Where will all the athletes go?By Sev Sarmenta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE BASKETBALL tournament is not the only sport drawing a following in the UAAP.
The PSC badminton venue at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was rocking Sunday morning with about a thousand students, families and friends in the two galleries rooting for their schools.
The men’s tournament was on tap with NU and Ateneo in a dogfight for the top spot.
The six other schools were playing out their matches for final placements in the three other courts. Roy Callanta, who helps coach the UP team, explains that the single round robin format allows the top, unbeaten team to gain the first finals slot and a thrice-to-beat advantage. No wonder the unbeaten Bulldogs and Eagles were clawing at each other for every point.
Badminton is one of those sports always mentioned when talk about disciplines where Filipinos could excel unfolds. Since there is no decided advantage for taller players, badminton suits the speed and natural athletic alertness of Pinoys. And it was clear in the spirited competition that has all UAAP schools represented: Filipinos can play this game.
The game is in a constant state of flux and the switch from offense to defense happens quickly. There’s power to unleash and contend with when smashes from the back are made but the emphasis seems to be on more wrist action. Drop shots can throw off an opponent or set up high lobs that become the fulcrum for lethal smashes.
Paula Filart, a management engineering junior who plays for Ateneo, relates that many of the players have known each other from childhood or early teen years. “I started playing in first year high school,” Filart says, “And I liked it.” Getting excellent tutelage—from the famous Asuncion siblings and Callanta as well—helped her make the Poveda and later Ateneo badminton teams. Her team is one of the contenders in their tournament with opposition coming from rival La Salle and UE.
Like most student athletes, Filart is cognizant of the importance of her studies and follows the study hall time required of athletes in her school. Her course is not a walk in the park and she knows she has to crack the books while she hones her badminton skills.
Sports like badminton, baseball, swimming, tennis and others seem to have no problems when they are played out at the club and school levels. As the UAAP badminton action erupts on the four courts with students belting out school chants and yells of encouragement to playing schoolmates, one can’t help but wonder where all this talent will go once school days are over.
The coaches have no doubt identified those who can play or can be trained for the SEA Games and other international tournaments. But not all will make the national team. For sure though, they will have a sport of their own for the rest of their lives. Badminton can be played deep into middle age, even when players then mumble that the spirit is willing but the knees are uncooperative.
This is what school sports does consistently well despite the perennial problems of funding or trivial politics: providing a sport for life for athletes and students as well.
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