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Unconventional beginnings: DLSU rookies on their unique first year

For every UAAP season, a new narrative is shaped and new stories are told. Fresh faces from all walks of life begin a new chapter not just in their athletic careers, but also for themselves. For any rookie, their debut season presents a chance to prove themselves at the collegiate level and showcase why they were recruited to represent their respective teams. An athlete’s first year is always deemed to be the most exciting, and it lays the foundation for years to come.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing an unorthodox year for all athletes, DLSU rookies Kevin Quimbao (basketball), Enrique Vecin (football), Milcah Mina (swimming), and Peter Nonaillada (baseball) discuss their first year experiences as DLSU athletes despite the present circumstances and restrictions.

Adjusting to the system

Transitioning from high school to the collegiate level is always a nerve-wracking experience for any rookie because of the newborn challenges it may entail. Coupled with the limitations brought about by the pandemic, this was made even more difficult for Lasallian athletes. Football rookie Vecin shares, “With the pandemic being a major factor, the transition was difficult. I had a difficult time learning the ropes around some of the processes done at the University.”

Nonetheless, they have all stated that the online experience, the system, and the teams were tremendously welcoming. Basketball rookie Quimbao shares, “Gusto nila maging involved ako […] Ginuide rin ako ni coach Derrick [Pumaren] kasi mataas ang expectation ng mga tao pati nila sakin dahil number one high school player ako.” When asked who has mentored and guided him so far, he furthers, “So far ngayon si kuya Justin Baltazar, pero ‘di pa siya nakaka-sali sa training ulit.”

(They want me to be involved […] Coach Derrick also guides me because the expectations of people for me are high since I am the number one high school player.)

(So far, it’s kuya Justin Baltazar, but he hasn’t joined training.)

Since the pandemic prevented a traditional athletic year from occurring, there were several experiences that every rookie missed. Reminiscing on times before the pandemic, baseball rookie Nonaillada shares, “I’ve experienced having off days as a player, celebrating hard-earned victories, experiencing defeats so heartbreaking that it is still hard to move on from it, getting injured in the field, having the sermon of a lifetime after committing a very crucial error, cracking jokes while dying during intense routines, and sharing food with the opposing team after a game.” With the pandemic being a huge hindrance, he further acknowledges, “It is very cliché to say, but the field has been my second home, the coaches are my second parents, and my teammates are my second brothers, but the pandemic has robbed me of experiencing all the what-ifs and what-could’ve beens.”

Hoping that the pandemic ends sooner rather than later, swimming rookie Mina says, “Being in an online training program is hard for us swimmers because we are used to swimming everyday and because of that, I expected more land training sessions with the team rather than training in the pool.Adjusting to a full year of online sessions is an immense change, but she expresses, “As a student, I strived to be someone who makes school a top priority and exerted a lot of effort on learning good time management because I have always believed in the importance of practicing.”

Mentally and physically prepared

Times have never been more different, and as a rookie you are already going in an environment wherein everything is new. So, with the pandemic, it only makes the task more challenging for these newcomers.

For Mina, she was able to use the pandemic to her own advantage and use it for rehabilitation. “I underwent two surgeries because I wasn’t able to recover well from the first one. I was diagnosed with post-operative stiffness but waited after the UAAP Season 82 to finish so that I can go on with my second surgery. Amid the pandemic, it benefited me so much because I had all time to fully recover,” Mina shares. Moreover, the break has given her a new perspective on her mental approach, Mina expounds, saying, “I learned that my desire to change will always depend on my ability to use my clever thinking to come [up] with solutions to problems.”

Trusting the process is something these rookies have done in order to stay focused on their end goal. For Nonaillada, he knows that patience and hard work in the long run will benefit him. “I will just have to keep training with the team, I just have to be patient and know that the harder I work for something I am passionate about, the greater the feeling of fulfilment will be when the time comes,” he says. Vecin on the other hand sees this as a time to work on possible holes in his game, as he shares, “I have been doing my best to maintain my overall physical fitness while slowly trying to work on some of the weak spots in my game. The trainings held (individually and collectively) is a big help for me since it provides a good perspective on which parts in my game I could tackle and improve on.”

Lastly for Quiambao, the pandemic has brought him some luck since this had affected his eligibility to immediately play for the team, which means that now he can ramp up his preparations for the upcoming season. “Kung hindi nag-pandemic, ‘di ako makakapag laro ng Season 83. Kung baga, nag-pandemic siya, sa Season 84 ready to play na ako. Lahat pina-practice ko talaga, mentally and physically,” Quiambao shares.

(If the pandemic did not happen, I would not have been able to play in Season 83. Since it did happen, I’ll be ready to play in Season 84. I’ve been practicing every aspect possible, mentally and physically.)

With the possibility of the season starting February next year, these student-athletes’ ability to integrate themselves to their respective teams and to stay fit are crucial for their success.

By Koby del Rosario

By Rain Leoncio

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