San Beda team manager bats for controlled practices for college teams

A proposal by San Beda Red Lions manager Jude Roque could pave the way for collegiate basketball teams longing to get the green light to resume limited training amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Roque told ESPN5.com Tuesday that he has submitted a strict set of guidelines to the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in hopes of letting college teams follow the steps of the PBA and other pro leagues who have already began conditioning sessions.

The bid may be a long shot given how the existing joint administrative order clearly outlines the ban on non-professional contact sports, but Roque said it's still worth trying to see whether the IATF could relax its stance on the restriction. On Wednesday afternoon, the Commission on Higher Education also chimed in, releasing a statement reiterating the need for student-athletes to stay at home during the pandemic.

"I just thought of submitting a proposal, but I don't really know what they'll think of my proposal. I don't know if they'll consider it," he said. "Nothing to lose. Let's see what happens. Hopefully if they see that it's feasible, the all college teams will benefit."

"My point is to find ways to balance everything, and not totally no activity. Maybe little by little, we can develop the team, we can develop the skills of the players and get them in shape. But we understand the risk," Roque added.

In the proposal, workouts will be only held in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) or in places without any quarantine at all. Players under 20 and senior citizens won't be allowed to participate, and every attendee will have to turn in negative swab tests before being cleared to join.

Only four players, a designated coach and a health officer will be present in a 45-minute session, and various protocols specifying the need to avoid any and all contact as much as possible, as well as those governing the venue, equipment and transportation of all personnel involved, have been outlined as well.

Schools are expected to shoulder testing fees, and every program's athletic department will still have to lobby to their respective school officials to allow training within their campus.

"They have to explain why they need to train even if it's not really full training. What's important is following the guidelines. Let's say the IATF allows it but with strict guidelines, then we have to follow," he added.

Roque acknowledged the financial burden this may pose to various schools already struggling with their affairs during these trying times, but he said every program can take various steps in making the best out of the situation.

"Kung ang requirements ng IATF para payagan is talagang strict, ibig sabihin matinding inspection... mahirap eh. I'm sure not everybody can do it," he admitted. "But at least kung may ganoon guidelines and they really want to train kahit papaano, they have to just find ways to be able to do it. They can ask the help of the local government doon sa kung saan man 'yung lugar ng schools to send the representatives to check kung talagang strictly sinusunod 'yung guidelines.

"It's better this way -- for me, just my personal opinion -- rather than totally hindi papayagan and then merong mga gagawa ng paraan na under the noses of the government, mas mahirap 'yung ganoon."

Roque said that even if collegiate players are non-pros not covered by the IATF's mandate, they still could merit some consideration since these are "elite athletes" playing in "high level of competition, with many even looking to make the jump to the PBA one day.

"These athletes need continuous training, and normally it's eight to 10 months of training before the tournament. They need this not just to stay in shape but also to maintain their skills and even improve their skills," he said.

Added Roque: "For the PBA kasi, 'yan na 'yung kabuhayan ng mga players. So they need to really maintain a certain level of their skills. Pero hindi naman malayo 'yung college players because remember, these guys also rely on their being varsity players to keep their scholarships. And almost all of them, aspiring mag-PBA in the future. So they need to keep their level of competition, their level of skills at a high level para matupad 'yung pangarap nila."

Allowing collegiate teams to practice will also go a long way in helping coaches and staff relying on their programs for a livelihood to cope financially.

"Sa part naman ng mga coaches and ng mga staff, it's safer for them to be able to work kasi kapag wala -- and right now we're almost several months na walang training -- syempre delikado rin. The schools might think, 'Uy, bawasan muna natin ang sweldo nila kasi wala naman activities.' Syempre kawawa rin," he said.

"'Yan ang livelihood ng karamihan ng mga coaches. And not just the coaches, but also 'yung mga utility staff. Maraming umaasa doon sa trabaho nila. If mapayagan kami kahit three times a week lang or even less, that's still a lot."