Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Between Books and Balls: Sillimanian Varsity

By Kean Andrei Bagaipo | The Sillimanian Magazine

Being a varsity athlete at Silliman University (SU) often comes with a challenge of finding the seemingly perfect harmony—a juggle one has to master between academics and athletics.

For most Sillimanians, the opportunity to pursue a career in athletics is rare. Most will go for paths outside the sphere of professional sports, yet the resilience and dedication shown by young varsity athletes in their field is not to be underestimated. 

Inculcating one of the university’s five C’s which is the court, Sillimanians are given the opportunity to engage in different co-curricular activities through the sports program.

“The university sports program focuses on the athletic skills of our students who are also passionate enough to excel in the sports they engage in,” Athletics Department Director Dionesio Piñero said.

Dating back to the arrival of American missionaries in 1901, baseball and basketball were first introduced to students not as a component of a sports program, but a form of recreational activities. 

During those years, the institution recognized the presence of sports and its contribution to the students’ holistic development. To this day, the SU Athletics Department conducted tryouts during the opening of the school year, welcoming at least 200 new varsity athletes annually in the program. 

Striking a balance

With packed schedules—from studying to regular training, Piñero encouraged the athletes to excel in both their academics and extracurricular activities.  

“They have to excel both, not only one, but both, so that they will be able to reach their goals as they graduate from the university,” he said. “They should observe quality time management for themselves which is also a challenge for them.”

Elijah Alcantara, a second-year entrepreneurship student, has been playing football for 12 years through the influence of his father. However, he practiced “prioritizing his education” over being a varsity student.  

“Being an athlete keeps me healthy while also developing my character and skills,” Alcantara stressed. “I also have the privilege of learning from other people and from my own mistakes.”

Albeit pressured, having a “determined mindset and assertive personality” is important in sports for Bhea Kristi Toledo, a third-year psychology student and a table tennis varsity for 10 years. She added that being an athlete “shaped her outlook in life.”

“Being an athlete allowed me to go through a rollercoaster of emotions, while at the same time, being completely laid-back and having fun,” Toledo said. “We also create life-long friendships through these meets, which very much sums up why being a student-athlete is fun.”

On the other hand, second-year entrepreneurship student Tisha Lymarie Kirby finds being a varsity swimmer as a “coping mechanism to let out stress” from her academics and life. 

“Being an athlete makes [my] headaches fade away, which makes it easier to focus on studying and easier to sleep well,” Kirby shared. “When I joined the swim team, it turned out to be the most memorable and a place to build memories outside of academics.”

Perks over challenges 

Inside the varsity sports program, athletes regularly train six hours a week and are facilitated by their respective coaches. Depending on the availability of the facilities, some may choose to conduct training sessions every other day. 

As students, rendering time beyond the classroom halls might sound fairly taxing, but for these student athletes, receiving academic grants, free uniforms and sports equipment, and board and lodging allowances when joining events outside the town, are benefits that seem to obscure exhaustion.

Aside from campus-based sports tournaments, Piñero said that these varsity players are also sent out to participate in bigger community sports competitions such as Governor’s Cup,  Mayor’s Cup, and the Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) Regional Games. 

“For the college level, since we are now going into the PRISAA-NIR [Negros Island Region], this is going to be a comeback for us,” he enthused. “We will give a big importance and impact to PRISAA because in every sports organization, they always want Silliman to be part of it because we can really huddle other universities to join.”

This proves that Sillimanians are not just academically successful but are also able to compete in the realm of sports at the national—even at the international level—according to Piñero. 

“So they’re trying to know how we did with these athletes and how we give them such opportunities to excel in academics, in curricular and co-curricular activities,” he furthered.

Beyond the sports 

More than just a balancing act, it is the love for their sports and the people around them that ignites the burning passion of Sillimanian varsity athletes in their young sports careers. 

For Alcantara and Toledo, meeting people along the way and creating life-long friendships fulfill their experiences as athletes. While for Kirby, it is about “finding the meaning to improve” with the help of other people. 

Amid long hours of practice accompanied with the challenge of trying to balance full-time classes and training schedules, these varsity athletes display dedication and discipline—an unquestionable character of a true Sillimanian. 

In the words of Pinero: “It’s for the love of sport.”

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