Filipino athletes

[New School] A sport-less athlete

Rafael Abello III

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[New School] A sport-less athlete

Illustration by Guia Abogado

'Basketball used to be my life, but now that chapter has ended. I'm not exactly sure where I will go after this.'

New School features opinion pieces by young writers, highlighting youth issues and perspectives.

It was February 2020, and we were in the semi-finals of the regional basketball tournament. The stakes were high, the pressure even higher. The crowd was both cheering and jeering. We were up by a few points before the final quarter, but when the last quarter started, everything fell apart. Our key players started cramping up. We lost our lead, and the opposing team grabbed the victory.

I remember everyone’s reaction when the buzzer hit: some of my teammates started crying, some were on the ground due to the injuries they had sustained, our were coaches disappointed, and our parents were in disbelief. After that game I kept telling my distraught teammates, “We’ll win it next year.” Sadly, that year never came. I would have never known that that was the last time I would touch the court. 

When the pandemic hit, I was actually excited that school was cut short, that early basketball practices were canceled, and that I was relieved of all responsibilities. I could just lounge around on my bed all day without a care in the world. You might think that my friends and I would actually miss each other’s company, but surprisingly we really did not feel that way at all; we would regularly play video games together and everything seemed normal to me. My parents even said that I preferred the “stay-at-home” life.

But as the weeks went by, the boredom slowly creeped in. I missed the feeling of the basketball in my hands, the tension of a close game, the exhaustion after a hard practice, and the game of basketball as a whole. The video games I played were slowly becoming repetitive, and I was running out of activities to pass the time. I became so bored, and I had nothing else to do. I did random activities, like learning how to solve a Rubik’s cube and how to do a flip. I was fed up with the lockdowns and I was itching to get back to the court. 

I had been playing basketball ever since I was seven years old. Every day after school I would practice for hours, and when I wasn’t playing, all I could think about was basketball. My life revolved around the game: I used to eat, sleep, and breathe basketball. That’s all my friends and I ever did to pass the time. And having it taken away was really devastating to my physical and mental health. 

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During the lockdowns I had no other mental stimulus aside from my gadgets, so I found myself lazing around my room for the whole day doing nothing. I was so accustomed to playing basketball every day after class for three or more hours, and when the lockdowns started I didn’t have an outlet for all my pent-up energy. Because of that I had a difficult time getting myself to sleep at night. I even tried doing those home workouts you see on the internet, but those workouts weren’t for me.  

I was accustomed to working out up to four hours everyday for my whole life. Because of the sport I played, I had to stay in shape and be at my peak physical condition to be competitive. When I no longer had a routine to follow, I let myself go. I stopped eating healthily, I would stay up till early morning, I gained a bit of weight, and I was unhappy with my overall fitness. After having an outgoing and athletic lifestyle my entire life, I suddenly found myself adjusting to a lack of physical activity

The pandemic also made me think about the opportunities in basketball that I had lost. For the longest time, ever since I was a kid, I always dreamt of playing for one of the big universities, as all high school athletes have at some point. But sadly, I think that that “dream” will continue to be just a dream. Because of the pandemic, all of our sports activities were discontinued, and all of the recruitment stopped. Some of my friends were even set to go to other schools to play for their varsity, but ultimately, those plans fell through. Even the coaches who had been there ever since I started playing basketball were laid off. It’s disheartening to know that talented students who had a real chance to be something in their specific sport were robbed of the opportunity. And our coaches, like many people, lost their jobs.

Basketball used to be my life, but now that chapter has ended. I’m not exactly sure where I will go after this. This past year everything has been filled with uncertainty; we don’t know when life will go back to how it was before the pandemic. I doubt that “normal” will ever be back. 

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I hope that athletics will stop being pushed aside, because I believe that sports holds the same importance as academics does. Some people rely on sports to get into good universities and to earn a living. For example, because of sports, the Olympians who won medals could provide for their families. I also hope that schools find a way for sports to resume for the sake of the student-athletes’ well-being. Schools should realize that the brain is not the only thing they should be developing; they should also acknowledge our physical health, too.

Lastly, I wish my dream of playing basketball at the collegiate level could still come to fruition. These are just some of my hopes for the future. I know I have to move on, but for now, I am a sport-less athlete. –

Rafael Abello III, 17, is a Senior High School student at St. John’s Institute, Bacolod City.

Voices features opinions from readers of all backgrounds, persuasions, and ages; analyses from advocacy leaders and subject matter experts; and reflections and editorials from Rappler staff. 

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