With practice limitations, PBA coaches have to be 'creative'

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2021 08:10 PM

The Alaska Aces during a practice session ahead of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup in September 2020. File photo. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- PBA coaches are challenged to maximize their practice sessions ahead of the league's 46th season, even with the limitations imposed by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With less than a month to go before the planned April 11 start of the All-Filipino Cup, teams are still limited to small group practices. Only five players are allowed to practice at a time, with scrimmages still barred.

It presents a unique challenge to the coaches, who have to come out with creative ways to ensure that their training sessions remain productive even with the limitations.

"I think, it turns out being pretty much just a skills workout," Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso said of their small group practices. "So what you accomplish during that type of practice is, you know, individual work. So, we're trying to improve everyone's game in certain areas."

"So we try to give them a little bit of the movements that they're gonna be doing during a game," he added.

What happens, noted Cariaso, is "a lot of shooting and polishing your dribbling." To make the sessions more fruitful, he creates drills to simulate their offense for in-game situations, so that the players will at least be familiar with the plays that they intend to run.

The hope for Cariaso is that once the team can practice together and do scrimmages, "they're used to a certain movement, especially offensively."

NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, too, is finding ways to make his practices productive within the parameters set by the league and the government. Speaking on "The Chasedown" last Saturday, the coach said he is "reinventing" his training sessions with the Road Warriors.

"You have to be creative with your practice sessions. You have to be able to maximize 'yung five players and the time that you have to recreate game situations," he explained.

"Ang hirap," he admitted. "Ngayon lang tayo nailagay sa ganitong position."

For TNT Tropang GIGA coach Chot Reyes, the situation is made doubly difficult because he is still getting back into the swing of things. Reyes last coached in the PBA in 2012 before shifting his focus to the Philippine national team. He returns during a strange time where they cannot hold a complete training camp and player interaction is limited. 

"To be very honest, medyo mahirap, kasi we couldn't prepare the way we normally prepare, kasi hindi nga nakakapag-practice ng husto, 'di ba?" Reyes said on "The Chasedown" when asked about his preparations for the season. 

"Lima-lima lang 'yung players, small groups tapos hindi pa pwedeng andoon ka sa lahat ng grupo. So it's pretty difficult," he admitted. "Malaking bagay sana 'yung nakakapag-practice ng buo 'yung team, nagfa-five-on-five as a whole."

What gives the coaches some semblance of relief is that all of them are in the same boat. 

"Ang consolation lang doon is lahat naman kami, dumadaan sa ganito. Pare-parehas lang kami," said Guiao.

"Those are the restrictions we have to live with," Reyes said, for his part.

"We'll take what we can get right now," said Cariaso.

All of them are looking forward to the time when they can at least begin holding scrimmages, especially with the start date of the next season drawing nearer. Last season, the PBA teams were only allowed to hold scrimmages once they entered the bubble in Clark, Pampanga, a few short days before the All-Filipino Cup resumed.

"After a while, (the guys) wanna start to go up and down, and they can't, you know?" said Cariaso.

"We just have to really wait and see," he added. "But yeah, guys are getting a little bored already."

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