With the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changing the momentum of sports, the UAAP has ultimately decided to forego its 83rd Season. Although there were initial plans to push through by mid-2021, the Board of Trustees announced the cancellation last December, seeking to prioritize the health and safety of its players, coaches, and staff. The difficult adjustment forced marquee rivalries and, more importantly, graduating student-athletes to let go of their final collegiate stints.
Supposed to have their well-deserved swan songs, Lady Tanker Maggie Mendoza, Green Fencer Vincent Tibus, Lady Archer Ernestine Tiamzon, and Lady Batter Arisa Miranda express the impact of the cancellation and discuss how they plan to move forward with their careers.
This is the first time since 1945 that a whole UAAP season will not be played due to unforeseen circumstances. Although expected, the news still brought mixed reactions, especially for the affected players. Green Fencer Tibus bares, “It really hurt me that I won’t be able to fight wearing the Green and White [uniform] for the very last time.”
For most student-athletes, a final season could be one of the milestones of their bittersweet journey, as it could end with a penultimate championship or with a meaningful, stronger bond with the team. “I was hopeful of making a good exit to my last playing year. It was really difficult for me because it was my last straw of hope,” Lady Tanker Mendoza says.
She also reveals, “Although I still do not know how to say goodbye to swimming, I have truly accepted how it is destined for me, and I am proud to say that I have no regrets because I believe that I have shown my determination, passion, and love for swimming.” Due to the prolonged hiatus of competitions, it also took away the cheers and jeers of the avid crowd. And to these athletes, this meant missing the thrill and jitters of performing in an arena, an experience that comes along with playing collegiate sports. Three-time volleyball champion Tiamzon mentions that “it’s a feeling that can never be replaced.”
With the cancellation affecting their years of eligibility, it allowed them to rethink their various personal visions and goals. “It helps me realize certain things, especially what I want to do after college,” Miranda notes. Additionally, the break away from their beloved sports encouraged them to spend more meaningful time with their family, which was sacrificed during training and tournaments. Spending time mostly inside their homes became an opportunity to challenge and motivate themselves. Tiamzon points out, “It is also time to explore new talents that we may have been too busy to try before the pandemic.”
What comes next
This big turnabout of events has pushed senior Lasallian athletes to reflect on the possibility of either waiting for the next season or putting a stamp on their days as a student-athlete. The uncertain future makes the decision a lot more difficult, but the commitment to excellence continues to push them to stay ready. “As an athlete under the DLSU women’s volleyball program, you have to stay motivated and disciplined. It is better to be prepared when the time comes, than to be complacent and wait for any news,” Tiamzon emphasizes. Miranda echoed the sentiment and added that having a goal to reach continues to motivate her to continue with the grind even under quarantine measures.
Due to the limited nature of workouts done at home, their respective coaches have implemented efficient programs in ensuring that the student-athletes stay fit, especially given their long layoff. Miranda shares her team’s focal point in their program, “Since we are still under strict quarantine restrictions, the specific training plans that my team (Lady Batters) have now are focused on strengthening our body.” Meanwhile, in the fencing team, Tibus revealed that they have the same priorities in terms of strength and conditioning.
With the end of their collegiate playing days in sight, they also have to decide whether to continue pursuing their sport at the professional level. With the uncertainty in Philippine sports, some have chosen to mark an end to their playing days. Tibus explains, “I don’t plan on playing fencing after college. My plan is to get a job and help my sister to pay the bills for her medical school.” Tiamzon, who is also weighing her options, relays her current plan, “Ultimately, I plan to move back to Canada. If the COVID situation is more controlled in the Philippines, I would like to play a few years of semi-pro,pro indoor,beach volleyball. If the situation is still uncertain in two to three years, then I will start establishing my roots in Canada.”
It may be the end of the road for the old guard, but this only means that young guns who are arriving to represent the shield can now make their own mark in the decorated history of Lasallian sports. Tibus advises the current and aspiring athletes, “Always take care of your well-being, train hard, and work hard in order to achieve your goal. Believe in yourselves, teammates, and coaches. [You should] never give up and always keep trying.” Lastly, in reference to the current situation, Mendoza concludes, “This is truly the time to show your best dedication to your sport than it ever required. Stay inspired and good things will come!”
Although graduating Lasallian athletes missed the chance of closing out their final playing year, their pride and dedication in representing the Green and White are surely a perennial memory that surpasses a cancelled season.