The surfacing of sports activities around the world has given hope to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) that it may crawl out of its hiatus soon, but commissioner Willie Marcial tempered that optimism by saying that the first step of the league will be for its teams to get some training time in.
The games? Marcial said a lot has to happen first—and they have the time to observe how the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact the country since the PBA board has decided not to make any decision on the resumption of its season until August.
“Right now, at least there’s hope that we can have voluntary workouts also,” Marcial said.
The PBA chief is currently studying different protocols on how that could be possible, adding that the league will still heed recommendations by the Department of Health (DOH) and the national government.
“We could implement the same procedures like the NBA; masked trainers or coaches, five players at the most per hour in one training facility,” Marcial said. “But again, a lot has to happen before we can do that.”
First, Marcial said, the DOH must give the league the go signal to proceed with minimum-gathering training sessions governed by stringent health protocols, the same system implemented by the NBA when it allowed teams to reopen their facilities so players can voluntarily work out. Among the guidelines set by the NBA were limiting the number of trainers and coaches, ensuring everyone outside of the players were masked and gloved, and limiting the number of players who can enter the gym.Marcial added that the quarantine should be first downgraded by the government to allow a small gathering of people under one roof. The National Capital Region is under enhanced community quarantine until Friday. From May 16 to 30, it will be under a modified enhanced community quarantine, which will still prohibit mass gatherings.
Marcial said testing availability will also factor into when the league can open practice doors—and eventually games. But he said he doesn’t want the PBA to jump the testing line, especially with testing still unavailable for several of the country’s front-liners in the fight against pandemic.
“We don’t want to be perceived as having VIP treatment,” Marcial said. “We must ensure first that testing is available to those who really need them, like our front-liners, before we can join the line.”
Practice time would be crucial in determining when the league can restart. Marcial has said that teams may need a month of training camp before resuming the 45th season.
In the United States, top professional leagues like the NBA, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball are also concerned about getting athletes back to shape before plunging into a competitive season to avoid injuries.
“Whatever the amount of time is, just know that players will have the input and say so because we’re the ones that’s playing, and that comes first,” Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association told the Associated Press (AP). “We don’t ever want to put guys in a situation where their injury risk is high. It varies from player to player. But it’s at least got to be three to four weeks.”
Sports has begun fighting back against the clampdown necessitated by the pandemic. Aside from the NBA opening its training facilities in areas with relaxed lockdown rules, UFC has also staged a live fight card—devoid of fans. The National Football League has released a schedule of its upcoming season and several tournament have lined up openings in July. In Asia, Taiwan and South Korea have opened baseball leagues, with the Taiwanese pros already playing in front of a number-controlled live audience. —WITH A REPORT FROM AP INQ
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