30 November 2014

Between a Thesis and a UAAP Football Dream

Just a few weeks back, I was speaking to one of the boys who played for the last high school team that I coached. We were both excited that, on his last year in college, he has finally broken into his university’s varsity football team.

He was fairly certain at the time that he would be in the line-up for Season 77 of the UAAP. Because I had heard that this season’s UAAP football tournament would be getting decent television coverage, I told him that I was looking forward to watching him play on TV.

Because the UAAP Men’s Football Tournament was scheduled to commence yesterday, I went to the Internet to try and see if I could find a schedule of the games’ television coverage online. I could not.

Instead, I found this UAAP-specific web site which has conveniently made available the team line-ups to the public. I quickly checked his university’s squad list and was shocked to discover that his name was not even on the roster.


In fact, for those who are not caught up in their own miserable lives, it is an easy decision to make. After all, the school that the athlete represents is the same school that puts food on the teacher’s dinner table at home. How can you not support an endeavour when it is the prestige of your own school which is at stake?
Mystified, I sent him a text message asking why. Before long, his reply arrived, “My professor asked me to choose between my thesis and the UAAP. Bad luck!”

Good God! So he has become a victim of one of those. Believe me, I know the sort!

Back in the late nineties, we were in this regional tournament and unfortunately we lost a match which meant that we had to play the following day because of the tournament’s idiotic double elimination format.

This meant that two of my players, who were scheduled to defend their high school term papers, would have to ask their English teacher for a reschedule. We called long distance and politely asked if the teacher would please consider moving the defence to another date.

What we heard from the teacher, who did not even speak to us over the phone, was a rude retort: that my players should simply choose between the football and the defence. In disgust, I sent my players home.

First of all, under normal circumstances, a high school term paper should not even be defended. The truth of the matter was that for reasons only the teacher could explain, she had convinced herself that the future of the students that she had under her depended on the damned term papers that they wrote.

Two months later, one of these players won for himself a full athletics scholarship in one of Manila’s most respectable colleges. His scholarship had nothing at all to do with writing English term papers, believe me!

This afternoon, I finally got the chance to talk to this other player who has to kiss his UAAP dream goodbye because another teacher asked him to make a choice that you and I know he should never have been asked to make.

“I only found out that I was no longer in the UAAP team,” the boy narrated, “because my waiver to play in the tournament was on hold. It was after I discovered this that I went to see my professor, who asked me to choose between graduating and playing in the UAAP.”

The boy tried out for the varsity team when he was a freshman student but had to be contented initially with being involved merely with the farm team. I personally know that he was so proud that he had finally broken into the first team and was looking forward to playing in the UAAP before he graduates this coming March.

So how did you take the news, I just had to ask him. “I was shaking when I found out that I was no longer in the UAAP team,” he told me. “Even my Mom cried when she heard about the bad news.”

Did you not consider dropping the subject? I asked. “Sir, if I did, my graduation will not only be delayed; I will have to retake the Thesis subject on my own and not have group mates to help me with it.”

“Do not worry,” I consoled him. “God will bless you in other ways.” In truth, I was seething inside, and more so because I was in no position to do anything about it. People who know me will probably describe me as not being the emotional type; but today I felt incredibly sad for the boy.

What can you do? There are people who are just like that. They are not happy unless they are unhappy; and they get perverse satisfaction from dragging others into their lives of misery.

This is not an education issue at all. This is a control and a personality issue. This is another case of a teacher failing to see beyond the walls of the classroom.

Regrettably, teachers who take this myopic point of view somehow convince themselves that excelling in the subjects that they teach holds the key to a student making a success of himself or herself in the world after graduation.

It does not! It is a person’s attitude towards work, his relationships with people and the decisions that he makes in life that ultimately decides what a man becomes. School is important; but it is only a stepping stone.

This professor had the choice of helping an athlete realise a dream whilst at the same time continuing to educate him; but regrettably chose not to. The university’s standards do not even have to be compromised. All it would take is just a wee bit more effort on the athlete’s part and, crucially, also on the professor’s part.

I personally also know teachers who go out of their way to support athletes without compromising educational standards. Thus, I know for a fact that it is always up to the teacher to make the decision to actually do so.

In fact, for those who are not caught up in their own miserable lives, it is an easy decision to make. After all, the school that the athlete represents is the same school that puts food on the teacher’s dinner table at home. How can you not support an endeavour when it is the prestige of your own school which is at stake?

You know what makes me so sad? It is that those who take the opposite point of view can actually live with themselves. Personally, I would rather be at the receiving end of an injustice than be the person who put an end to a young man’s dreams.






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