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CSRs: Makings of UAAP student storytellers

UAAP courtside reporters elevate the viewing experience of diehard fans watching at home, providing insider scoops of a team’s dynamic.

In a sports-loving country like the Philippines, most eyes are set on such recreational activities. It becomes a given that athletes are constantly under the spotlight—especially those in the collegiate level who battle it out each game to bring pride to their alma maters. However, another group of college students who are just as passionate as these athletes is worthy of their fair share of the limelight: courtside reporters (CSRs).

More than reporting for their university and having firsthand access to dugouts and training sessions, courtside reporters have huge responsibilities that take a strong character and dedication to pull off. Spearheading the live updates in between huddles and crucial moments of the game, CSRs handle pressure-packed situations with grace.

A slight change

Back in December 2020, UAAP announced a newfound partnership with Cignal TV and Smart and cemented a long-term broadcast deal for 5.5 years. This move marked a major change for the UAAP and its viewers, since ABS-CBN—whose franchise renewal was denied—was airing college games for more than two decades.

But in terms of changes this new partnership will effect, UAAP Courtside Reporter Search and Training Lead and former DLSU CSR for Season 75 Billie Capistrano reiterates that the process “hasn’t changed a lot over the past few years.” 

“We still want hardworking, diligent college students who know how to manage their time, who are beaming with potential. And also for now, we really need someone resourceful—applicants who are very independent and know their way around things,” Capistrano clarifies.

Defying tough odds

Becoming a courtside reporter is nothing short of a nip and tuck affair, with more than hundreds of applicants vying for only eight spots to represent the eight UAAP-participating universities. 

“After each round, it was something different and pakaunti na kami nang pakaunti. You had to bring in something new to the table, kasi syempre screening process siya,” shares Jeanine Tsoi, DLSU Seasons 77 and 78 CSR, recalling her personal experience of auditioning for the role. “‘Yung competition grabe talaga. Gusto kasi ng ABS-CBN, grace under pressure. Gusto nila mabilis ka mag-isip and you stay calm in front of the camera.”

(The competition was intense. Back then, ABS-CBN wanted one to display grace under pressure. Thinking on your feet and staying calm in front of the camera was a must.)

Meanwhile, DLSU CSR for UAAP Seasons 81 and 82 Aiyana Perlas expresses that the process was even harder for her given that she was not equipped with sufficient basketball knowledge during the application. “I was honest about it, sinabi ko sa kanila. After that, I noticed ‘yung mga questions nila [became] more personal,” she narrates. Perlas furthers that a CSR applicant will “really have to learn sports,” but reiterates, “It’s more of how good are you on your feet, how good you are spontaneously and in impromptu moments.”

In Tsoi and Perlas’ experiences, the said screening had applicants introduce themselves. But in succeeding rounds, she divulges that technical skills became an even more important factor. “May isang part na we had to listen to a huddle; may isang malaking TV screen tapos papakinggan and we had to write a report on the spot,” Tsoi recalls, citing how nerve racking the selection process can be.

(There was one part where we had to listen to a huddle; there was one big TV screen, then we listened and we had to write a report on the spot.)

Another portion of the five-stage screening was an interview simulation, which Perlas cites to be just as challenging due to their need to have enough background and facts on the person they interview. “Hindi pwedeng parang guessing game lang,” she comments. 

(It cannot be just a guessing game.)

The exhaustive selection process proves how much hard work is put into selecting the best set of reporters possible. “You need to come in ready. Naiisip ng tao, glitz and glamor ang courtside, but it’s not a walk in the park,” the Seasons 81 and 82 CSR stresses.

(People think that the courtside is all glitz and glamor, but it’s not a walk in the park.)

Going above and beyond

Being appointed as a team’s courtside reporter is a feat in itself, but it is only the beginning of the many months of commitment. 

Apart from being at the forefront of UAAP games, CSRs are students who have to work around the already hectic schedule of school. “The length of the training was two to three weeks, mga two to three times per week kami nagkikita sa office, kasi syempre may pasok kami so busy lahat,” National University CSR for Seasons 80 and 81 Miguel Dypiangco recounts. 

(We meet around two to three times per week at the office because of course there was school, so we were all busy.)

On the other hand, DLSU CSR for Season 75 Billie Capistrano says that their batch had to go through numerous training sessions covering different technicalities of the job. “We had a lot of workshops about how to write a report—technically the basics of courtside reporting: the do’s and don’ts, how to stand in front of the camera, how to hold the microphone—even the most basic things that others may not make sense [of],” she elaborates.

Juggling academic responsibilities with such extracurricular activities, CSRs get to experience two different worlds at a time—enriching both their studenthood and professional career.

Behind the scenes

In order for both sports fans and spectators to enjoy their viewing experiences, having CSRs is crucial as they give unique perspectives on what is happening from the sidelines. “Everything that you cannot see, everything that you want to see but cannot see—or everything that you want to hear but cannot hear, they are the ones who deliver it,” Capistrano articulates.

In each game, an analyst and a commentator deliver the play-by-play flow of the matchup. However, only courtside reporters have unfiltered access to a team’s quest for success, which is then delivered for audiences to fully capture the humanity behind every team and player. But in order to provide noteworthy insights, CSRs immerse themselves with the teams and players they report on.

Becoming a byproduct of spending time with athletes, unforgettable memories are imparted to CSRs. For Capistrano and Perlas, knowing the athletes’ personal stories are their favorite moments. For the Seasons 81 and 82 DLSU CSR, “It’s humbling to know the different walks of [life] of all of these different athletes,” with Capistrano adding that what she appreciates was “getting to know the players more than them just being athletes.”

For Tsoi, it was witnessing the DLSU Lady Spikers reclaim the crown from their archrivals the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles in Season 78—mentioning that winning the championship was the “best part of her job.” 

The road ahead

As applications near the deadline, those who manage to send an application are a step closer to achieving their dream of becoming the next UAAP courtside reporter, says Dypiangco. He encourages that students be “brave enough” to take on the opportunity, expressing, “A year is too long for you to wait for your dreams to happen.”

Although the former CSRs also note that becoming a member of their ranks may be a dream for some, one must remember to balance such commitments with academics.  

As people await UAAP Season 84’s opening, those aspiring to be courtside reporters continue to prepare themselves for the tough road ahead, hoping that they are capable enough to fully deliver a story of how their UAAP team managed their remarkable journey toward success.

By Andrea Ysobel Bacolor

By Raphael Serrano

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