Fair Play: Best advice from PBA commissioner

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Aug. 3 edition)
THE head of the Philippine Basketball Association, the oldest professional league in Asia which most student athletes dream of joining, had the perfect advice for today’s generation of college players.

Don’t forget your studies. It’s an advice that many--if not the majority--neglect because rare is an athlete who thinks beyond his playing years. Some stay in school, not to study, but to continue playing, paying rigid attention only to the minimum requirements to continue playing but not on schoolwork itself.

Stay in school, the commissioner said, invest in your future.

Too bad that those who really needed it most were not there--those who were disqualified from playing this season for failing Cesafi’s very loose academic requirements. Athletes need only to pass 60 percent of their subjects.

The life of a professional athlete isn’t an easy one, for every June Mar Fajardo who makes it great, there are scores of others who are now in their late 20s struggling to find a life outside of basketball. And even if they make the pros like a few of the great stars of Cesafi, making it to the roster to the next season isn’t a sure thing.

Just check the latest wash-out pro who’s now making the rounds of the local commercial basketball circuit.

So, I agree with the commissioner, but not about having education as a fallback. Education should be the main priority, and after graduating from college, athletes should start considering life outside of basketball and use the sport only as a sideline.

Unless, of course, they are the second coming of June Mar Fajardo, which is unlikely.

There are no realistic studies done, but I hope, in the future, Sociology or even Education students can make a thesis about how college basketball athletes transition to life outside of school sports two years after they graduated and compare them to working scholars.

If what I suspect is true, the trend maybe troubling.

Why only college basketball? Because it’s only the sport where one can dream of having a pro career, for the rest of the sports, college athletes know there is no life after school in their sport. They accept that, move on and start looking for jobs in the real world. Their stay in school, too, is oftentimes geared toward a life outside it. Hence, they are more likely to pass all their subjects, not just 60 percent, because they know prospective employers will go through their transcript with a fine-tooth comb.

Stay in school, the PBA commissioner said. I hope they listened.


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