MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University head coach Derrick Pumaren makes sure to keep in touch with all of his players even though the Green Archers are scattered all over the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pumaren, who was named the new La Salle coach in January, monitors his players' fitness and sends them online workout routines. He also arranges motivational talks for the Green Archers, bringing in former players and managers who can talk to the La Salle players and keep their spirits up during the pandemic.
This, even though the upcoming season of the UAAP is shrouded in uncertainty.
"We're trying to put some variety on everything. Until we get the final word, we're still trying to prepare the team as much as possible, get them ready, try to motivate them," Pumaren said during a recent online coaching seminar.
"In fact, we're trying to bring in some players online, former players, managers, whatever, they can talk to the guys and motivate them. Kasi siyempre, it gets boring na rin 'pag online workout. So nagkakaroon kami, we put some variety on that, and that is our job as coaches to do that for the players," he added.
While Pumaren would have preferred to be preparing with his players in person at La Salle's sports complex, he also knows they have to make the best of the situation.
When he agreed to take on the La Salle coaching job earlier this year, it was because Pumaren wanted to give back to the university. He first coached the Green Archers in 1986, leading them to titles in 1989 and 1990. Since then, he coached University of the East and most recently, Centro Escolar University.
But with La Salle languishing outside the Final 4 picture for the past two UAAP seasons, Pumaren felt it was the right time for him to return.
"The La Salle community expects a lot from us. We are not in normal territory. We should be up there. We should not be down there, back-to-back fifth place," he said. "I'm not here just to get fifth place. I'm here to win. They know that. They know that."
This mindset is what he shares to his players during their online meetings, and Pumaren said it's a challenge that the Green Archers have come to accept.
"I know it's a challenge, a big challenge for me, making it to the Final 4, but it's not impossible. The players right now understand, we understand each other, and what we're trying to achieve here," he said.
"We just have to be all on the same page now. As I keep telling the boys, same webpage," he said, making a light joke of their inability to meet face to face as a team.
But the coach stressed that the Green Archers are aware of the difficulty of the challenge ahead of them.
In Season 82, La Salle managed a 7-7 win-loss record. They lost some close games that kept them out of the Final 4, particularly to University of the Philippines. In the previous season, they lost to Far Eastern University in a playoff for the fourth seed, also in heartbreaking fashion.
Regardless of when they will reunite, or when the UAAP starts, Pumaren wants his players to be ready for Season 83 and for their march back to the semifinals.
"We want to be a step ahead of other teams. Because we are trying to get back in the Final 4. So we cannot just be complacent. We cannot have the same attitude that we've had in the last two seasons," he said.
"So, we just have to be there. The same webpage that we want to achieve this, we want to do this. We need to sacrifice. It's not gonna be a walk in the park for us," he stressed.
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