Athletes at the helm: Morenos, Cruz, and Stephenson on the transition from athletes to leaders
Originally published in The HERALDO FILIPINO Volume 36 Issue 1.
Another challenge arises for many student athletes amid academic responsibilities and the unprecedented shift of learning as they find themselves to be deprived of the games they get by. For some feisty players who spent most of their student life inside the court, embracing the odds would be a tall order.
However, the pandemic did not stop some athletes from staying true to the Lasallian mantra by taking on new roles to carry on their purpose in serving the community — student athletes who translated their love for sports to governance, in hopes of leading their fellow students and going through the motions.
Among them are University Student Government (USG) Vice President Reine Cruz, USG Sports and Recreation Secretary Lean James Morenos, and SINAG Vice President Dexter Stephenson, who pierced through the shift by exploring, embracing, and balancing the changes itself – all while holding on to their experiences up to the helm as Lasallian student leaders.
Reine Cruz: Navigating through the changes
For as long as he can remember, Cruz has always been athletic before becoming a beach volleyball player and the proactive vice president of the USG. He was hooked at first with martial arts, tying the karate belt at such a young age. But an injury from the fisticuff sport had pushed him to explore other fields, and eventually discovered volleyball in the process.
As a student athlete, Cruz was trained with the mindset of working hard to achieve one’s goal, or what he dubs as his “never give up” attitude. He emphasized that even amid the hardships and obstacles, giving up should not be in anyone’s vocabulary.
“Sa paghihirap na ‘yon, dapat habang nahihirapan ka, hindi magiging option ‘yong pagsuko. Kasi ‘pag sumuko kami, hindi namin ma-a-achieve ‘yong gusto namin,” he said.
Besides having years of sports under his back pocket, Cruz is not anymore a newbie on being a student leader, shooting leadership experiences as the governor of the College of Education Student Government (COEDSG) during the academic year (AY) 2020-2021.
While he stated that he may not be one of those starters on the court, his leadership and athletic stints led him to cultivate the value of hard work that became his guiding principle in going through the changes.
Meanwhile, the now USG vice president also shared that never giving up plays into situations when there are daunting challenges along the way, like how he weathered the unexpected shift to the online setup amid the pandemic.
“Tinatak ko sa isipan ko na challenge lang ‘to sa pagiging student leader. Iba lang ‘yong nagiging platform pero student leader pa rin… kahit sobrang hirap na sa part ko, ang hirap sa academics, ang hirap kasi working din ako, ang hirap pagsabay-sabayin pero sabi ko, magiging worth it ‘yong mga pagsubok, ‘yong mga paghihirap sa setup sa pagiging student leader,” he stated.
Lean James Morenos: Embracing the odds
Flipping through different sports fields, Lean James Morenos’ journey as an athlete is not only confined to the wide game of basketball. His sporty beginnings found its debut at the netted sport of badminton before braving the hoop court in his teenage years.
However, holding the racket and throwing the ball may look easy for Morenos, but he admits that this is not the same with his venture to governance. When he stepped up as a student leader, one challenge for him was the huge transition in his environment, as the physically demanding hustle that he was used to on the court is an entirely different game in USG.
“Hindi siya ‘yong nakagawian ko, so very new ako sa situation ng pagiging student leader so iba ‘yong pag-schedule (sic), iba ‘yong routine,” he shared.
Morenos specified how he honed his ability to adapt to a dynamic environment as an athlete, which played into how he deals with the challenges in the current setup. “At first, hindi naman ini-expect na magiging ganito, mahirap pero based from (sic) my experience, natuto ako mag-adapt,” the USG secretary added.
Drawing from his experience as a student athlete, he also underscored how his resiliency and commitment as a player helped him become a budding leader who knows how to help his fellow students.
“Hindi ako half-hearted naging student leader, pero full (sic) committed, full commitment talaga yung binigay ko dito. Kumbaga, all out pa rin siya,” Morenos emphasized.
Lean James Morenos
Dexter Stephenson: Finding the balance
Transitioning into a new role outside the court has not also been easy for cager Dexter Stephenson, but finding balance between his experiences as a student and athlete made him shoot his shot in leadership.
Donning the green and white flag as a shooting guard and a forward, Stephenson marked his early stages as a Patriot to be a novice player with several Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, turning heads in the collegiate sports scene as well as hoop tournaments of DLSU-D. With Stephenson’s athletic grit, his early wins undoubtedly are a testament of a skillful athlete and an effective lifestyle.
Jumping into the role of being the executive vice president of SINAG, Stephenson found a new way to fit in his qualities such as his discipline and responsible leadership. “The only difference is, being a student leader requires less from me physically. Overall, being an athlete and a student leader, more or less, share the same set of positive qualities,” he related.
As someone who’s always sealed his love for sports, the cager is also vocal in manifesting his stances about the current state of sports in the University, highlighting the need for more improvements. Amid the obstacles brought by the crisis, Stephenson believes that sports teams should continue holding online training and workouts in order “to maintain team chemistry, camaraderie, and physical health.”
Off the court, student athletes have more to offer aside from the skills nurtured for years of training and competing. For these Patriots, having new responsibilities are traces of one’s self-growth, taking the bearer of the duty to new chapters ahead. Cruz, Morenos, and Stephenson’s core purposes might go beyond their usual playing expertise, but by staying on track of the values they hold close also play into another meaningful purpose even outside the court.