The Covid-19 pandemic significantly stunted the conduct of physical activities, from the academic setting to the hardcourt. Sports, both in the amateur and in professional levels, was one of the fields that yielded to the pandemic’s demands to maintain a safe distance. This reality was not lost on Thomasian striker Aljireh Fuchigami of the UST Golden Booters, the top graduate of the Institute of Physical Education and Athletics’s Bachelor of Physical Education, major in Sports and Wellness Management program.

Recalled his lockdown story that started on March 16, 2020, he narrated that their coaches were already anticipating a national level lockdown due to the rising cases of Covid-19 in the country, and he was thankful that the team was able to go home. The second leg of UAAP 82 started the moment 2020 entered, but it came to a halt even before the already scheduled matches reached their competitive peak.

Fuchigami, positive then that the lockdown would remain just a few weeks, still kept himself conditioned into winning just to bring glory to the banner of University he is playing for. But the lockdown just stretched further.

For months now, such activities where either forced to migrate online or were otherwise completely halted. But thanks to muscle memory, Fuchigami found various ways to train, fueled by a competitive mindset despite being at home.

The Thomasian striker figured that he can still execute his tasks and demands of the sport that he love at home, and he made a habit of documenting his routines and sharing it to his teammates via group chat to further motivate them as well, and to also supervise if they are at the same wavelength as well. “Yun ang ginagawa namin, self-motivation. Kasi nagpopost yung mga coaches namin ng mga workouts,” he said, stating that physical activities are migrating online.

“Ginagawa na lang namin [ang workouts] in self-motivation kahit walang nagbabantay. Sa academics naman, siyempre kelangan ding mag-send ng mga requirements kahit online,” he added.

‘Even if No One is Watching’
“BIlang captain, responsibility mo na i-motivate yung mga teammates mo kahit ganun ang nangyayari,” he said. Being the team captain and also being the team’s incumbent “kuya,” Aljireh said motivation and adjustment were the best counter strikes that he and his fellow Thomasian student-athletes can do to train together every single day, despite being geographically apart.

Al highlighted that self-discipline is one of the focal characteristics that a student-athletes must have, meaning getting the job done even if no one is watching. “Yung mindest namin is ‘Gusto niyo ba manalo? Paano kayo makakabawi?’” he said.

Mastering the Art of Time Management
Fuchigami underscored that juggling academics and sports is a challenge that every athlete must face off-court. And to cope with these challenges—be it in personal, academics, and professional—mastering the art of time management would come in handy, as testified by the captain himself until he graduated.

“Kailangan mo mag-perform sa academics, at the same time magtrabaho ka rin sa pagiging athlete mo,” he said. “Mag-training ka, maki-join ka sa competition, at ipakita mo ang best mo kasi hindi lang naman basta-basta na mag-aral ka lang, at ipasa mo lang para ka makalaro,” he said. “Tapos kapag naglaro ka at hindi mo rin binibigay yung best mo, parang sayang sa oras at sayang lang sa chances na dapat binigay mo na lang sa iba na mas deserving,” he said.

Likewise, Aljireh was grateful that the University chose him to suit up despite others who are just as deserving as him. “Kaya ako pinili kasi ako ang deserving at hindi ko na dapat ibigay sa iba pa,” he said with conviction.

“Bilang atletang Tomasino, lumalaban pa rin kami kahit sabihin nating pandemic,“ he said. “Dahil sa pagmamahal namin sa larong football at pangalawa, sa binibigay ng UST at ng UST community,” he said, stating the reason he continues to conquer despite bigger obstacles.

Seven months since the lockdown had started, Aljireh proudly said that UST Golden Booters’s motivation is still intact, still giving their 100% for the university and for the Thomasian community despite the pandemic that acts like a goaltender in every Thomasian student-athletes’ dreams.