In three heart-stopping games, the Ateneo Blue Eagles trounced the DLSU Green Archers during the UAAP Season 80 Men's Basketball Tournament. Given the way the Blue Eagles swept through the eliminations with an impressive 13-1 standing, anyone would assume early on that the team already had the championship title in the bag. However, as Ateneo's courtside reporter and varsity footballer Martie Bautista—who has joined the journey's team for months—would reveal, the Katipunan-based squad's victory wasn't just about sheer luck.
According to Martie, one of the team's best qualities is their discipline. The preparations began in the summer, a notorious time for the youth to let loose. "Just imagine, when everyone was at the beach, the Blue Eagles were spending most of their hours in the court and at the gym," she says.
The team trained twice a day--in court with Blue Eagles' Coach Tab and at the gym with their strength and conditioning mentor, Coach Drei. Such a gruelling schedule neccessitates setting strict priorities during training season to help them achieve their goal.
No amount of hard work and discipline, however, will ever prepare you for the pressure of having an entire institution count on you to bring pride to your school. Learning to deal with this immense pressure can be tricky and the players have developed their own ways of dealing with the mental noise right before they stride into the court.
"They’re serious about prayer and their love for God," Martie reveals. Jolo Mendoza, for instance, dons a crucifix necklace and tucks it into his sock, carrying it with him throughout the game. Troy Mallillin rubs his hands on the court which is his own way of silently offering each game to God.
Listening to music is also proven to be an effective aid when internalizing and drowning out both external and internal noise. Vince prefers to listen to J.Cole while Thirdy opts for something more chill, such as songs by Daniel Caesar, to calm his nerves and get him focused.
Dealing with the woes after a game loss is another potential block that the team faces. One loss can destroy the players' momentum but it's important that they not let it become a weight on their shoulders or it affects the team's dynamics and atmosphere as a whole.
When asked about their loss against the FEU Tamaraws during the Final Four game, Marties shares, "Everyone was devastated, but I knew they would only come out stronger from that." True enough, the players didn't let their defeat define the rest of the season for them. "We always have this 'next game' mentality. We're always thinking about what we can do next and how we can improve given the understanding of what we did wrong in the previous game."
Martie also believes that the Blue Eagles' defeat only fanned the flames of their desire for the championship title instead of burning their motivation down altogether. "The tendency of DLSU is to never stop fighting. They’re very strong opponents," she admits. "This is a team who was down by 20 points and yet ended up winning over us!"
After losing to the DLSU Green Archers during the second game of the finals, the Blue Eagles bounced back stronger, proof that losing is just as important an experience as winning. "After that back-to-back loss from DLSU and FEU, I knew that Ateneo’s experience with the season was complete," said Martie.
The rest, as we all know, is history. The Ateneo Blue Eagles managed to close the final game with 88-86 and won the championship title for the first time after five years! And while the Blue Eagles have proved themselves worthy of the championship early on in the season, Martie's in-depth account of the team's journey throughout the season proves that their victory is more than well-deserved.
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Photo Credits: instagram.com/martiebautista/