By Kristoffer Ed Bellen
MANILA—The Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) has recently announced that tennis will be added as a demonstration sport in the high school division as the season opened last Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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The event, which will be played on February next year, is jointly hosted by the Ateneo de Manila University and National University, is making its debut in the country's most colorful collegiate league as patrons and enthusiasts of the sport hope to develop future talents.
According to NU head coach and former national team captain Karl Sta. Maria, the addition of tennis in UAAP high school proves to be beneficial, not only for the development of young Filipino tennis players, but in helping aspiring varsity players as well who wish to play in the UAAP through scholarships.
"It's a good development especially for junior players as it will give more opportunities for these players to be developed by the different school programs. This will also mean potential scholarships in high school for aspiring varsity players," he told Dugout Philippines on Tuesday afternoon.
Sta. Maria, who will enter his 19th college coaching year this season, was responsible for most of the league-leading titles of the University of Santo Tomas during his 10-year stint there.
Last year, he led the Bulldogs to an impressive double championship in the men's and women's division.
However, he admits that because the academic year has already started, they are uncertain as to whether they will form their own high school team that will compete this year.
"We have not yet discussed the formation of a team or if I will be directly involved should the school decide to have a full-pledged high school program to what we have in the collegiate division.
"Since it will be a demonstration sport, and the school year is already underway and other schools may not have a complete team or program in place for high school except Ateneo and La Salle Zobel. The rest of the schools will be fielding their senior high school players who were recruited for the collegiate division," he added.
Sta. Maria, however, is hopeful that the rest of the UAAP schools will start forming their own teams as it will help the sport in transitioning from a demonstration sport in high school to a medal event in the future.
Follow him on Twitter: @KristoffBellen