CHAMPIONS always find ways to keep their competitive edge even during the most trying times.
Six-time UAAP Cheerdance Competition champion National University, led by head coach Ghicka Bernabe, keep this time-tested principle on mind during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the guidance of Bernabe, the award-winning NU Pep Squad is staying fit as a fiddle even during the worldwide lockdown in sports.
“We want to stay on top. We still do a lot of virtual trainings now. We monitor the athletes’ physical and mental condition. We stay in touch even during the pandemic,” said Bernabe during the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports via Zoom last Feb. 4.
A former co-captain of the Far Eastern University cheering squad from 2005 to 2009, Bernabe said the Lady Bulldogs can’t rest on their laurels even after winning the UAAP championships six times in the last seven editions (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019).
No competition was held last year.
“We have to keep new ideas, new concepts coming even now that we’re still in a lockdown. We watch old and new videos of cheerdance competitions. We review our past performances and study our strengths and weaknesses,” explained Bernabe, who took over the coaching chores for NU back in 2011.
Bernabe, the 32-year-old pride of Norzagaray, Bulacan, admitted the pandemic enabled them to spend more time with families at home and recharge.
“Ngayong pandemic, we also took the opportunity to relax and re-charge,” Bernabe told sports editors and reporters during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“Madami ang naka-uwi sa mga provinces to be with their families. Sa NU, we also want them to value the time na kasama ang mga families nila. Kasi nga pag may training kami, sobrang bihira kaming nakakauwi sa buong taon. Di lahat ng family occasions, napupuntahan namin,” explained Bernabe.
“In a way, malaking tulong din yung malayo ka muna sa training pansamantala, sa mga normal na nakakasalamuha mo everyday. Nakatutulong ito mare-fresh yun mga utak namin para mag-come up ng mga bagong concepts,” added Bernabe, a product of the gymnastics competitions in the Palarong Pambansa.
“As we all know, sa UAAP competitions ngayon mas mahigpit na pinaglalabanan ay yung makapag-isip ng magandang concepts. Mas maraming ideas, mas maganda.”
Bernabe lamented the missed opportunities for NU this year.
“Normally, the UAAP is held every last quarter of the year. Sa first and second quarters, we prepare for national competitions (National Cheerleading Championships). And then there’s the ICU World competition, but na-cancelled din due to pandemic. That’s three major competitions na pinaghandaan lagi namin.”
Added Bernabe: “Actually, pinaghahandaan na namin yung competition dapat sa Orlando, Florida scheduled first week of April last year. Magkakaiba po kasi yung routine na ginagawa namin for UAAP, NCC or ICU World, na parang Olympics ng cheerleading. Pero hindi natuloy dahil sa lockdown.”
But she said the team will continue its build-up even with the cancellation of the UAAP Season 83 and uncertainty of other competitions.
“Right now, virtual training muna talaga habang bawal pa ang face-to-face training. Patuloy namin mino-monitor ng mga coaches ang bawat activities ng mga players. Meron kaming conditioning, flexibility exercises and dance classes. Alam natin na ngayong may quarantine, hindi ma-iwasan yun kumain ng madami. Sa virtual training, gusto pa din naming maging inter-active yun training. Gusto namin matiyak na kundisyon pa din ang lahat.”
“Lagi namin sinasabi sa kanila na tapos na ang competition at hindi na tayo champion. But it’s always our goal na mag-champion. Kung matutuloy ang UAAP this year, I can say we are very much prepared to defend our title.”
Bernabe said the all-out support of the NU community is one of the reasons for the team’s success.
“Talagang malaki ang pasasalamat namin sa aming supporters, na kahit ngayong may pandemic hindi kami iniiwan. Tuloy pa din ang suporta ng mga big bosses namin, like Mr. Hans Sy, Mr. Gao, and Sir Mark. They continue to encourage the team, pati mga coaches,” claimed Bernabe.
“Kung totoo na may mga kaibigan tayong athletes na nawalan ng team or naapektuhan ng pandemic, sa amin walang problema. Hindi kami napapabayaan sa mga allowances at lahat ng team members namin, naka-enrolled pa din.”
The well-loved NU coach said the team is set to welcome more cheerdance athletes in the coming months.
“We will soon have virtual tryouts or auditions para sa interested gymnasts or dancers na gustong maging part ng aming team,” said Bernabe.
“We are open to all, kahit pa yun mga galing sa labas ng school. Kapag matuloy yun recruitment namin for the next couple of months, first screening will be the video that they will send to us. We also want to check yun background nila sa pag-aaral, especially yun mga grades. We also want to know the relationships they have with their previous coaches and teammates.”
“Very holistic ang approach namin sa team. We do not only focus sa galing ng players, but pati sa academics. Gusto din namin maka-graduate ang mga bata kesa mag-stay ng six to seven years sa aming team.”
“So, kung gusto mong mag join sa team namin sa NU, kailangan mag-aral ka din.”
The deadly coronavirus pandemic may have slowed down most collegiate sports in the country, cheerdancing included.
But in Bernabe’s wonderful world of cheerdancing, the NU Pep Squad will be ready anytime, anywhere.
(With reports from Gab Ferreras/Photos by UAAP)Publication Source : People's Tonight