Saturday, September 18, 2021

Restart: Stories of hope in sports amid Covid-19

SIXTEEN months have passed since the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic hit hard and brought the world to a standstill.

Many industries were gravely affected by the community quarantine restrictions and protocols. Sports was one of them.

Professional and amateur athletes, coaches, officials, gym owners and workers, and sports events organizers were not even spared. This sad reality hit closer to home.

Since sports activities are usual venues for the prohibited mass gatherings, all local, regional, and national competitions were scrapped starting mid-March 2020. The domino effect was also felt by all sports stakeholders in Davao City.

Coaches lost their jobs while other varsity athletes lost their scholarships. It was only late in 2020 that professional leagues restarted in bubble-like tournaments and a Manila-based collegiate league opened this year.

Reality bites

Ateneo de Davao University (Addu) did not renew the contracts of its 50 coaches since school year 2020-2021. Addu athletics director Noli Ayo said it was difficult for him to inform them about it. Since they were not collecting athletic fees anymore, they could no longer hire the coaches.

Some of the Addu coaches who were not renewed started their small businesses while others continued doing private coaching and training.

"Many shifted careers. Some focused on their primary roles as teachers in schools," Ayo said, adding that three of their former coaches -- Mary Baang (volleyball), Aura Vega (badminton) and Jaimee Chan (basketball) -- have been teaching at Addu.

Ayo, convenor of the Mindanao Peace Games and the recently-launched Winning Still book, a compilation of narratives by some sports personalities in the country including four-time Olympian weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and two-time WPA Women's World 10-Ball champion Rubilen Amit, also started the MWF sessions in the first 100 days of the pandemic 2020. This gathered local and national coaches, sports leaders, and athletes to pave the way for them to share their stories while experiencing the crisis. Some of these stories were featured in Winning Still.

At least 21 MWF sessions were held via Zoom featuring speakers from the Philippines, Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia with thousands of participants both in Zoom and Facebook Live from March to May 2020.

All 27 contributing authors of Winning Still, most of whom are first-time writers, could not help but be amazed that their pandemic experiences are now a published book.

“This book is a collective result of people who got together however different but the similarity is this, ‘Wow we are all going through something,’ ‘Wow, what can we do?’ Instead of saying how do we survive, they say, ‘How do we thrive on this one?’” Winning Still publisher Gang Badoy Capati said during the launch.

Will to survive

Reynalyn Ranada Ravanes, mother of three, was a football and swimming coach in Addu. She was among those whose coaching contract was not renewed.

"At first, it was very hard. Where do I get the finances for the family since coaching was my bread and butter? After the school decided that we will end our work and possibly there are no swimming and football lessons for summer, it was very hard coz it's been our routine 12 years in Ateneo to have a summer training. Then, bigla po na stop ang training and coaching for how many years na ginagawa namin dahil sa pandemic (then the training and coaching we've been doing for how many years stopped due to the pandemic)," she said.

She coached football since 2008 and also became a swimming coach since 2006 until everything came to a stop in 2020.

Coach Reyn recalled how the turn of events in her life radically changed. From being a coach, she became a struggling entrepreneur by venturing into a small food business.

She has also accepted requests to process important documents for others.

She shared, "Biglang from a coach naging cook for online food business, naging processor ng mga papers like PSA, permits, at iba't-ibang errands na di makaya ng ibang tao na makaya kong gawin - pila doon, bayad doon, hatid at kuha ng mga bagay-bagay gaya ng mga riders. Kahit ano para mabuhay, deliver ng kahit ano, basta matino lang na pwedeng pagkakitaan."

(From a coach to becoming a cook for an online food business, I processed papers for others at the Philippine Statistics Authority and permits, and do other errands for other people -- paying dues or bills, fetching and delivering items just like what riders do. I do everything just for us to live, deliver anything as long it's a decent means to earn money.)

She also accepted private swimming lessons in houses on Wednesdays and Saturdays and physical fitness training for a special child every Friday afternoon.

"Kahit anong diskarte ginagawa ko for my family dahil sanay naman ako as a coach ng kahit anong trabaho as long as kaya lang ng katawan ko. Basta for now ang pinagkikitaan ko mailan-ilan na swimming lessons, physical training, cooking for my online food business, and processing documents sa lahat ng mga offices na mahirap para sa iba, kami ang gumagawa," Coach Reyn said.

(I do everything for my family as I'm used to do anything as a coach as long as my body allows it. For now, my income comes from few swimming lessons, physical training, cooking for online food business, and processing documents in all agencies, which may be difficult for others so we do it for them.)

The pandemic made her realize that nothing is permanent and what one may be accustomed to may one day be gone in a snap of a finger. Just like her who never thought that she would lose her job because of Covid-19.

She added, "Di lang mag focus sa unsa ang usual ginagawa or yung nakasanayan. Need din matuto ng ibang bagay at matutong magdiskarte sa buhay. Like kung may talent kang magluto, magluto ka. May internet ka, post mo ano mga kakayahan mo at services mo. Baka merong nangangailangan ng serbisyo mo at maka-help ka sa kanila at the same time maka-help sila sayo dahil sa talent fee natin."

(Don't just focus on what you used to do before. You need to learn other ways to survive. If you have the talent in cooking, you cook. If you have internet then post what you can do or the services you can offer. There might be those who would need your services and you can help them and they can also help you with the service fee they will give you.)

Just recently, this former athlete-turned-coach also became an endorser of MX3 Food Supplement.

Yes, she was challenged at first, she also struggled, and continues to strive every single day just to make ends meet for her family. But her optimism to brace against the odds has made her an inspiration not just to her loved ones but also to her fellow coaches, friends, students, clients, and customers.

Covid-19 may have crushed some industries but not the indomitable spirit of Dabawenyos, who like Coach Reyn, found a new lease on life.


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