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Ball is Life

01 May

by Margarita Ysabel A. Liwanag and Maria Sofia F. Quiogue
SA 21 X

Introduction

A large portion of being part of the Ateneo community is supporting the sports teams. The most anticipated sports event, however, has always been basketball. During the UAAP season, the arenas are packed with avid fans and supporters, ourselves included. In this paper, we share, our experience of going behind the scenes, and participating in the training of the Ateneo Men’s Basketball Team. With the notes we took from our experience to the insights we have come to realize, it is brought to light that basketball, is more than just a sport, it is a lifestyle.

Notes and Experiences

When we arrived at the Moro Lorenzo court, most of the players were already there. Some were changing, some were stretching, and some were just chatting with us or each other. The managers led us the manager’s bench, which was at the sidelines of the court. File_002It seemed like a very laid back environment, even with the assistant coaches there. However, when the clock hit 6:00pm, the mood changed. It was time for practice to start, so everyone put their game faces on. While the players were warming up, the managers and some assistant coaches wrote groups of names and drills on the whiteboard. Then, after warm ups, they took a 2-minute water break, which was being timed by the timer on the scoreboard
(As shown in the picture provided). They used some of the time that they had to check out the white board and see what drills they had to do for the day. When the 2 minutes ran up, the buzzer sounded off, and they all proceeded back to the court.

For the skills training on the court, Coach Tab Baldwin, their head coach, stayed at half court to guide them with their drills. The assistant coaches were divided into different stations, and different groups of players would rotate on each station. The managers let us control the timer. When they were already on each of their stations, we would have to
set the timer for 5 minutes. We would then start the timer. Some stations were for strength and conditioning, others were to practice different shots, like layups, free throws, and three-pointers. After a few rotations, they were again given another 2-minute break. After the break, it was time for them to practice their plays.  It was vigorous and tiring even if we only participated in some of them, as it combined a lot of running into the drills. There were about 8 drills wherein the running made it tiring. Everything was timed also to make sure they were following the practice plan. Also, the drills varied from teamwork skills and individual skills. There were drills or stations wherein it would focus on the individual skill of a player, such as their drilling or shooting. There were also stations wherein it would require a partner or a group of 3, 4 or 5 to work on passing, dribbling, scoring, or all together combined. Everyone was shouting, communicating with each other, and giving their 100 percent.

The groups finally merged into one and joined each other on the court. This is when it got more intense. Coach Tab held team practice and they focus on team drills. This lasted until 9 pm. The team focused on scrimmages and getting up and down the court. They again divided into groups. This time in groups of 5, each group composed of players withFile_001.2.jpeg the 5 different positions (Point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center), to practice the plays that Coach Tab had assigned for the day, walking through the playbook as he discussed what he wants each team to execute and what not. Before playing against one another, the teams split into different stations. There were different focuses on each station such. One station focused on offensive plays, another on defensive plays and etc. After each team went through each station, everyone was called out to the middle of the court, then they dispersed, as 2 teams were called to play against each other for 5 minutes. The 2 teams scrimmaged against each other while the other 2 or 3 teams waited on the sideline for their turn. After the 5 minutes were over, the next 2 teams went on and take their turn for the 5-minute scrimmage. In the middle of each scrimmage, Coach Tab would stop them every now and then to point out the mistakes of the team or an individual player. After every team was done playing against one another, practice was officially over. To conclude the night, Coach Tab huddled everyone into the middle and gave out his insights on practice and for the whole week of practice to come. After the pep talk, everyone, including us and the managers, huddled to the middle for a final prayer. Then everyone put their hands in the middle for a chant. Then finally, everyone was dismissed

It was a surreal experience, especially since both of us were big supporters of the team. It was intriguing to see what happens on the sidelines, without all the cameras and the fans. We were able to, not only witness, but also immerse ourselves in how serious they take practice, and how important it is to work together as a team. We got to get a glimpse of what it takes to be a Blue Eagle Athlete. It is not just about running around and throwing balls, it entails knowledge, skills and more importantly, hard work and passion.

We both knew people from the team, whether it be players or managers, we had friends there to “welcome” us to practice. Having these friends made it easier for people to accept us into their environment, like the coaches and boys knew we were there for legitimate reason and not just to disturb the practice session. Before training began, it was all light and fun, we were all joking around with the managers and the players, but, as soon as training started, it was serious and all about the game. The boys rarely minded us, and would go on with the drills and tasks they had to complete. They wouldn’t even talk to each other much unless it was related to the activity they were doing. The environment was a no-nonsense, no bullshit atmosphere which kept everyone focused on training. It was only during breaks that they would ask us if we were okay or they would congratulate each other for a job-well done in the activity.

Our key informants told us about what had happened even before we arrived at practice. Before they start on the court, they have weights training in the weights room. During weights training, it’s usually just the players doing different sets of exercises. We were unable to witness this, but it is apparently a big part of their training. It is also a time for them to bond with each other, because during this time, the coaches and the managers are not present. Marc Salandanan, a shooting guard for the team, told us all about this portion. He said,

“The team is split into 2 so that one group could do weights in the weights room while the other group does skills training on the court. Each group is given around an hour to finish the tasks. After which, we switch places, players in the weights room go to the court for skills and the players on the court head over to the weights room. In the weights room, there are around 10 exercises where we’re have to lift heavy gym equipment. We go all out on each exercise. The exercises vary on the day of the week, such as it alternates between uppers and lowers every day. The weights room is pretty loud cause people usually blast hip hop and rap music and grunt really loud. This lasts for about one hour before we head to skills training”

Through our key informants, we also had a deeper understanding of the purpose of drills and plays that we had witnessed during practice.

We were also able to talk to some of them after practice. We asked them to describe their how they felt during practice. Aaron Black, the team’s starting shooting guard, and one of the team’s star players, said

“I feel good in practice because I enjoy playing the game I love. Yes, it’s tiring but it’s fulfilling in a sense that you know that you are making progress into being the individual player and basketball team that you want to be. I always think about improving and what I can do to get better and help the team as we try to win a championship in the UAAP. I enjoy our weight training and individual sessions along with our scrimmages. I guess the time which is almost 4 hours a day is something I dislike but it’s part of the process to becoming better and I have accepted that”.

On the other hand, Katya Dimayuga, one of the student managers, said

“During practice, everyone on the team becomes different people than they are off the court. Both players and coaching staff are more serious and driven. It’s a unique experience seeing what goes on behind the scenes during practices because you really see all the hard work and time everyone puts to become a better team that most people don’t acknowledge or realize. I think about a lot of things during practice because a lot goes on every night. Sometimes practices are standard and planned but sometimes the coaches mix things up a little. As managers, we have to worry about making sure the practices go smoothly in terms of logistics and make sure that we take down the right stats as well. It gets very stressful and tedious at time but I feel like these things are important to help the team improve and become better. I like how even if we are managers we are considered part of the team /family and that because of how closely we work together we become friends as well. ”

In some drills we joined, we felt as if the boys and also coach were taking it easy on us. For example, they would only ask us to do a fraction of the reps or sets the boys needed to do. However, they still made us feel a part of the team, especially when they cheered for us doing the drills.

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the Philippines. Going into to a province, a city, or a barangay or even a village, it is likely to find a basketball court. All throughout the year, schools, villages, other organizations or even just teams formed by a group of friends, participate in various basketball leagues. Because of this training for basketball is a common activity and even past time. Whether it be just practicing shooting, or playing actual games, basket training and the game is very much evident is Philippine society.

For a country whose people are stereotypically seen as short, basketball is seen to be the must-play sport for kids and adults. If you look at commercials and advertisements, most of the athletic endorser are basketball players. Products that enhance growth use endorsers who play basketball. Organizations such as the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) holds annual tournaments. One of the most awaited and sold-out arena tournaments is that of Men’s Basketball. It is not only the students or faculty of the 8 universities in Metro Manila who come to support and watch the games, but even people from the provinces come to watch their idols and support the schools they favor. In this regard, basketball then does not just remain a sport for a team of 30, it becomes a nation-wide event.  In country where people where people are mocked for their height, people have proven that although the athletic built, and tall height may be of advantage in playing basketball, all it takes is hard work, passion and the heart to play the game.

Insights and Realizations

As participants, we really got to experience the hard sweat and tears of the boys. Training with the team was not easy, even if we could only participate in a few drills, it was tiring. What we went through was only but the tip of the iceberg compared to what the boys usually do on a day-to-day basis. Maybe because of the heat we would have sweat just as much but we would not have been able to feel the hard work and challenge of training just by observing.   In one of the group drills wherein we both participated, the task was simple. It was what was commonly known as “Suicides”, where the player must run from the sideline of the basketball court (under the basket), to the 3-Point Line, then back to the endline, then to the line half-way to the other end of the court, then back again to the endline, then to the 3-Point Line, then back again to the original endline, then to the opposing endline, and finally back again to the starting point. The instruction of coach was that we all needed to be on the same pace, and no one should get left behind, if this was not followed, the boys would be given and an extra set. We were made to join the 1st set of Suicides, and both of us, tried our best to keep up so that we wouldn’t affect the boys’ number of sets. Although, we have a feeling maybe they did go full-force yet when we did the first set with them so that it would not be so difficult. After the set, we joined we saw how every boy pushed themselves harder and harder in every set so that they would all be able to finish and accomplish the drill together. Even in the short set where we joined, got a glimpse of the stake each of us held as a part of the team. In that short moment, we felt the gravity and importance of each member and of ourselves in the team, which these boys feel in every drill, in every practice and in every game.

As we took part in the training session, we see the value in having friend on the team.  In moments when we felt a little lost, they would help us stay on track and understand what is really going on. Having a key informant helped us to know the things that were happening off the court. We were unaware of the weight training that the players had beforehand, but because we were able to talk to Marc, and some of the other players.  We were able to get an insider’s perspective on what really happens during practice. Also, having key informants help us to understand what was happening more. We were able to ask why they were doing certain things and what they were for. It amazes us how the training session has cultivated a way of living for these boys. From what we witnessed and experienced, we felt the dedication and the passion these boys had for the sport. Whether it be in the way they lift weights, or run around the court, every act has their 100% dedication. Through the participant observation, we were able to really sense how each and every person felt. We could really see how much they would work together as a unit, and how important teamwork was to them. For example, during the drills across the court, if one of the players started slowing down, the faster players helped them out by literally pushing them to go faster. Not only this, but they also cheered for each other to help motivate each other. We were also able to see the shift of the vibe from pre-practice, to when practice actually started, then the shift again right after practice ended.

As we mentioned earlier, there were moments where we would feel a little lost and we could not exactly stop our friends from running just to answer our questions. Although our participation gave us the experience we were hoping for, there was lot of knowledge that could not just be learned within the session. Maybe it would be helpful if we got one-on-one time with some players or a coach to ask more about basketball and the training of the team. The questionnaire or interview allows us to have a better understanding when it comes to the technicalities and knowledge-based activities and terms of basketball. Most of the time in training, someone would be shouting out what drill would go next, or what play to follow and as visitors to training we were not as well-versed in basketball jargon as the boys were. Often times, we would be whispering to each other, “What did he say?”, or “What does that mean?”, or even “What is  _____?”  We did not feel like we could just keep asking and clarifying because we did not want to delay or even look stupid in front of coach and the players. What we would do if we did not know something, stand at the back and watch first and after most of the boys did the task, we would follow. This Simon Says approach to things we did not know helped us out during the practice session, but in the setting of an interview it would be easier to ask for clarifications and for the interviewee to expound.

Basketball is a loved sport throughout the country. The Ateneo Men’s Basketball Team is only one example of a group of driven, hardworking and passionate individuals. They have something that motivates them to keep on going and to strive to be better. In discussing Philippine Culture, the bayanihan spirit and the trait of resilience is brought up in multiple events of our history. In actuality, looking at the basketball team and many teams across the nation, bayanihan and resilience is always practice to the point that it becomes a lifestyle. It is not questioned that our nation is full of people who look out for each other. Regardless, if the effects of actions are positive and negative, we all claim to be doing it for other people. In our experience, we see that each player looked out for another, whether it be in encouraging them to keep on going, or pushing oneself as to not cause any penalty for the team, the spirit of bayanihan is strong in these boys. After every sermon they get from coach, whether it be due to a lost game, or poor performance in practice, they are able to find the motivation to pick themselves up and keep on going. It is in opportunities such as this where the Filipino spirit is strengthened. This is why basketball and other sports are more than just physical activities, they become a lifestyle. Basketball training and others of the like, provide Filipinos with an environment to strengthen their values and themselves so that they can be ready to face any situation head on.

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