I would come to discover a lot of things within the span of a month.
First off, Gold’s Gym Sheridan is one humid place. Amid the bevy of lifting equipment and heavy metal objects, a basketball court lies in the middle of the gym.
For a month, I, along with four other writers, learned how the athletes that we cover become the fine-tuned sports machines and develop in sweat boxes like these.
Thanks to Nike Philippines’ Paul George-inspired, four-week camp, we found a connection with the cagers whose stories we tell.
The camp was headed by newly-named De La Salle University Green Archers skills coach Miguel Solitaria, a former high-flying Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagle. Although his dunking days are over, his passion to teach has not wavered.
When he first met us sports writers, he admitted that he wasn’t expecting much as far as our athletic ability.
“I really was not expecting a lot from media men. I didn’t know too many journalists who were also into sports,” Solitaria recalled.
He remembered how he had first wanted to test our base skills in the first meeting. From there, he would design the following weeks’ program based on development and, most importantly, fun.
The first thing Solitaria taught us stuck with me the most. He showed us a handy, progressive shooting routine that properly aligned our shooting strokes along with a series of dynamic stretching poses.
After that, Solitaria had us go through challenging ball handling drills that mimicked how Paul George attacked the rim. For a recreational player like me, going through ladders and avoiding cones was a tedious, yet satisfying challenging.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how they [scribes] went through the drills. They did every drill with ease so I was challenged to create the following programs to really challenge them,” Solitaria said. Truthfully, that first day wiped out all of us and set the tone tor the following weeks.
The second meeting was intense right from the first drill.
The biggest takeaway was how each drill flowed into the next; the first skill we learned had to be translated into the next drill.
In one drill, we were taught a crossover which we had to combine with a behind-the-back dribble, which we then had to chain with a hesitation dribble. The two-ball drills were also cumbersome, especially when we progressed were required to mimic in-game situations. This was also the week I enjoyed the most, as Solitaria tested our strength and determination by pulling us with resistance bands as we tried to dribble to halfcourt.
By the third week, we got a taste of La Salle’s patented Mayhem defense.
Solitaria showed us the basics of a full-court press and emphasized the importance of quick decision-making. The fourth and last meeting was by far the most challenging, as Solitaria incorporated bits of each week’s training with far more advanced mental challenges. We had to play dodgeball while dribbling and do basic math while doing drills.
“More than the drills, I enjoyed meeting these writers and hope they enjoyed they enjoyed their bonding as well. I just hope they can take everything they learned and incorporate it into their games and maybe pass it on, as well,” said Solitaria in the final meeting.
Out of all the skills and mental queues, I learned more to appreciate the hard work that athletes need to do, at the highest levels, to deserve the coverage they get from us. The hours in the gym, the seemingly endless repetitions, and the focus required to truly develop were all concepts I knew and wrote about, but never experienced until this camp.
It’s safe to say that I may never develop into a Green Archer-level player, and most definitely not into a Paul George. As a writer, however, I learned that there are levels to which I can still push myself.