By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

JUST like the others in the local sporting community, the Muaythai Association of the Philippines (MAP) saw its affairs and push for the sport in the country considerably disrupted by the ongoing health pandemic.

But instead of allowing itself to be swamped by the challenges of the prevailing times, MAP is staying resilient, finding ways to still bring the group’s vision and mission to stakeholders.

One way it is going about is through virtual competitions and activities.

Speaking at the recent Sport for Women’s Empowerment & Employment Program (S.W.E.E.P.) online conference organized by the Sport Management Council of the Philippines, MAP Secretary-General Pearl Managuelod shared that operating as an organization these days is tricky but they are managing.   

“When the pandemic hit, we had to be realistic and worked with what we had. We had to be creative and resourceful to keep the community motivated and sustain the momentum we have gotten,” she said.

Ms. Managuelod, who is also a member of the board of the Philippine Olympic Committee, said the local muay thai community was on a high before the pandemic hit as the sport was a solid medal contributor for the country in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games held here.

Filipino nak muays won nine medals — three of which were gold, four silver and two bronze.

The MAP secretary-general said they were looking to build on their gains in 2020 and were slated to participate in international competitions until the pandemic derailed everything.

Athletes were then sent home as activities were effectively shut.

Ms. Managuelod said it was not only the elite athletes who were affected, but also those in the grassroots as they could not roll out their programs.

Inspired by Ironman virtual races, however, Ms. Managuelod said they in MAP saw an opportunity to tap the same for muay thai.

“We saw how the statistics could be tracked and athletes could compete in the comforts of their homes. It took weeks for us to conceptualize; setting goals and objectives was very important,” she said.

The result was “muay thai all-access” where they hold webinars, produce workout videos and offer instructor courses.

They also managed to hold virtual competitions done “on a budget amid the restrictions.”

Ms. Managuelod admitted that the pivot to the virtual platform was not easy and that they had to grapple with many challenges.

“Shifting to online was a new territory for us,” she said.

Among the challenges, they had to deal with covered Internet connection, video quality and format, monitoring and implementation, availability and commitment of technical officials, lack of funds for mobile data, technological know-how, scheduling of live events, missing the combat aspect (highlighting form for now), and revenue.

While they are still working on addressing these challenges as they move along, MAP is managing to pull it off and continuing to make headway, Ms. Managuelod was happy to report.

Going online has its advantages, too, MAP realized.

With no travel required, accessibility to the sport became wider, with the group seeing more participation from regional members and age groups.

They get to innovate as well how the events are to be presented.

It is also paving the way for the discovery of new talents.

Then there is the boost it gives to the group’s push to keep the motivation and connectedness of the muay thai community.

Ms. Managuelod said that they are looking forward to the day when they could resume with face-to-face activities, but online initiatives are something they would continue to pursue moving forward.

“We will continue this platform (online) even after we are allowed to hold live tournaments,” she said.

“Innovation is necessary so that even in the digital space, sport goes on.”