Beyond closed doors: Jenina Oliveros in sealing her athletic dream
To capture a title and to win big is one of the many ambitions of 22-year old Patriot Jenina Marie Oliveros in her remaining years as a college badminton player. But what’s in store for her future athletic life might not be a sure thing yet due to the adversities brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic – closing less and less opportunities for hopeful athletes like her to live the athletic dream.
“Ang gusto ko magkaroon muna ako ng title … mas makilala ako, para masabi na ‘ay ito ni-re-represent ko ‘yong La Salle [Dasmariñas] bilang ako as a badminton player’ para naman ahh, sukli ko na rin ‘yon sa La Salle,” Oliveros shared, talking about her aspirations before going beyond collegiate sports. However, this goal would be by no means an easy success to grasp with many obstacles still in place for Oliveros to overcome.
Backslide in badminton career
A dynamic Patriot shuttler as she was, Oliveros never skipped a beat in enhancing her racket skills and in-court agility both as a mix and women’s doubles player. She proved this in her first year of bannering DLSU-D in the Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA) Nationals with two bronze in her bag. While Oliveros was in the middle of medalling her sophomore year, the pandemic had suddenly stopped her momentum as a student athlete—a moment when all the setbacks in her badminton career started to kick in.
Going through extra challenges, Oliveros was not exempt in suffering the brunt of the athletes’ layoff when the University began to reduce full scholarship grants for the Patriots during the pandemic. Oliveros was one of many athletes in DLSU-D who took a leave of absence (LOA) from studying in the second semester of the academic year (AY) 2020-2021. The free dormitory, access to facilities, and other assistance provided by the University were basically cut off. Consequently, she said that due to the gradual deduction of grants, her 100% scholarship was slowly stripped away down to 50%—the remaining chunk of the fees that she can no longer handle.
But these material perks were not the ones that Oliveros misses the most: it is her friends and coaches whom she spent almost two years training with are what made DLSU-D her second home. “Bukod sa financial help, siguro parang sila na kasi ‘yong naging guardian ko na rin eh. Malayo ako sa parents ko, do’n ako nag-stay, so, ‘yong La Salle ‘yong parang naging bahay ko na. Do’n ako natutulog, do’n ako kumakain, do’n ako nag-e-exercise, do’n ako nag-te-training. Parang ‘yon’yong big help sa akin ni La Salle, na parang sila na ‘yong tumutok sa’kin,” a sentimental Oliveros said.
After returning back to her hometown in Lucena, Quezon Province, the hurdles for Oliveros continued to pile up as she struggled in adapting to the remote setup, with weak internet signals affecting her to push with online classes. This was coupled by the difficult assignment of adjusting to her younger third year classmates in a batch she ended up with after one semester in break.
But despite all the odds that put her athletic dream on the sidelines, Oliveros still remains optimistic that everything will subside one way or another. To see this through, she said, “Pinagpapatuloy ko pa rin ‘yong pagba-badminton player ko eh. Kapag alam ko na kasi [na] darating din ‘yong time na babalik din ‘yong laro, kahit na ngayong pandemic. Kaya ‘yon, training ‘pag may time, at syempre, makatapos ng pag-aaral. ‘Yon ‘yong kailangan kong gawin.”
An athlete’s call
As she is staunchingly doing her part while in lockdown, the shuttler sees it’s high time for the University to bring back the opportunities that were once given to school athletes, especially to those who need it the most.
The shuttler herself admits that she cannot achieve what she has right now on her own, and that the University will still be instrumental in putting her badminton dreams into reality. Recounting the days where she got recruited as a Patriot, Oliveros has nothing but kind words to her coach Rod Hinanay who molded her strengths and put her badminton prowess to the test—a relationship between an athlete and a coach that is too good not to retrieve.
When asked about the University’s role in coping with the challenges, Oliveros said that DLSU-D’s support did not disappoint, providing them a smooth hiatus that many athletes deserve.
But with the two-year break given to many Patriots like her, the woman shuttler stands with her fellow athletes who leave their fingers crossed for sports to be back on track.
“Parang makakakuha ng athlete na do’n sila mag-ta-tryout, do’n nila gugustuhing mag-aral, kasi parang maganda ‘yong pamamalakad, so ta-try nila. Kaya feeling ko ‘yon din ‘yong talagang (sic) … kaya kailangan talaga ibalik na ng La Salle ‘yong mga athlete,” Oliveros urged.
She furthered, “Sana huwag silang tumigil na maging ano pa rin sila – guardian ng mga athlete […] huwag silang tumigil na suportahan ‘yong mga athlete kasi sobrang laking bagay ‘yon sa mga athlete na katulad ko.”
Making dreams happen
No doubt that the big opportunities that were once offered by universities have closed with the spike of unprecedented lockdowns. But for someone who’s as eager and passionate as Oliveros, there’s no room for plan B in realizing her dreams.
“Para sa’kin kasi, kahit ‘di ko makuha ‘yong goal na yon, I [still] want to pursue it. Lahat naman is dumadaan sa pagkatalo, na hindi mo makukuha ‘yong gusto mo, pero kapag alam mo na ‘yon talaga ‘yong gusto mo, pagpapatuloy mo ‘yon,” she emphasized.
Moreover, what makes the 22-year old athlete one-and-a-kind is her ambition of opening doors to dreamers the same as her. Like her father who taught her how to play badminton when she was 11 years old, the Patriots shuttler looks forward to coaching neophyte athletes as well, paying forward for what she has attained. For someone who has always wanted to live the athletic dream, Oliveros sees her future self investing in young ones who have potential in sports—especially in badminton—in hopes of turning their dreams into reality.
Being an athlete who eyes to be a gateway on living other’s dream is something that one can be inspired of. As Oliveros yearns, “Gusto ko i-share ‘yong experience ko as a player na [magiging] coach na ngayon. Do’n ko nakikita ‘yong sarili ko na nagtuturo … Lahat kami nakakakuha ng tuition fees na libre sa pag-aaral … kaya ‘yon, gusto ko rin maging gano’n ako. Kaya kahit huwag na muna makapaglaro ng professional, basta may matulungan ako, ok na sa’kin ‘yon.”