She’s aiming to reach ‘finals,’ one of them off-court
At the waiting area of Laguindingan Airport, located some 34 kilometers away from Cagayan de Oro City, the Akari Chargers were waiting for their flight back home after an out-of-town game. Star hitter Faith Nisperos whipped out her laptop and began pounding on the keyboard.
With enough time to kill, Nisperos decided to spend those precious minutes finishing up a school assignment.
“We’re nearing finals week,” she said as she worked on her presentation —referring to the exam, not the championship (although the latter is always an objective.) The volleyball player, who is also a graduating BS Management student at Ateneo de Manila University, is completing 18 more units in her last semester so she can graduate.
Nisperos was a vital cog for the Ateneo Blue Eagles during her varsity days in the UAAP tournament, but opted to forgo her final year of eligibility to turn professional.
She ended up with the young squad Akari. But even as her career shifted into the play-for-pay route, Nisperos didn’t abandon her studies.
Her decision to finish the course meant she needed to make more sacrifices as she pursues her sports career. That includes catching up on schoolwork at every opportunity, even if she has to take her laptop and other school materials with her during matches in the provinces.
“I am just making my presentation at the airport because … I have to take every opportunity that I can do my schoolwork while we’re out of town,” Nisperos said.
The match at Cagayan de Oro City provided a glimpse of her balancing act. After arriving in the city, the Chargers joined three other Premier Volleyball League clubs for a welcome stop-over at City Hall and for lunch. From there they proceeded to a meet-and-greet with local fans, before taking a break.
The team also held practices before the weekend doubleheader at Aquilino Q. Pimentel International Convention Center.
Nisperos would like to do as much schoolwork she could amid the busy schedule, but “of course, it’s really hard to manage especially a lot of outside factors [like] the travel, the traffic. And of course I have to dedicate time and effort to everything I do. It’s really hard to maintain the focus to give 100 percent to all the aspects that I need.”
The 23-year-old opposite hitter has reaped some reward for all that sacrifice. In that tiring weekend stretch, for example, the Chargers turned up the electricity and hammered a 25-18, 25-15, 25-19 victory over Gerflor. At that point in the All-Filipino contest, Akari badly needed the win to stay alive for the semifinals.
Making it even sweeter for Nisperos was the fact that her mom and other close relatives took the hours-long road trip from Davao just to watch her play live.
“It’s really nice to see them,” she said after the game.
With her game duties done for the weekend, it was time to focus on her school projects. “To handle it, I just have to relax just like ‘OK, one thing at a time.’ That’s how I try to manage school and playing, of course.”
And she said she is lucky to play for a club that makes allowances for its pros who are still in school.
“They cheer us,” she said. “When I ask them [for free time because] I need to finish something and have to do my schoolwork, they are very respectful of my time. They let me finish [my work] and tell me that they’re here to support me,” Nisperos said.
It was an arrangement welcomed by Christopher Tiu, Akari’s chief executive officer. “We are committed to seeing Faith grow and develop to her full potential as a professional athlete and we fully support her management of sports and school life balance,” said Tiu, whose advocacy sees education as a means to pay it forward. (As a student, Christopher’s father, Akari founder and chairman Dr. Carlos Tiu, finished his studies on a scholarship.)
“We are hopeful with the completion of her remaining units she can focus full-time on being a game-changer for the Akari Chargers,” Tiu added.
The Chargers have two other players on their roster who are also finishing their studies—Justine Jazareno and Fifi Sharma, who are both from De La Salle University.
Nisperos said the three of them had been supportive of each other through their journeys.
“We may be from different schools but we just remind each other to rest and get some sleep,’’ she said. “We have our own morale and emotional support with each other.’’