Dedicated coach spreads hope to athletes amid pandemic
CEBU CITY, Philippines—A genuine leader shows their true self in the face of adversity. A beacon of light during a storm and a solid rock in moments of uncertainty
Consider Arvin Loberanis a genuine leader.
During trying times because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the coach of the University of San Carlos-Basic Education (USC-BED) track and field team and the head of the athletics team of the Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) grassroots program stood as a beacon of hope for anxious athletes who were left with not many choices due to the restrictions spurred by the health pandemic.
The 41-year-old Loberanis stood with his athletes, which included his two daughters, Mary Joy and Juliana Nicole, throughout these most uncertain of times, keeping them in shape in whatever way he can so they’ll be prepared for any battle they may wage in the future.
“My ultimate goal for my athletes and for my daughters is to train them to become the best in their chosen sport. I would like to make sports their ticket to finish their studies and earn a degree,” said Loberanis.
Athletes, in general, live a very active lifestyle. So getting stuck at home doing nothing would surely have a detrimental effect on most of them, not just physically, but also mentally.
Way before the COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the globe, Loberanis managed to develop countless talented athletes under his tutelage, among them were his talented daughters, who already won numerous gold medals in both the Milo Little Olympics and Milo Marathon.
Loberanis played a huge part in the USC Warriors’ Milo Little Olympics title runs in 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017 after being promoted as the head coach in 2009.
Despite the athletics department being dissolved in 2016, the USC-BED Warriors remained a much-feared team in track and field even if it is manned by a skeletal workforce of less than a hundred members.
And this, without a doubt, is due to Loberanis’ efforts.
Loberanis is a certified fighter. During his heydays in the late 90s, he was a consistent top-three finisher in the Milo Marathon’s 10-kilometer race.
“I was a medalist in both the Milo Marathon and Milo Little Olympics. I was also a contender in Milo Marathon because I always finished top three in the 10k distance,” said Loberanis.
But what stood out lately was not Loberanis’ physical capabilities, but his exceptional and uncompromising leadership. As a coach to the grassroots athletes of Cebu City, he displayed characters found in exceptional leaders, helping the kids stay in competitive form despite the restrictions of the pandemic.
That’s no walk in the park.
When the COVID-19 battered Cebu in mid-2020, Loberanis and his athletes shifted to online training for safety purposes. But after six months, results were not so encouraging mostly due to bad internet connection and lack of supervision.
Loberanis motivated his athletes to continue training at home, telling them that everything will be back to normal soon.
“The challenge that I encountered during this pandemic is the difficulty in motivating my athletes to train [knowing] there are no competitions scheduled,” said Loberanis.
After months of waiting, Loberanis and his athletes finally got the chance to train outdoors in January 2021 with social distancing and safety protocols being strictly followed at all times.
But again, another problem popped up, which was finding a suitable place within Cebu City to do their drills. He transferred from one place to another after he and his athletes were shooed away by property owners in the areas where they trained.
But his persistence paid off.
“The most difficult part for me as a coach is finding a venue where we are not dispersed by security guards. We managed to find a place in Good Sheperd in Banawa where we’re allowed to train safely,” said Loberanis.
A FATHER TO EVERYONE
If anyone can attest to Loberanis’ passion to train young athletes, it is his daughter, 18-year old Mary Joy, who he trained to become one of Milo Little Olympics’ Most Outstanding Athlete (MOA) awardees in track and field.
Mary Joy, or MJ, started training under her dad when she was five years old. She eventually topped the 5k category of the Milo Marathon Cebu leg for three consecutive years.
All the success of the young Loberanis would not have been possible without the guiding hands of her father.
“My father has always been my inspiration both as a coach and as a dad. He’s the first person who believed in me when I was just starting with my athletic career,” said MJ, who is now a grade 12 student of USC.
Loberanis believes that his team is also family. For him, keeping this kind of culture within the team brings unity and a stronger bond, important keys to being successful in a sport.
“I believe that if I make my team a family, everything flows smoother,” said Loberanis.
Currently, he and his team finally got back at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC), which opened back its track oval last May 3, after being closed for 14 months due to the pandemic.
Slowly but surely, his optimism is paying off.
“To my team, everything will go back to normal soon, and we can be together again. Keep the faith always. Keep in mind that being an athlete requires dedication, perseverance, and discipline,” said Loberanis when asked for a message to his team.
This once again proves that this man, although not a decorated athlete, is just as inspiring, if only for giving hope to his athletes amidst these times of enormous adversity.
Now, that’s a winner!
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