Sophomore School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management (SHRIM) student-athlete Darwin Avillanoza shares his experiences from his first year stint as a swimmer for CSB Blazing Torpedoes.
From neophyte to pro
As an athlete, Avillanoza describes himself as a late bloomer. While other kids would begin learning how to swim at the young age of five, he only started at the age of 15 when his mom enrolled him for swimming classes. “Ipinagpatuloy ko ‘yung swimming tapos hindi lang din naman alam na naging part na siya ng life ko,” he said in an interview with The Benildean.
During high school, he was part of Makati Skipjacks Swimming Club, an organization outside of his school that helped enhance his skills. Likewise, his training here helped pave his way to one of his most memorable moments as an athlete; representing the Philippines in his first overseas swimming competition in Hong Kong. Although he did not succeed with a podium finish, he gained valuable learnings and used it for growth to be a better athlete.
Avillanoza’s coach also helped him gain access to recruitment in Benilde. After qualifying, he was able to compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). He nabbed two silvers and a bronze medal in 1500-meter freestyle, and 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley events, respectively.
Shifting from the University of Makati to De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde was tough for Avillanoza, as he faced challenges entering as a frosh student.
He had to adapt to changes in grading systems, commuting to school and improving his time management skills. According to Avillanoza, he started his regular days as early as four in the morning to prepare for his morning training. After that, he would attend his classes and would then proceed to afternoon training. “Parang sobrang tiring ng ginagawa ko, pero okay naman,” he expressed.
“I learned how to set my priorities and use my time wisely because I had plenty of things to do,” he added. Doing tasks one at a time maintained a balance with his student-athlete and social life.
Adapting to pandemic restrictions
As communities implemented quarantine protocols, many NCAA events were cancelled. Furthermore, student-athletes such as Avillanoza experienced difficulty in training.
After hearing the news, Avillanoza felt disappointed, as he and his team were not able to defend their titles, while their seniors missed the opportunity to represent the green and white for the last time.
“So pinaghahandaan din talaga namin ‘yung NCAA, which is sobrang hirap kasi kailangan namin ng pool, pero wala naman kaming swimming pool,” Avillanoza mentioned when asked about his preparations for NCAA.
As swimming pools are not available, he and his teammates continue to rely on synchronous strength and conditioning workouts via Zoom calls.
On reduction of games
The NCAA’s decision to reopen selected sporting events amidst the pandemic received backlash from athletes from universities and colleges all over the country.
“I feel like it would be unfair for those who wouldn’t get the chance to play. I still think that all the sports [events] should be given the chance to [be] played, but there should be certain guidelines,” Avillanoza expressed when asked about NCAA proceeding with fewer game events.
He justified that every athlete should be given an equal chance to showcase their talents in the court.
Avillanoza mentioned that he heard a few stories on colleges and universities cutting down scholarship grants for athletes. “I’m very grateful that the school [still] supports me. They helped me para sa mga struggles ko this pandemic especially financially,” he shared.
Despite the cancellation of swimming events and competitions, he was lucky enough to sustain the financial support of Benilde, to which he and his family are thankful for. Furthermore, he also acknowledged the people who supported and inspired him to succeed in his student-athlete journey. “I will forever be thankful for those who have been with me because your support has pushed me to strive harder everyday and stay motivated at all times.”
Lastly, Avillanoza concluded with a message to aspiring athletes.
“To all those who aspire to become student-athletes, I want to say that this will create great opportunities for you. Rather than looking at your achievements in terms of medals, look at the person you have become and the lessons you will acquire. You will be learning life skills, and it may be challenging at times but the beauty of this is that you will acquire perseverance and dedication. I hope that you stay motivated and driven. Never lose sight of what’s really important and always remember to enjoy every step of the way.”