In months-long isolation, PBA gains fuller understanding of mental health | Inquirer Sports

In months-long isolation, PBA gains fuller understanding of mental health

/ 04:01 AM December 26, 2020

Poy Erram (middle) says his struggles were more mental than physical. —PHOTO COURTESY OF PBA IMAGES

The PBA’s staging of its Philippine Cup in a self-contained environment sure has earned rave reviews from even the national government.

In fact, it has become a template for Fiba’s upcoming window for its Asia Cup qualifiers.

But Commissioner Willie Marcial wishes he could have done more.


For one, he rues missing an opportunity to address mental health issues of its delegates, something he hopes to prioritize should the league decide to mount another tournament within a bio-secure setup.

Marcial, in a recent catch-up with sports scribes at the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum last Tuesday, admitted he was on the verge of discussing mental health thoroughly with the 350-strong party’s mental and emotional fitness.

“Before, I was already closely talking to teams. One by one,” he said in Filipino. “Then came the suspension [of games].”

The league intended to gather players and coaches and do virtual check-ins with psychiatrists during the duration of the tournament. But a stoppage of play caused by what turned out to be “false positives” on two coronavirus tests put the league on the back heel and forced its officials to focus on how to crown a champion within schedule.


“Our focus shifted on how to immediately get back to playing the games and to meet the conditions set by the [Inter-Agency] Task Force,” he went on.

Marcial said during the planning stage of the season reboot last September, every delegate’s mental fitness will be of the league’s foremost priority, acknowledging the fact that restrictive measures will come at a hefty mental and emotional cost.A vast majority of the delegation are heads of families. Several athletes recently became first-time fathers just months before the bubble.


Rain or Shine stalwart Beau Belga, at one point, admitted that being isolated made criticisms on social media even more noticeable.

“You’d have (mental) moments here,” he told reporters covering the bubble. “You’re far from home, which is your comfort zone.”

TNT’s Poy Erram said much of his troubles on-court stemmed from the fact that he was away from his newborn daughter and wife.

“Physically, I knew there was nothing wrong with me,” he told the Inquirer. “But mentally, it was really such a struggle.”

While Marcial has practically discounted the possibility of another bubble, he also added an out: If circumstances force the league, he isn’t completely shutting down the idea of another isolated season. If that happens, though, he knows one thing he needs to address.

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“[Mental and emotional health are] really important. Should we have another bubble next time out, it will be just as important [to create guidelines for it].” INQ

TAGS: Basketball, Mental Health, PBA, Sports

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