Inspired to keep sports adrift during pandemic

THE slogan kicks in immediately—CONQUER YOURSELF—in capital letters. Exclamation point unnecessary.

That’s what greets you when you click on the Inspire Sports Academy’s (ISA) official web site. The academy also stresses: “Built for the prime purpose of developing Filipino athletes to achieve excellence at any given time and situation.”

Until the Covid-19 pandemic struck in early 2020.

The academy that caters to top-level sports programs played a unique role its owners may have never conceived in the state-of-the-art facility’s planning stage—be a perfect bubble environment shielded against the deadly virus.

“We didn’t expect this in the same way that we didn’t expect Covid-19 to change all our lives significantly,” ISA Marketing Director Lee Tajonera told BusinessMirror. “So when we all were hit, our business development team discussed how best we could pivot and started seeing how some sports organizations around the world like the UFC, NBA and the Bundesliga were planning their own bubbles, we realized that we were in a strong position to do the same.”

“With the dedication of our team and how our facility was naturally set up for different formats, we figured we could actually lead the way in Philippine sports by being that entity that could still allow sports to go on safely amid the pandemic,” Tajonera added.

“In every crisis, there is an opportunity and Inspire took inspiration from the history of Henry Sy Sr.,” ISA Managing Director Benjie Uichico said. “At a time when businesses were [and still is] at a low ebb, the whole Inspire team got together to spot the opportunity in this Covid crisis.”

The bubble concept, Uichico added, was already floating around the global sporting industry and “Inspire became the first mover and innovated the concept fitted for the current market need.”

Located in Calamba, Laguna, at National University’s first extension campus, the academy hosted the Chooks-to-Go 3×3 Pilipinas tournament and the TNT KaTropa training camp for the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup.

At present, the country’s Tokyo Olympics qualifiers and hopefuls in boxing, taekwondo and karatedo are hosted by the facility as they train face-to-face with their coaches for the first time in almost a year.

The Gilas Pilipinas pool for the third window of the International Basketball Federation Asia Cup qualifiers are also in the academy, polishing its game against South Korea and Indonesia next month.

Director of Administration Ricardo Ocampo said that the 16,000 square-meter four-storey facility was built primarily to focus on the “hardcore training and major development of the athletes.”

“The whole campus is a little less than 3 hectares. The ground floor has the receiving area and lounge, while at the second floor is a high-performance gym,” Ocampo said. “The higher floors are for taekwondo, futsal and basketball.”

“We also have a great recovery room in the lower ground. It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” Ocampo added.

The NU extension campus and the ISA were launched in November 2019 by the NU Chairman of the Board Dr. Hans Sy and President Dr. Renato Carlos Ermita Jr. The Sy family owns the academy which is located 54 kilometers south of Metro Manila.

The academy has its own “dormitel” (dormitory-type quadruple sharing rooms) and 32 superior twin rooms for a total of 64 rooms for 176 individuals or more.

Uichico said the academy was created to develop and enhance Filipino athletes.

“The Sy family invested in what they felt was necessary to enhance Filipino athletes. They spend a lot of money to achieve the level of excellence of the athletes and they are willing to continue spending and investing more for that,” Uichico said.

Tajonera said the ISA rivals academies abroad that also caters to elite sports development.

“There are many similar venues like the IMG Academy in Florida and the Singapore Sports School. But we’re hybrid over those concepts—facility-wise and program- and academic wise,” Tajonera said.

Date: January 26, 2021 | By: Josef Ramos | Newspaper: Business Mirror | Source: