training, with their studies, and with their recovery.”
Even with the high intensity level of play, he finds the pressure that comes with it very motivating. Designing a conditioning program with a strong foundation to match head coach Aldin Ayo’s style of training was ultimately the reinforcement needed by the Green Archers.
Celis was able to create a system that served as a strength and conditioning program, not only for the Green Archers, but for all DLSU sports teams. The coach never fails to reiterate that ultimately, educating the players is the key ingredient in strength and conditioning.
Transitioning to Taft
By 2013, then-Green Archers head coach Gee Abanilla brought Celis to La Salle to work as a team consultant. But before the season started, Juno Sauler was appointed head coach, eventually steering DLSU to a championship in his first year. The following year, Celis was hired by the Office of Sports Development athletic director Emmanuel Calanog to be a trainee-consultant for the entire DLSU athletics program, a post which he holds to this day.
Despite his decorated resume in the two decades he has been in the entrails of Philippine sports, he remains grateful to the people who have helped him throughout the years. Handling 450 athletes across the 14 official sports in the UAAP is no slouch by the sheer number alone. Perhaps more difficult is the specific training required for each sport. However, Celis was quick to point out that the team’s successes are not solely attributed to him, but also with the proper funding of the University’s athletics programs.
In that regard, he is thankful to the University and its donors, particularly its top patron, Eduardo Cojuangco Jr, for providing his staff with the necessary facilities and amenities to train the University’s athletes. Besides the needs of the athletes, La Salle enabled Celis to pursue further studies abroad, which has greatly contributed to his knowledge as a practitioner. “I’ve been to a lot of colleges, they don’t provide good nutrition, they don’t give good recovery sessions like massage, compression shorts, ice bath, supplements, vitamins. Those are also vital to the success of a team and I’m very proud of our facilities because it’s very sports-specific,” he shares with gratitude.
Marlon Celis may be a behind-the-scenes figure, but his contribution to the various sports teams in DLSU can surely be felt. It is more than just drafting and implementing conditioning programs for the players, but also a daily battle to ensure that Lasallian athletes keep healthy, motivated, and most importantly, educated.