Jam-packed action, budding talent, and most of all, the loudest cheers from fans are what make the UAAP. Season 83 is just around the corner, but with the country still battling the spread of COVID-19, the possibility of seeing matches played in empty stadiums and arenas is becoming increasingly real. With strict quarantine and safety protocols still in effect, fan-less venues might pose a new challenge for student-athletes who used to live for the noise of the crowd. Or might this new reality open up more opportunities?
Slated to represent the University this coming season, student-athletes share with The LaSallian what they think fan-less sporting venues might be like, how it might change the playing experience, and what they found would help them adapt to the new setup.
Changing the game
While DLSU, as Season 83 host, has yet to bare its plans to ensure the safety of both athletes and fans, among possible options is to limit the number of spectators at the stadiums, if any would be allowed at all. This sort of restriction is already seen in various sports leagues overseas, most notably with the NBA’s recently concluded season, where teams had to play without any fans in the arena.
Although Green Tanker Benzi Yang agrees that such a measure might be an effective way to mitigate the spread of the virus, he worries about how the absence of fans, who used to give him extra motivation to go all out, would affect his performance.
Similarly, third-year Green Batter Anton Rosas finds that this could pose a challenge for players who were looking to gain an “extra boost” from their fans’ excitement. “Athletes owe a lot to those who come and cheer on us for they serve as a reminder as to who we are playing for, and [they] never fail to motivate us,” he reasons.
Conversely, having fans in the sporting venue can create immense pressure for an athlete to exceed expectations. Because of this, Rosas believes that, with the usual stressor absent, fan-less games might make athletes more confident while playing. “It will be easier to break out of potential slumps for the players, [as they] won’t feel unnecessary pressure that having spectators could bring,” he emphasizes.
Yang also acknowledges that other athletes might prefer to have this setup since pressure could take a toll on their gameplay. Nonetheless, he maintains that having fans in the arena could bring the “maturity” out of the athlete since these fans can give that certain “push” they would need in order to grow as a player.
Maintaining the edge
Only those playing on the big stage would be able to understand the implications of the glaring effects on their performances. Thus, it is imperative for the athletes to adjust to an unprecedented situation and still perform at the highest level.
Coming into the season as the reigning champions, Rosas expresses his resolve on maintaining the team’s constant mindset to win, regardless of the playing environment. “Year after year, the goal that DLSU Baseball has is to be the best team in the league, and I think that we have the right players to repeat what we have accomplished in Season 81.”
However, the catcher also emphasizes how he takes into account the mental aspect of the game and the importance of managing the emotions in order to stay focused on the goal.
Yang echoed this sentiment regarding his personal challenges in the upcoming season. “I think being disciplined and showing my growth, specifically, in my maturity would be a critical role for me to perform at the highest level despite not having fans present.”
On a collective standpoint, he looks at how camaraderie will be a vital factor for the Tankers. “Despite having no fans [during matches], I have complete faith and trust with my whole team. I know what each and every one is capable of; with our work ethic and cohesiveness as a team, nothing is impossible as long as we stay together.”
At the same time, he also realizes that due to being restricted to land-based exercises and the lack of fitness routines at the pool, the Taft-based swim team has a tougher hill to climb compared to other UAAP athletes.
In addition, with all the talk about a bubble scenario, it is also important to note that there is still the yearly struggle of replacing key graduating members with superb rookies as well.
This upcoming UAAP season will be groundbreaking in many ways. The expectation that players would still be able to perform at the level that fans anticipate, though difficult to achieve, is still very much possible. However, one thing that both Rosas and Yang believe is, while playing with an audience or not, their squads’ competitive spirit will always come out on top and drive them to represent La Salle with the best of their abilities.