A normal person's career starts to peak at age 35. That's when he gets promoted, spearheads plum projects, and, of course, takes home a higher pay. In a sense, he becomes every headhunter's dream candidate, the most wanted corporate executive of the future.
For a basketball player—or any athlete for that matter—the path is reversed. Age 35 is when injuries, aching joints, and muscle spasm are constant threats, keeping him grounded until he finds himself eventually riding the bench.
His playing time also starts to dwindle. Fans, meanwhile, start to gravitate toward the new alphas of the team. A new contract, if he can still somehow prove he's worthy of one, may not be as lucrative as when he was still one of the main men on the team.
We asked several PBA players—35 years old and above, all stars in their own right—what it feels like to be the older guy, the kuya, and, in some cases, the bench warmer in their ballclub now. Unsurprisingly, these veterans all talked about how it’s all about the team, saying they could still be instrumental to the team's success even though the young'uns have already taken over their role.
The challenge, they say, is to stay ready. However, they're finding out now, it's a process that can be a demanding experience in itself.
FHM: How different is your pre-game preparation now from when you were younger?
Mark Caguioa (37 years old): You mean when I was young?
FHM: You’re still young.
Mark: (laughs) Well, you know, my whole life—in college, from when I started playing basketball—I've always had the mindset of always being ready. Whether the coach is going to use you or not, you always have to be ready to do what you’re picked to do for the team.
Arwind Santos (35 years old): Ganun pa rin kaya lang mas nagpapahinga ka na nang kaunti para makasiguradong kaya mo. Hindi kagaya ng dati, kahit pagod ka na, sige lang nang sige.
FHM: Do you do any special exercises now?
Mark: For me, it was easier when I was younger. I really have to train my body for the game. Now that I’m not playing as many minutes, that’s when you’ve got to take care of your body more. I do boxing. That’s how I get in shape nowadays. You get the cardio. You think you’re not doing anything but your whole body sweats. It’s amazing how you feel after.
When I get to the gym, I do an hour of shooting. Then I work out a little bit, do the boxing, that’s how I keep in shape. Jayjay (Helterbrand, who's 40 years old) does the same thing. Whatever I’m doing, he’s doing. We spar against each other and we’re pretty much even. (laughs)
Marc Pingris (35 years old): It’s different for me from time to time. There are some days when it’s just the legs, other days the core. Some days, it’s the upper body. We change my regimen depending on the situation. I don’t lift very heavy weights. The legs are more important. I defend against both taller and smaller players so I can’t be too heavy. I try to be around 205 to 210 lbs. That’s just right for my height (6’4”). It’s also what I’m used to. Sakto lang. It’s not good for me to be 215 lbs.
Speed lang ang panlaban ko. I have a friend who trains us. First he asks, how was the (basketball) practice? Do I have any pains? If there are, we avoid working on those (body) parts so they don't get worse. Kapag sinabi kong okay ako, tatanong niya kung nakailang oras ako sa practice. Kapag sinabi kong two hours, bibigyan niya ako ng hard session. Stretching muna. Maya-maya pinalalakas na namin ang core. The balance is there; the upper, the lower, it comes from the core.
(The core muscles are a complex series of muscles around your abdominals and extending around your trunk and pelvis. Core exercises allow the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony for better balance and stability. A strong core minimizes the possibility of injury, especially for an athlete.)
Arwind: Ganun pa rin—gym, weights, pushups, shooting. Wala pang nagbabago sa workout ko mula nung nasa college pa ako. Dagdag lang ng kaunti sa lower body, sa legs, sa hamstring. Yun lang ang nabago. Kapag nagbubuhat ako, hindi naman yung sagaran. Pump lang. Alam mo na, sa PBA, kailangan mo ng power and strength.
Pero ang tinitingnan ko, yung speed. Nandun pa rin naman bilis ko. Yung exercise para dun, gumagamit ako ng bands, yung goma sa legs na ini-istretch mo. Stutter step, laterals, at iba pa.
FHM: We bet your food intake has also changed.
Danny Seigle (41 years old): You actually have to study nutrition. The diet is probably the biggest change for me. No more sugar, no rice, no white pasta, and more vegetables. I get my carbs from vegetables. I still eat meat. You have to work out more. You also have to understand recovery. Listen to your body. I work on my core (muscles) a lot because I’ve had back issues in the past and back surgery. I do full-body exercises. Also I (concentrate) on the legs. I think the legs are the first to go.
Marc: I don’t count calories. I eat healthy food. I am so grateful to my wife (actress Danica Sotto). She researches on the Internet what food is good for athletes. She prepares the food. More on protein. For breakfast, I usually have bread. I only eat rice when there is tuyo (dried fish).
FHM: You used to play heavy minutes. How are you contributing to the team now? What does it look like from the bench?
Mark: Siguro motivating your teammates more. If you watch our bench, we’re always having fun. That’s what we want to maintain, to keep the energy up. Merong oras na when you’re not playing, the energy is kinda low. Sometimes, when they put you in, parang you’re not ready.
You keep the energy up by talking to each other, laughing. It’s like when you yawn, the other players will yawn, too. But when you’re happy, you’ll have happy people around you. You’re going to have confident people around you. You don’t want to hang out with a negative person. Everyone hates the pessimist. So with me, I like to keep everyone lively. At this point of my life, that’s what I do for the team.
Danny: You look at the game differently. You kinda see it through a coach’s view. You point out to guys what they’re missing. You use your experience to help (with advice).
Arwind: Mas maiksi ang minuto ko ngayong Commissioners Cup dahil may import. Kasi ka-position ko yung import kaya mas nakapagpapahinga ako ngayon. Okay lang yun, as long as nananalo pa rin kami. Siyempre nandun pa rin yung cheering mo from the bench. Pero pag ginamit ka, pakita mo kaagad yung aggressiveness mo, especially on defense.
FHM: How about the grind of the three conferences per year.
Danny: It’s difficult, but it’s challenging and I enjoy the challenge of it.
(A friend of Danny's passes by and asks, “That’s for FHM? You gonna take your clothes off?)
No, you don’t want to see that. (laughs)
Photography: Winston Baltasar