Olympic hopeful Rogen Ladon sharpens mental edge in the ring
MANILA, Philippines – You often hear athletes say that a lot of what they do in trying to achieve their goals is mental.
For boxer and Olympic hopeful Rogen Ladon, it was overcoming being just a substitute for Mark Anthony Barriga and his nerves.
When sports specialist Marcus Manalo joined the boxing national team in 2013, it wasn’t easy gaining the trust and confidence of not only Ladon but also of other boxers and their coaches as well. “The perception is when you talk about sports psychology is they have pyschological disorders,” explained Manalo who works with the softball and women’s basketball teams of the University of the Philippines as well as the Philippine Army women’s volleyball team that competes in the V-League.
“I have to explain to them that my role is to enhance their performance.”
Added Manalo, “When you ask a boxer how much of the sport is mental, the figure they will give you is anywhere between 50%-90%. They have lots of skills and performance training but mental — that is where they are lacking.”
It took some time before Manalo was able to build rapport with Ladon and the other boxers who are currently competing in China for the Olympic Qualifiers.
For Ladon, he was a bundle of nerves every time he competed internationally. When at home in the Philippines, the familiar surroundings relaxed him. But abroad, going up against boxers ranked higher than himself, some with a name for themselves, or worrying about biased judging, that was his stumbling block. And it affected the light flyweight pugilist's performance.
“What Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) and the coaches do for the boxers is to expose them to a lot of foreign competition. The two-week camp in the United States helped for sure but we came up with a program or techniques for Rogen to use,” said Manalo.
“During competition, there are a lot of distractions and with that come negative thoughts. You have to be aware of them. You have to be aware when they occur? Does it happen during the day or five minutes before the fight? When that happens, Rogen taps his thigh and after that cue, we have taught him to erase those thoughts by thinking, ‘Pinaghirapan ko to ng husto. Pakita ko lang yung kailangan kong gawin. Para sa akin ‘to at sa bayan. Dadaanin ko sa bilis at tiyaga.”
In 2015, Ladon won a pair of silver medals in the Southeast Asian Games Singapore and the Asian boxing championships. Furthermore, he was named “Discovery of the Year” by the Asian Boxing Confederation.
“I tell you a story about Rogen,” shared Manalo. “During the 2015 SEA Games, a Malaysian boxing official was relieved not to see Barriga on the list of Philippine boxers. AIBA pro boxers aren’t allowed to compete in small tournaments like the SEA Games but are allowed to compete in the Olympics, the Asian Games, or World Championships. Then Rogen flat out performed during the SEA Games. The Malaysian official just shook his head because he realized we had another potent boxer in Ladon.”
Manalo believes that Ladon has a huge chance of bringing home a medal in the Olympics. “A lot of the competition he will go up against, he has faced in Asia and in the World Championships. His confidence is soaring.”
In spite of his success, Ladon looks forward to Rio and beyond with a humbling perspective.
“He isn’t high on his achievements at all,” summed up Manalo. “In fact, after his last medal, he asked, 'Anong aspeto ng aking laro ang kailangan ko i-improve?'”
Now that is the sound of a man looking for more things to conquer. – Rappler.com