Hoops at home: PBA players deal with challenge of staying fit

MANILA, Philippines – Staying in shape has become a challenge for PBA players as teams stopped practicing since the league shut down its operations in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Although teams will soon return to the hardcourt after getting the green light from the government to resume training, it will still be a gradual return due to quarantine restrictions. (READ: PBA on 'right track' after getting thumbs up to practice again)

"When you are at home, it is easy to rest, to delay working out, to relax," said NLEX Road Warriors star Kiefer Ravena.

Used to a year-long season grind, PBA players like Ravena have ended up just shooting hoops and training at their own homes the past months.

"It entails discipline. You have to force yourself to get out of bed because your bed is just near where your gym is," he said. 

For Aldo Panlilio, the head strength and conditioning coach of the Phoenix Fuel Masters, it all boils down to players knowing their responsibilities. 

Phoenix holds online workouts thrice a week and Panlilio said he can only bank on the players being honest in the execution of drills. 

"You are looking at 16 players all at once. Maybe the others do not complete the number of reps or sets because I cannot monitor everyone. But that is when the relationship and trust come in," Panlilio said. 

"They know it is good for them and they know we are here to help them stay ready," Panlilio added. "I just believe that I can trust them enough to do things properly." 

Double-sided

The season suspension both have pros and cons, Panlilio said. 

As players compete in 3 conferences all year round, having a couple of months to take a break from basketball is a positive thing. 

"They have time to study themselves, they can watch their game films. They can reset themselves and they can put themselves in a mind state that when they come back, they can work on this and that."

"In a way, it is good for the mind and the body. For the veterans, it is a welcome state," Panlilio added.

The negative effects, meanwhile, include the risk of injury. 

"Your body during practice is used to this sort of load and then you have to de-load because there is no practice," Panlilio said. 

"As much as possible, you want to replicate at least close to the intensity of practice. The cuts, the jumping, the contact of getting bumped by the cutter or fighting over a pick – those are hard to do at home." 

Ravena, who spent a year away from competitive basketball due to an 18-month suspension from FIBA, said when players don't get to do their usual activities, it affects their timing and rhythm. 

"Your body misses the physicality, the practice, the workout that takes up most of your day," Ravena said. "It feels really different when you are at practice and playing 5-on-5."

Discipline and control

Staying at home also means the temptation of food will always be there.

Ravena said he still eats what is served at their household but tries to avoid snacks like candy and chocolate. 

"It depends how you take your diet seriously – whether you are confident that you can get back in shape after eating a lot or whether you do not want to reach a point where you suffer an injury before you get your act together."

"Like they said, different strokes for different folks," Ravena said. 

To keep tabs on the players, Panlilio asked them to take a photo of themselves and their weight at the start of the quarantine and to report to him every month. 

"It is their responsibility to stay in shape because they are athletes and it is their job to stay in shape," Panlilio said. 

"You make it a point that since there is no practice, your diet has changed because you do not burn as much calories anymore. So you take it to workout." 

Ravena has the same sentiments as players continue to earn their salary even if they are not playing in the PBA. 

"One way to show your appreciation for the company or your organization is to continue staying in shape. The least you can do is to repay them with the sacrifice of working out every day at home."  – Rappler.com

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.

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