Still under-equipped and underfunded, there is no rest for the weary UP athletes bracing another UAAP season.
Many teams are burdened by inadequate training spaces and equipment, as well as insufficient dormitory slots brought by ongoing renovations.
For the past seasons, UP Softball Varsity Team Captain Catherine de Luna witnessed how her team had to occupy the Sunken Garden.
“We are training everywhere we could… We would go to Marikina, Pasig, Rizal to train, but transportation and reservation of venues are kind of pricey,” she said.
Meanwhile, UP Baseball Team Captain Marc Mercado referred to budget deficiencies that have depleted their recruitment and training quality.
“Halimbawa, sa pagpunta sa Palarong Pambansa, wala kami masyadong budget so hindi kami makapag-recuit doon,” he said.
The baseball team has also been training in the Sunken Garden in lieu of a proper field.
Yet, even the 5-hectare field, which sees year-round activities of various community members, is no longer fit for the team’s training needs as its quality declines.
The same problem haunts the UP Track and Field team, according to captain Marc Alaurin. The team trains mostly at PhilSports Arena (ULTRA) in Pasig. However, they fail to meet the training demanded by the sport because the arena is undergoing renovations.
“We actually need a throwing area for the throwers… We usually do functional, cross training, sprints but we can’t actually train what we are supposed to do. In terms of the weights area naman, minsan the stuff gets stolen, the gym is too crowded,” he said.
The UP administration prides the millions-worth construction of a football field, which recently received a FIFA Quality Certification Seal for its quality materials and wider buffer area. Unfortunately, the oval track has yet to be finished, leaving the Track and Field Team with no proper training site.
“We are looking for other places like Vanguard area, doon na lang ilalagay yung throwing circles namin. Yung mga runners, sprinters, and jumpers may problema now kasi ginagamit nga ng football team so sisingit-singit lang kami,” Alaurin said.
Dorm slot woes
Team captains stressed that many student-athletes lack dormitory slots, the foremost concern of those from the provinces.
The UP administration has simultaneously closed Kamia, Molave, and Yakal dormitories earlier this year for renovations. This has forced student-athletes to look for alternative housing inside and outside the campus, which usually charge higher fees.
Around half of the UP Baseball Team are among the 281 students without a dormitory slot this semester, according to Mercado.
Few recruits of the UP Men’s Volleyball Team from distant provinces were able to secure dormitory slots around the campus. Members left without housing options found refuge in senior members’ own homes in Quezon City, team captain Mac Millete said.
De Luna also explained how the Softball Team funds are used to help members without accommodations.
“The problem with finances is, if we don’t have the money to find a house for them, then it is harder for the athletes since they have to get the money themselves,” she said.
USC Sports, Fitness, and Health (SpoFiH) Committee Head Enzo Espinosa claimed the UP administration’s inadequate response to athletes’ concerns on dormitory slots and training venue.
“Totoo na hindi nareremedyo ng admin ng UP ang mga kakulangan sa dorms, training venues, at iba pang mga pangangailangan ng athletes natin,” he said.
Resorting to corporate sponsors to cover the athletes’ training and living expenses when the UP administration fails to provide might result to commodification of athletes, Espinosa explained.
Under the Student-Athlete Protection Act (RA 10676), benefits that should be given to student-athletes include full board and lodging, monthly living allowance, and athletic supplies.
Giving incentives beyond those enumerated in RA 10676 which may result to commercialization of student-athletes is strictly prohibited.
The SpoFiH committee plans to convene the League of Varsity Leader in UP (LVL UP) in order to alleviate the athletes’ woes, attend to their urgent concerns, and identify other possibly overlooked issues.
The committee also intends to form a team that will review and amend the existing loopholes in the Student-Athlete Protection Act, Varsity Athletic Admission System (VAAS) contract, and existing laws protecting national athletes. This is to hold accountable the institutions responsible for athletes’ welfare.
“Kamakailan lang binago muli [ang VAAS contract], from four years of service naging five, at alam naman natin na ang 5th playing year ay dapat nasa discretion ng athlete, not the institution,” Espinosa said.
Athletes, alumni, and running enthusiasts also united for the Great UP Run, a benefit run organized by RUNRIO Events, Inc. and NowheretogobutUP Foundation, Inc. (NWTGBU) on August 11 to support underfunded UP varsity teams.
“Yung beneficiary nito ay yung mga teams na may pangangailangan. Yung priority ay yung wala masyadong support na nakukuha from other sponsors,” RUNRIO founder and UP Diliman alumnus Rio de la Cruz said.
Through the efforts of the event organizers, Alaurin believes that the process of releasing the athletes’ equipment and gear during tournaments would be faster and easier.
Student-athletes have brought glory for the UP community with their podium finishes over the years.
Despite training in a poorly-equipped environment, the UP Men’s Track and Field Team concluded UAAP Season 81 with a championship.
The women’s chess, badminton, swimming, and judo teams, and men’s badminton and basketball squads posted a silver finish. Meanwhile, the poomsae, women’s table tennis, beach volleyball, and track and field teams, and men’s judo and fencing teams clinched bronze.